New gins seem to dominate liquor store shelves these days, but excellent juniper juice is still hard to come by. English upstarts, Salcombe Gin, are an exception to the rule, offering a truly unique (and excellent) take on a spirits standby.
Salcombe Gin was founded in 2016 by Howard Davies and Angus Lugsdin, a pair of childhood friends from Devon, England. In interviews, the duo explained that they were driven by a shared love of drinks, particularly gin and tonics, to open their own outfit.
Davies and Lugsdin met while sailing in the waterside town of Salcombe in the South Hams district of Devon. Fittingly, Salcombe provides the name, location, and inspiration for their gins.
During the peak of the Empire, Salcombe Schooners shot across the Channel delivering fresh fruit from the Continent. The town’s docks became synonymous with citrus. Subsequently, the gin pays homage to this heritage through both the obvious, gin-English-nautical-history parallels as well as bright citrus flavors in the spirit.
Salcombe uses a ‘Provident’ a custom built Arnold Holstein still. Provident is 450 liter hybrid still employing both a copper pot still as well as a copper side column.
After about two years of R&D and spin-up, Salcombe Gin fired Provident up and launched Start Point, their aptly named, inaugural expression. Start Point is 41.4% ABV London Dry Gin. The juice is created with 13 botanicals including the citrus peels of red grapefruit, lemon and lime as well juniper berries, English coriander seed, cardamom, cubeb berries, liquorice, and angelica root. MSRP is $39.99 for a 750ml bottle.
The distillery’s second expression was Rosé Sainte Marie. The gin hits on two growing trends, the popular pink gin and the rosé riff categories. The pink gin is also 41.4% ABV. Unlike many peer’s in the sector, Rosé Sainte Marie credits its color to unsweetened red fruits not an artificial additive or a sugary syrup. In addition to the signature citrus, the juice also employs botanicals including lemon verbena, rose petals, orange blossom, and pink peppercorns. MSRP is $39.99 for a 750ml bottle.
On the nose, Start Point delivers plenty of the classic juniper followed by an explosion of citrus: grapefruit, lemon, and lime.
On the palate, the juniper executes a graceful decrescendo as the citrus elements continue to swell. Cubeb heralds a second wave of flavor filled with spice, but grounded by the earthiness of the angelica. Finally, juniper flavors return to bookend the whole experience with a fatty finish to the sip.
Start Point succeeds in hitting a rare point on the gin spectrum. Here is a London Dry Gin that manages to stay true to the category’s defining flavors while still offering something new. Despite the botanical list, Start Point is no ‘new gin’, Sapphire competitor, or flavored vodka. Rather, the juniper-forward spirit is true to gin’s roots—with a delicious dash of citrus.
Rosé Sainte Marie
Salcombe’s entry into the pink gin market is a surprising treat. In short, the spirit is better thought of as very floral gin than as a typical, sweet pink gin.
Rosé Sainte Marie greets the nose with wafts of red fruit, lemon, and orange blossom. On the palate, one gets more juniper than most pink gins followed Salcombe’s signature citrus. Berries, lavender, and rose round out the relatively dry taste. The expression is a well balanced offering boasting a medium, wine like finish.