Like most people in the UK, I’ve become an amateur gin connoisseur over the last few years. So when I started travelling in Cornwall and trying the local Cornish gin, I saw one name in particular everywhere: Tarquin.
I ended up in the Tarquin’s shops in Fowey and Padstow, tried some samples, and I was advised that it is possible to visit the craft distillery itself, which is located close to Padstow and Wadebridge.
So this is how, one rainy Friday evening in September, I ended up at this Cornish distillery…
What is Tarquin’s Gin?
Tarquin’s gin is what it says on the bottle – gin distilled on the “wild coast of Cornwall” by a man called Tarquin.
He specialises in Cornish dry gin, from which he makes many other flavoured gins. Whether you are into fruity blackberry or hop-flavoured gin (yes, really!) he’s got it. Two flavours that are worth noting are the Cornish Pastis flavour (which tastes a little like sambuca) and the best blood orange gin I’ve ever sampled (and I’ve tried a lot).
The company is a small business, but it is growing rapidly. In fact, it is the 29th fastest growing business in the UK!
However, it is a Cornish family company at heart and has humble origins in a small barn halfway between Padstow and Wadebridge.
History of Tarquin’s Gin
There has been an explosion of boutique gin distilleries in recent years, but Tarquin’s actually started just before this happened – back in 2012. It was the first southwestern distillery and opened not long after the government allowed craft distilleries to operate.
Tarquin is Cornish, but he lived in France, Bristol and London for a while before returning to Cornwall with the idea of making Cornish gin. He’s a self-taught distiller, so it took him quite a lot of experimenting. Finally, after quite a bit of trial and error, he had a batch ready – and to this day, nobody else knows the recipe!
What we do know is that he used traditional techniques, including copper stills, for his gin. He’s upgraded in recent years as demand has increased but still makes some of his gin using the original stills.
He started selling it to various pubs around Cornwall, and it went down extremely well.
The company grew from there, and while it is still based in the barn where Tarquin began his experiment, they have ambitious growth plans, and business is booming. They currently export to dozens of countries. One of their buyers is Dubai airport – some distance from the wild Cornish coast!
They also have a fantastic team of around 100 people, offering jobs to local people.
This is only a potted version of Tarquin’s story – but you’ll learn all about it on the history part of the distillery tour!
Tarquin’s Gin Distillery Tour
Tarquin’s Gin Distilleries are open for tours on certain days of the week. Here’s what happens on a Cornish gin experience!
Part One: a warm welcome
I knew that the Tarquin’s Gin Distillery Tour was my kind of tour when I was offered a gin and tonic as soon as I arrived!
However, I was unfortunately driving, so I had to forfeit this one for a gin-less flavoured tonic (which was still delicious) and got a tiny 50 ml bottle of craft gin to enjoy later that evening. Everyone else enjoyed a G&T, though!
Distillery doors typically open around 15 minutes before the start of the tour.
Part Two: the history of Tarquin’s
Rosie, a knowledgeable guide in all things gin, then told us about the history of Tarquin’s. She began by explaining the backstory of gin with all sorts of fun facts. For example, did you know that it originated in The Netherlands and used to be 96.5% alcohol – but it was still considered cleaner and healthier than water!
She then explained the story of Tarquin’s, which we’ve already discussed a little earlier in the post. She goes into it in much more detail, though, and it’s a really inspiring tale!
Part Three: a look around the distillery
After learning about the history, we went to the distillery to see the copper pot stills and other equipment that goes into the gin-making process.
Part Four: gin tasting
Then it was time to try some gin (for the non-designated drivers of course)!
On offer was:
- their signature Cornish dry gin
- blood orange flavour gin
- three hops brewery gin that they made for the craft beer company Sharps
- Cornish navy gin – which is 57% ABV!
These tastings all had a very generous serving and plenty of mixer on the side – so it was pretty much like having four drinks while talking about gin!
(Of course, as I was driving and practicing very responsible drinking, I only had a sip of my partner’s drink, but he has assured me that they were all absolutely delicious).
You’ll also get the opportunity to try Cornish Pastis, the most controversial one of Tarquin’s gins – I was told it tasted like sambuca. However, it is many of the staff member’s favourites!
And, gin isn’t all that Tarquin creates – the company name is actually Southwestern distillery, and he also makes rum! So you’ll get a chance to try some banana flavoured rum too.
You’ll also learn about some of the classic cocktails that you can make with gin – I’d recommend taking a note of these for future reference. Tarquins Cornish Dry and Mediterranean Fever Tree tonic is my go-to drink now!
Part Five: wax your own bottle
If you are thinking of purchasing a bottle of gin while you’re at the distillery, why not wax your own bottle?
As you’re doing the waxing, you even get a discount – it costs £30 to wax your bottle, as opposed to £36 if you are buying it pre-waxed.
Rosie will teach you how to wax the bottles by twisting them around in the hot wax and letting the wax drip down – and once it has set, it’s yours to take home! It would also make a wonderful present for any gin drinkers in your life.
Part Six: more samples and the chance to buy your own bottle
You might be able to try some more samples if there are any other flavours you haven’t tried yet, and you can select any bottles you’d like to buy at the front desk.
Where else can I buy Tarquin’s gin?
If you can’t make it to the distillery, there are a few shops where you can sample Tarquin’s gin and buy a bottle to take home with you, including one in nearby Padstow and in Fowey.
You can also purchase Tarquin’s gin in alcohol and farm shops, primarily in Cornwall and the West Country.
And of course, you can find Tarquin’s gin in pubs and restaurants all over Cornwall and elsewhere in the West Country and the UK! Just look out for it on the menu.
If you’re after a classic G&T, I recommend Tarquin’s dry gin with Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic, or if you want to try something fruity, the blood orange or British blackberry gins are divine.
How to get to the gin distillery
The gin distillery is located in North Cornwall, close to Padstow and Wadebridge.
The address is Southwestern Distillery, Higher Trevibban Farm, Wadebridge, PL27 7SH, which is on the B3274. This connects to the A389 which leads to Padstow, and the A39 which connects to Wadebridge.
Bus routes can be challenging in Cornwall. If you don’t want to drive, it is recommended to take a taxi back to your accommodation or to Wadebridge or Padstow, where you might be able to transfer to a bus (depending on where you’re staying and tour times). Here are some taxi numbers:
- A2B Newquay: 01637 877777
- Coastline Newquay: 01637 860006
- Millers Taxi: 07873 498349
Sounds great! How do I book?
You can visit https://www.tarquinsgin.com/tours/ to book your tour.
Please note that tours generally fill up quite far in advance, so I recommend booking ahead. Due to the capacity limits, the tours are adults-only.
Places to stay near the distillery
Here are some accommodation options near Trevibban Farm:
Halfway House Inn is a cosy inn on the A39 with comfortable double rooms. There is a restaurant serving Mediterranean cuisine downstairs. Click here for more information.
The Swan Hotel is a Wadebridge boutique hotel with stylish furnishings, modern facilities and a bar on site. Click here to read more.
The Pickwick Inn & Oliver’s Restaurant is a classy hotel near Padstow. With water views from some of the bedrooms and a swimming pool on site, this is a really luxurious place to stay in North Cornwall. Click here to read more.
Other things to do in Padstow
If you’re spending some time in Padstow, there are loads of other things to do here, including:
- Enjoy the food scene! Padstow is famous for its fine dining restaurants. We visited Caffe Rojano which had lots of vegetarian options.
- Go on a boat trip around the Camel Estuary and up to the coast.
- Beer tasting at the Padstow Tasting Rooms.
- Visit the National Lobster Hatchery.
- Learn about the town at the Padstow Museum.
- Go cycling on the Camel Trail.
- Visit Polzeath on the Cornish coast. This is a popular surfing town.
If you’re a gin lover, Tarquin’s Gin Distillery is a must-do place to visit in Cornwall! Don’t miss this hidden gem while you’re exploring the Duchy.
Photos taken by Richard Collett