Words by Hannah Tapping
When accidental alchemy gives rise to a colour-changing gin that’s distilled from the heart.
A Tom Collins, Tinkture-style
While researching another article I came across a very unique tipple, Cornish Rose Gin from Tinkture. With so many distilleries popping up across Cornwall, I was intrigued as to how this ‘clean alcohol’ had come to market and what qualities set it apart.. and so it was that Hannah met Hannah! We have to turn the clock back some five years to the start of the Tinkture story as Hannah Lamiroy, Tinkture’s founder explains: “I had two small children, Huxley and Raphi, and while they were little I was doing some recipe development for different brands as well as some writing. I had my own blog that was aimed at mum’s cooking for kids. I’ve always loved cooking, tried to eat organically and have been a vegetarian since the age of 14. I really have obsessed about diet and nutrition for my whole life.”
Hannah, with an armful of David Austen roses
“Being a mother, as you know, means you don’t have a lot of time and so I wanted to think of really quick ways to cook nice food for children and that’s how it all started really, creating recipes for tomato sauces that you could use in lots of different ways. After a busy day with the children I would put them to bed and inevitably have a glass of wine most evenings, using it as a bit of a wind down tool. But then I realised that I was starting to always wake up a little bit heady even after just one glass of wine red wine, and I thought this is crazy. Although I have had a lifelong passion for food, always ensuring that I buy the finest ingredients and that they are cooked in the very best way to keep the nutrients, I had never really considered what I drink. If someone handed me a glass of wine I wouldn’t automatically ask, where is from? Is it organic?”
45 Queen Street provides the ultimate destination in which to sample Cornish Rose Gin
And so Hannah began to adopt the same values she had for food, to drink. “I had bought a little still and decided that I wanted to see if I could make a really good tincture. I worked on one using milk thistle, with dandelion and nettle and all sorts of British weeds – which are actually really good for the liver. My idea was that if you were out for a drink and the wine wasn’t great, then you could have a little bottle of said tincture in your bag, order a good quality vodka and some sparkling water and put a drop of tincture in. Then you can have a nice drink, but it’s kind of as liver friendly as you can make it.”
Meanwhile, with the idea of the tincture was taking shape, Hannah’s garden was producing amazing blooms from some old fashioned roses that were producing an insane scent and so she began to distil using the petals. “The flavour of rose, which I was really shocked about and one of the reasons I persevered, was quite bitter and dry. I had always related anything made with rose to being very sweet and cloying, and always bright pink, but that actually wasn’t the case; rose is sophisticated and complex in its flavour, and very much lends itself to juniper. I decided to have a play, using my tiny little ten-litre still. The result was an odd sort of amber liquid, but when I added the tonic it turned bright pink.”
This magical transformation was a real wow moment for Hannah, but it took her another a year and half of perseverance, as she had to wait for the roses to bloom again, to figure out how to keep the colour change as it kept fading. “At the time, we lived very close to Nancarrow Farm and were good friends with Steve and Lucy who run it. I said to them, I think I’ve invented a rather unusual, fun drink; it’s made with roses, it changes colour, it’s really gorgeous and it’s entirely organic. He said to me, “if you can get booze in bottles Hannah, then you can launch it at 1000 Mouths,” which gave me the welly-up-the-bottom kick I needed.” Nancarrow’s event centred around taking a single bullock and feeding 1000 people using every part of the animal, forcing guests to really think about what they were eating and drinking – an ethos which Hannah could relate to: “It was the ideal event. I managed to get 200 bottles together and we launched.”
In order to produce on a large scale Hannah needed to work with a local distiller. It was a nerve-racking time as she knew that it was quite a special drink. “I went to see Shawn, a distiller based in Long Rock and said, look, this is what I’ve got, this is my recipe, would you scale up for me? And he agreed. I deliver roses to him and take liquid away.” Hannah picks up her Rose Gin in large Jerry cans, returning to the Tinkture warehouse in Penzance where it is bottled and despatched, with the whole business being run by Hannah and just two other women; testament to her hard work, unending enthusiasm and drive.
What drew me to learn more about this amber nectar was not only it’s colour-changing properties but also the distinct and very beautiful bottles it comes in. Hannah explains that she not only wanted the gin to taste good, but to look good too: “We launched at Nancarrow with plain green bottles with waxed dip tops but we knew that we could do something better and create bottles for life. We spend all this time growing organic David Austin roses with Jan at Maddocks Farm Organics – which is a bit bonkers in itself – using them fresh as we’ve figured a way to keep them, and so we felt the gin deserved a beautiful bottle.” Based on old apothecary bottles they came with a unique challenge of their own. They weren’t ever designed to be watertight and we worked with lots of seal providers and they kept leaking. In the end, chatting with a friend of ours who’s in the military said “that if we can keep a submarine watertight we can seal your bottles!” So, we worked with the same people who design seals for subs up in Yorkshire, while my husband Sam designed the springs which we have manufactured in Redruth by Lesjöfors Springs & Pressings.”
A place for sipping and feasting
Images © alexandrahouse.studio
With the bottles watertight, and a refill pouch designed, Cornish Rose Gin is taking the spirit world by storm. “In many ways, the bottle opened up doors for us before the liquid did,” adds Hannah, “we now produce a vintage for Fortnum and Mason, for which we grow special roses.” This incredible gin is available to buy online as well as being stocked nationally in delis, garden centres, as well as Harrods, and is also served at Hannah and her family’s latest venture, 45 Queen Street in Penzance.
“We had been renting the same cottage for 15 years, but when we found Queen Street, we packed up our whole house and the children and moved in. We wanted to move the family to Penzance as we think it’s quite a magical place. I was born in Cornwall and had never really found my place here, but feel I have now.” What was originally a totally derelict set of buildings has now been lovingly restored into the family home and possibly the coolest bar and eatery in town. The huge full height double doors reveal and incredible space within. From the vaulted warehouse ceilings, hang amazing wicker lampshades, lighting scrubbed wooden tables. There’s organic wine on tap, local beers and of course Cornish Rose Gin, which can be enjoyed with tonic or in one of Hannah’s delicious cocktails. The kitchen is open to the eating area and the whole atmosphere is one of convivial charm.
Food comes in the form of sharing platters: “I’ve got a mountain of old farmhouse chopping boards,” explains Hannah. “So, what we do is source produce like really beautiful cheese, along with ripe grapes and heritage tomatoes. I usually roast up a huge pan of potatoes with garlic and rosemary which we serve with a fresh herb mayo. We’ve got absolutely beautiful sourdough baguettes that we might serve with a sardine paté. You can choose one of everything that’s available on the day and I simply pile up a platter. It’s delicious Mediterranean-inspired food, reminiscent of the surfing trips through France, Spain and Portugal that Sam and I used to go on before we had children.”
Never ones to stop imagining, Hannah and Sam’s next project is to build a distillery for Tinkture at number 45, as well as to create an orangery and a place to be able grow produce. “You would think that Tinkture’s home would be in amongst the roses but actually we feel that we need to look after our towns and communities in Cornwall. If we can have a lovely orangery and grow there, then we can create a green space in the heart of the town, and that feels good to us!”