Gin in the Cotswolds: The tale of Twisting Spirits

Mary and Richard Bateman of Twisting Spirits

Mary and Richard Bateman of Twisting Spirits - Credit:

A unique gin produced in the Cotswolds has been awarded the maximum three stars in the much-respected Great Taste Awards.

Mary and Richard Bateman of Tewkesbury-based Twisting Spirits were delighted when they heard the news that their Kimchi Gin had been awarded the accolade. After outgrowing their garage-cum-distillery in Oxfordshire just over three years ago, the couple relocated both home and business to Gloucestershire. 

‘I think it was getting married that brought this about,’ says Richard, ‘or at least that was a big factor in getting the ball rolling. Although we’ve been together for many years, Mary and I formally tied the knot in 2015. This prompted us to take a step back, take stock, and re-evaluate plans for our future together.’ 

‘We concluded that a change was needed in our lives,’ confirms Mary, ‘and that we should pry ourselves away from our IT roles and make a move into something more exciting, hands on, creative and boozy! Richard had been making home brew beer for quite a few years and got pretty good at it, so, it seemed logical that would be the answer, so we started brewing and experimenting with recipes.’ 

Then, when Richard was cleaning up after a test brew and lifting just a small amount of spent grain, a long dormant back injury resurfaced and left him unable to move. He was laid out for over two weeks, unable to do anything at all. It was then the couple realised that perhaps brewing and the associated heavy labour was not the best idea after all. 

‘We realised that we both love gin, says Mary, ‘and with relatively recent changes to the law, it would be possible to start a small-scale distillery. We saw a great opportunity to take some of those cues from craft beer, like the big, bold flavour profiles we’d been working on, bright modern packaging and transparency of ingredients, and transfer that to gin. From what we could see this had never been done before, and therefore represented an exciting challenge for us to get our teeth into. We wanted to make gins that were genuinely different than others in terms of flavour profiles and quality, and we did that because we believed that our potential customers were ready for something exciting and unusual.’ 

Twisting Spirits Kimchi Gin hamper

Twisting Spirits Kimchi Gin hamper - Credit:

And their hard work and creativity was rewarded handsomely when their Kimchi Gin became the only gin in the Cotswolds to be awarded the maximum three stars in the Great Taste Awards. 

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‘Our vision right from the outset was to innovate and delight with our unusual gins and our unique dual-distillation process,’ says Mary. ‘Since 2017, we’ve worked tirelessly, pushing the boundaries and pioneering bold flavour profiles that had not been attempted before. Kimchi gin is a great example of this.’ 

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The couple actually developed Kimchi Gin early on, with it being a potential launch product at the time. Fearing it might be considered a little too ‘out there’ at the time, though, they decided to wait, and released it three years later, in 2020, instead. 

‘We are absolutely delighted that now in 2021, our Kimchi Gin has received the coveted 3-star award at Great Taste Awards 2021,’ says Mary. ‘We were gobsmacked to learn we were not just the only gin to win three stars in the Cotswolds, but also in the whole South West. I think this really shows what a competitive year this has been, and that tastes are changing both in the industry and with the consumer when it comes to gin. We are super proud of this achievement; we feel it’s a real validation of the product’s distinction and quality.’ 

Twisting Spirits' Kimchi Gin

Twisting Spirits' Kimchi Gin - Credit:

Because the couple were new to the spirits industry, they had a sense of creative freedom which allowed them to experiment and to explore new tastes and textures that could enhance the traditional gin profile. Not wanting to simply produce another classical gin, focussing purely on juniper, they explored other interesting flavour profiles that would complement, but not overwhelm the juniper.  

‘We’d been experimenting with all sorts of botanical ingredients, from the herbaceous to the more citrus and floral,’ continues Mary. ‘The gins these ingredients produced were lovely, but could be pigeon-holed into classic gin varieties, such as herbaceous and citrus gins. Being the new kids on the block and wanting to make an impact, what we really wanted was to develop a gin that would break the mould and define a whole new category. That’s when we started experimenting with kimchi. 

‘I am a bit of a foodie and like to try new and different foods. I’d seen kimchi on a TV food show at some point and, having been inspired by this, started making my own. I’d got jars of it in the house, with various recipes at various stages of maturity.’ 

The couple decided kimchi’s deep, savoury umami quality could be a perfect pairing with the oily, earthy, piney flavours you get from juniper.  

‘Richard suggested we see what would happen if we were to distil some and incorporate this into the gin,’ says Mary. ‘The results were interesting; the savoury umami notes transferred well and produced an incredibly complex flavour profile. We didn’t get it right straight away; we did have to experiment and alter the kimchi recipe slightly to make it more tuned for the gin, but we got there.’ 

Twisting Spirits' Kimchi Gin

Twisting Spirits' Kimchi Gin - Credit:

The resulting gin is at its heart a savoury drink for sipping neat or with carefully paired savoury tonics, and the couple say they find it works particularly well as the spirit in a Red Snapper cocktail (a Bloody Mary but made with gin rather than vodka). The Kimchi Gin produces deep, complex Asian flavours that harmonise with the spiced tomato mix. 

Twisting Spirits found success with their Summer Snap Gin at the awards, too. They were inspired to make this gin, featuring unusual botanicals, after discovering a cocktail that shared some of the ingredients. The cocktail featured fresh sugar snap peas, and they thought they could get the same fresh, green flavour profile into a gin, giving a taste reminiscent of a hot summer’s day. The recipe was developed further to build on freshness, introducing mint and cucumber to elevate the overall fresh flavour they were looking for. 

‘As with Kimchi,’ says Mary, ‘Summer Snap was a recipe we experimented with pre-launch, but it didn’t make it into production back then. Instead, we raided the archives and launched the product in 2020, and were really pleased to receive two stars at the Great Taste Awards this year. 

‘As soon as you pop the cork you experience those aromas, and you’re transported to that summer scene. I think the judges at the Great Taste Awards really enjoyed the experience from the feedback we received.’ 

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And now it’s been announced that Twisting Spirits’ Kimchi Gin is one of only three products in the whole of the South West shortlisted for Great Taste’s Golden Fork Awards. 

‘We couldn’t believe it when we received the news that we’d been shortlisted for the Golden Fork Trophy, especially with such an unusual product that might not be to everyone’s taste,’ says Mary. ‘We’re super excited and proud to have made it this far, which we never expected. The other nominees are foods, not spirits, so it will be interesting to see which way the judges vote. It would be great to win, but we’re just really proud to have got this far whichever way the voting goes.’ 

Richard and Mary are now relaunching all of their gins in 50cl bottles, and have also just launched a selection of hampers with a kimchi-based celebratory edition that contains loads of goodies as well as the award-winning Kimchi Gin itself. 

‘As it’s just Richard and myself behind Twisting Spirits, new releases are on ice at the moment,’ says Mary. ‘However, we are always tinkering away in the background, with new ideas bubbling away, so watch this space!’ 

One of Twisting Spirits' Kimchi Gin hampers

One of Twisting Spirits' Kimchi Gin hampers - Credit:

Twisting Spirits ‘Classic Range’ of gins: 

Kaffir Lime and Lemongrass Gin 

Their multi-award-winning original gin is extremely refreshing and exotic. It’s fragrant and aromatic, just perfect for a hot summer’s day, and features two flagship Asian botanicals: kaffir lime and lemongrass.   

‘It’s a truly unique gin,’ says Mary, ‘carefully crafted with 19 quality botanicals, and is our most complex gin to date. Our kaffir lime leaves are grown and sourced from a UK supplier, and some are from our very own little tree! The lemongrass is imported fresh from Thailand for the best possible taste.’ 

Earl Grey Tea Gin 

Twisted Spirits’ classic dry, twisted with fresh, cold distilled Earl Grey tea leaves. ‘Delightfully floral, delicate and warming, with aromas of crisp citrus and high tea.’ 

Douglas Fir Gin 

Their Douglas Fir Gin is ‘gratifyingly resinous, smooth and mysteriously complex,’ says Mary. ‘Our contemporary take on the London Dry style, it’s cold distilled with hand-foraged Douglas fir for extra intrigue. The needles used are personally foraged by the distillers in and around the South Oxfordshire area from a secret selection of specifically selected trees located on organic farmland. This gin also won three stars at the Great Taste Awards back in 2019.’ 

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