Many a distillery spawned by the ginaissance is proud to proclaim that it is a small batch producer, but they will have to go a long way to beat the Hicks family. At the risk of sounding like Stella Gibbons, there have always been Hicks at Westward Farm, well at least for seven generations and they seem to be thriving on it.
Based on the island of St Agnes, the southernmost populated island in the Isles of Scilly. As well as distilling alcohol, which we will come on to in a minute, they produce essential oils from plants they grow on the farm from which they make a range of soaps and toiletries marketed under their “28 miles” brand. In their orchard they grow apples which they turn into apple juice and cyder and their Westward Farm beef can be found in the food shops of the island. In a quaint, country touch they have a wheelbarrow outside the farm gate containing seasonal produce. I must make a trip to the Isles some time.
Twenty-eight is a theme running through the farm’s produce because, astonishingly, they produce their gin in batches of just 28 a time. The botanicals they use for Westward Farm Scilly Gin are sourced from Java and Africa as well as from their own fields. They grow their own juniper, coriander, and angelica, and, as you might expect, source as much of their own energy as they can through their solar panels.
The base of their spirit is made from pure grain and the botanicals, frustratingly they are tight-lipped as to what precisely goes in, are gently vapour-infused in their stills to ensure that none of the unique qualities of each is lost in the process. It also means that no batch is precisely identical, adding an intoxicating variability to their product.
As well as Scilly Gin, they produce a Rose Geranium gin, a Wild Wingletang Gin, the name taken from the Downs on the island from which the gorse blossom they use is foraged, a Tanglewood Kitchen Pink Gin, and an oak-aged 28 Miles Gin. They keep themselves busy.
My bottle of Scilly Gin is made from clear glass and is bell-shaped with a small neck and an artificial cork stopper. The label is functional rather than elaborate and has an old-fashioned, chemical bottle about it. Black lettering is set off against an off white or beige background with the name of the gin in blue. The only symbols on the label are the co-ordinates of the farm and a rather forlorn tree at the bottom. Batch number 621 produced my gin, the label tells me, and was the work of Aiden to whom I offer my thanks.
On the nose there is the aroma of very fresh juniper with citrus and spicy elements in the mix. In the glass it is beautifully clear and in the mouth is a complex, but well-balanced, mix of juniper, citrus, and pepper which leaves a long lasting and warming aftertaste. It worked well with a good quality tonic and with an ABV of 40% is strong enough to make its presence felt while leaving enough room to entice you to pour another one. This was a real find and next time I pop into Drinkfinder UK in Constantine, I will be putting another bottle in my basket.
Until the next time, cheers!