Spirit of the North

A lot of research went into the flavour of a gin created in Yorkshire. Christine Austin puts it to the test.

Tim Moor and Nick Dymoke Marr with their new northern gin  Langtons No1

We all know about London gin and even, perhaps, Bombay gin – even though that has nothing to do with India, but now there is a new gin on the market and it is a Northern gin, Langton’s No1.

Thought of and developed in Yorkshire, by a team with strong Yorkshire connections, this is a gin that takes its inspiration and its water from a place just over the county border in the Lake District. And while making something in the north doesn’t always guarantee success, the fact that this is a top quality gin with a particular softness and style, a complex array of botanicals and a clear citrus note means that it has every chance of becoming a mainstream line on supermarket shelves as well as in top-class bars.

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The two key people behind Langton’s No. 1 gin are Nick Dymoke-Marr and Tim Moor. Bramhope resident Nick was the wine buyer for Asda for many years and then developed and ran one of the most successful new South African wine brands, Stormhoek. Tim Moor is a design engineer from the Lake District, but it was a mutual friend who put the two together in a Yorkshire pub where they started to develop the idea of creating a gin.

First they talked about how the product would taste, and the only way to find out how to blend the range of botanicals that become the signature flavour of a gin is to taste them.

“We lined up 60 botanicals, all of which are used in dozens of gins and we tasted them,” said Nick. “At this point we asked wine writer and taster Joe Wadsack to join us to help us develop the style.”

Joe’s palate and knowledge of ingredient blending is phenomenal. With angelica providing woody, earthy notes, anise adding spice and several other ingredients including citrus, coriander and liquorice the blend was gradually assembled.

“Gin, by definition is flavoured with juniper but we didn’t want a heavy, oily style of gin, so we have used a top quality Tuscan juniper which gives us the right level of flavour. One key ingredient is Lakeland oak bark, an unusual ingredient but one which has a fundamental effect on the flavour balance, making it smoother and softer,” said Nick. These botanicals are distilled with the spirit in the final process of creating the gin.

Getting the right spirit was vital too, but this is a complicated and very precise procedure so Nick and Tim went to the oldest distillery in the UK, Greenalls of Warrington. There the master distiller used the small batch column still to deliver a high quality pure grain spirit and over four separate distillations, the botanical mix was blended and distilled together.

“Once we had the right blend by taste we decided to send it for analysis to show exactly where the peaks of flavour are. This is essentially a DNA fingerprint of Langton’s gin so we can make sure that every batch is exactly the same.”

And the final ingredient is the one that was sourced right from the start. The water used during distillation and in diluting the full strength spirit down to the usual spirit strength of 40 per cent ABV comes from a borehole in the Lake District.

“We had a water engineer come out to look at a certain piece of land where he said there was definitely water, so we drilled down,” added Nick. “At 350ft down the prediction came true when they tapped into an underground reservoir of top quality water which has filtered down through slate rock for generations.

“The engineer told us that the softness, purity and clarity of this water is exceptional.”

The company now owns the 10 square meters of ground where the well is located in the parish of Skiddaw. When a new batch of gin is needed, water is pumped into a holding tank, via a UV filter process and then into a tanker which goes to Greenalls.

Getting the right bottle for the new gin came in a flash of inspiration as Nick and Tim stood in driving rain. The greenish-blue of wet slate on the roofs of houses in the area close to the well gave them the idea for their square-shaped bottle but it took Yorkshire glassmaker Allied Glass in Knottingley to design and create it.

“We had special moulds made to give the rippled, fractured look of a piece of slate, and then the bottle is screen-printed by hand to complete the look”

Finally the name Langton’s came from the farm where Nick’s grandmother lived.

“So, how much does it cost to develop a gin from scratch?” I asked Nick. At this point he became somewhat coy while he emphasised the help from friends, family, outside investors and even a government –sponsored “industry angels” scheme. One key investor pulled out at a crucial point, delaying production for several weeks. “In fact that was a blessing since we then had a chance meeting in a pub with Paul Tollet who was one of the early employees at Microsoft. He decided to join us and now Paul, who has strong northern roots has become chairman of the company.”

It seems that hard graft and good luck have been working together on this project.

But no gin is any good unless it tastes good so I poured myself a large slug of Langton’s over ice cubes and topped up with Fentiman’s tonic (widely available). It really is a smooth, elegant gin, refreshing, with a soft, almost spice-edged aroma. And the essential question for any gin and tonic is whether to choose a slice of lemon or a chunk of lime. I am fan of lime, but Nick prefers a squeeze of lemon in the mix, with a slice of lemon in the glass.

You can buy Langton’s No1 gin in many independent shops in Yorkshire such as Latitude and Harvey Nichols in Leeds, Field and Fawcett in York and Harrogate Fine Wine at around £32. It is also on the bar shelves at many of Leeds’ restaurants and cocktail bars such as Mojo, Sandinista, The New Ellington and The Foundry. There are rumours of expansion into some of the top supermarket stores and even a trial in the first class lounge of an airline, but the fact that this northern gin is poured at the Savoy Bar and Grill in London gives Nick and Tim, a feeling of a job well done.