Teasmith is a Scottish gin, inspired by Aberdeenshire’s connection to the 19th century Sri Lankan tea trade.
Price: ~ £37
Grains of paradise
Inspired by their own love of gin and the growth in the industry, in 2015 founders Nick and Emma Smalley decided to take the plunge and create their own. Like so many other producers, the pair looked to their rural Aberdeenshire surroundings for inspiration and soon discovered a link to the beginnings of the 19th century tea trade in Sri Lanka. Auchenblae born James Taylor, having learned the basics of growing tea on a visit to India, started a tea plantation in Sri Lanka on a 19 acre plot in 1867. From there, Ceylon tea was born, and is known throughout the world. Keen to include such interesting heritage in the story of their gin, Nick and Emma worked with tea consultant Beverley-Claire Wainwright to source a Sri Lankan tea as their key botanical. Selecting one from the island’s Amba Estate, they work with Strathearn Distillery where their gin is created in two parts. First, the tea is steeped and distilled separately, then blended with the distillate produced by vapour infusing the rest of their botanicals.
The bottle is a wide, round shape fairly commonly known as the pharmacy/apothecary style, with a deep dimple in the base and a short neck. There’s a simple, smallish label on the front in quality textured white paper on which the name sits proudly beneath the hatched-style logo in metallic copper. A nice touch is that the flush number (presumably of the tea) is included. On the back is a short blurb about the gin followed by the usual info. The wooden stopper has the logo burnt into it along with a nice tamper label that includes the hand-written batch number. The final touch is the subtle screen-printed pattern that goes around the whole bottle which is a diagonal, almost chain-like design and it adds a real level of sophistication to the overall effect. It’s a little wide compared to some, being short, but it’s a simple, elegant design that I like.
A bright juniper rises up, infused with sweet orange oil that immediately brings a tingle to the senses. It’s fresh but I also get hints of sweet, woody roots and the slightest trace of floral notes. Overall it’s a fairly classic, citrus gin profile, but it’s definitely on the sweet site, which I find lovely and refreshing. After a little while some greener notes come through, following up with a little dry tannin element. It’s a really bright, sweet and fresh aroma that I’m a big fan of.
Neat the tea absolutely comes through right up alongside the juniper. Anyone tasting this blind could be in no doubt that tea plays a major role in the flavour and it’s done incredibly well. The juniper remains prominent, providing a waxy pine backdrop to the rich black tea flavour, but that’s certainly not where the journey ends. There’s a definite tingle from the grains of paradise, and the orange comes through as a rich, oily baseline flavour which carries the sweet, slightly woody tones of the roots. For me though, the rose is surprisingly noticeable, and while rose petals can sometimes come across a little stewed, this is more like it’s an integral flavour of the tea. The best way to describe it would be to imagine taking a sip of sweet black tea whilst burying your nose in a fresh, perfumed rose. It’s full of flavour, complex, and beautiful.
Water spreads the flavours out quite substantially without diminishing them. The tea remains prominent, and for me the orange comes up to match the rose, as does the tangy pepper from the grains of paradise. The flavour is less intense, as you may expect, but in man ways it’s a little easier to appreciate, and though for me the juniper is a little less prominent, those other classic elements of a dry gin are heightened. It’s different, and a little less intense, but I think better for it. It’s a really great flavour.
Finally, a G&T (3:1 Franklin & Sons Indian Tonic with a wedge of orange to garnish). The result is a little too diluted, so I went back and added another glug of gin! The result to this is fabulous. The orange works wonderfully, and the gin shows itself to be an incredibly complex and sophisticated flavour that works really well here. My initial impression was that this is a pleasantly sweet gin with lots of complimentary flavours in the tea, orange, and rose in particular. When mixed with tonic however, the gin shows its depth, exhibiting deep, rich flavours of wood, a little spice, and some fruity, earthy notes. It’s more bitter, more dry, and just really good.
The Teasmith is a fantastic gin. In many ways it comes across as borderline experimental, because the tea is so prominent in the flavour, but it is done so well that, provided you’re a fan of tea, it’s a revelation. It’s an incredibly well put together spirit, beautifully balanced and bursting with flavours that express themselves extremely well. I’m particularly impressed with the rose and orange, but of course it is all about the tea which comes through beautifully, and is complimented and well balanced by the other botanicals. If you’re a fan of tea, and of gin, this is a must-have.
Remove up to one feather if you don’t like black tea
The Teasmith is available online
All reviews are of the author’s personal collection, bought and paid for by the author, unless otherwise stated.