It was back in June when we were first introduced to Pipehouse Gin. While promoting our Kilndown restaurant at the Gin & Jazz Festival in Tunbridge Wells, we met Ben and Katie Larcombe and Sam and Emma Priestley, the husbands-and-wives team behind the town’s latest and most talked-about Kent gin.
“We were really interested in the ‘farm to table’ movement, which was very big for us as consumers, and from a brand perspective,” says Emma. “We stayed in touch and visited the restaurant for a tour of the farm and polytunnels, which was fantastic!”
Supporting local with independent spirits, an instant synergy formed, leading to a natural partnership. Based just yards from the original Tunbridge Wells Pipe House, their journey began in November 2017, when the quartet of alchemists started experimenting with botanical pairings. The result: A refreshing fusion of Earl Grey and cucumber.
“We landed on Earl Grey because it had the citrus we wanted, but also a slightly floral note, which brought it all together,” continues Katie. “We liked the freshness of the cucumber, and wanted something quite bold in terms of the flavour.”
With its notes of juniper, angelica and cucumber, the flagship Pipehouse bottle quickly became a favourite Kent gin among purveyors and customers alike. And with Katie’s background in marketing and design, the look was just as important as the taste.
“We really focused on the brand in terms of the development,” Emma explains. “We spent a long time perfecting the recipe, but also looking at the bottle, label and colours. People are quite surprised that we’re a local business based in Tunbridge Wells.”
For a showstopping serve, Emma, Katie, Sam and Ben recommend a plain tonic with a ribbon of cucumber, but are equally inspired by what local bars, pubs and restaurants come up with. And of course, cocktails are big business too, including their very own Summer Cup and Cucumber and Black Pepper Martini.
“Our brand is all about alchemy and testing,” reveals Katie. “We’re working on some new cocktails, and are always looking at Pinterest for ideas of new fruits and different glasses to serve.”
“It’s all about what you mix it with as well,” Emma considers. “When it comes to cocktails, there are so many different varieties. Gin is very versatile, and it’s something we have yet to play with in terms of the more autumnal/wintry pairings.”
And with some future collaborations with The Small Holding potentially in the pipeline – as well as new and exciting flavours to look forward to – Pipehouse is continuing to make a name for itself as ‘the little Kent gin that could’.
“Between the four of us, we can pick and choose what we like doing and what we’re good at,” concludes Emma. “We’re still at the stage where we’re experimenting with what works and what we should be spending more time on, so we’re always learning as we go.”
© WILL AND MATT DEVLIN