The days are noticeably lengthening and there’s a definite sense of Spring in the air. Truth be told, the daffodils have been out here in West Wales since January, so excited they are to welcome St David’s Day on 1st March. It’s a day of patriotism and celebration, a day of daffodils and song, of welsh cakes and Eisteddfodau. While gin might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Wales, we’re working towards changing that – incorporating the tastes and aromas of Wales as we work with different businesses to capture the essence of their brands in bespoke, premium gin.
One of our key collaborations recently has been with the folk behind St Davids Kitchen to support them in the creation of stunning gins. The journey to capture the spirit of this beautiful area has been a revelation. The richness of the landscape has informed gins that perfectly epitomise the St Davids Peninsula and Ramsey Island.
Although the story of St David is one that Ellen has grown up with, it’s not always so widely known outside Wales. Surprisingly for a Welsh saint, St David doesn’t come with tales of dragon-slaying or snake-banishing. His deeds and the legends associated with him are altogether lower key and inextricably linked to his role as teacher and preacher. Most notably, it is said that as he preached in Llandewi Brefi in Ceredigion, the land rose up to create a small hill, so that more of the crowd that had gathered could hear him. He lived a simple life and encouraged his followers to do the same.
St David himself doesn’t come with a handy tale of gin – history suggests that he was less bon viveur and more ascetic, but there are tales of landscape, community and friendship to begin a conversation around what a St David’s gin might feature.
Ramsey Island Gin
One of the joys of working with different businesses in different and diverse areas of Wales is the opportunity to take the time to explore and discover the right botanicals and the right balance to root each gin in its location.
Creating a gin to capture the spirit of Ramsey Island for St David’s Kitchen took us over the water to the island itself – and to St Justinians Well. St Justinian had travelled from Brittany to Wales and established himself on Ramsay Island, regularly travelling back to the mainland to visit his contemporary and friend, St David. Equally austere, he eventually decided to isolate himself on Ramsey Island, with a small community of monks, destroying the land bridge of rock with his axe. He sent huge chunks of rock into the sea to form what are now known as ‘The Bitches’, a treacherous stretch of water hazardous to shipping but revered today by those looking for a high-octane kayaking experience! St Justinian was eventually beheaded by his followers, who clearly wanted a bit more jollity in their lives, and legend says that where his head fell, a freshwater spring sprang forth. As if that wasn’t miracle enough, Justinian then picked up his head and walked across to the mainland and set his head down, causing another spring to appear.
Reaching Ramsay Island now involves a boat trip – hardly a chore – and for those who make the trip, the rewards are well worth it. St David’s Kitchen has a long-standing relationship with the RSPB who now own and manage Ramsey Island. We were privileged enough to be authorised to forage for botanicals on Ramsey Island itself and were rewarded with a lightbulb discovery of water mint at St Justinians Well itself. For a saint who, alongside St David himself, favoured a puritanical lifestyle, his legacy has inspired an outstanding gin, redolent of fresh, green island flavours – Bell Heather sits alongside water mint in this truly Welsh gin.
Whether or not he would approve of the gin itself, we’re sure that St Justinian would approve of the fact that our botanicals are only taken from those areas of the island that are being cut or grazed as part of the active management of the island, and that 5% of the sale of this unique gin will be donated to the RSPB.
St Davids Seaweed Gin
A second collaboration with St David’s Kitchen and foragers Julia and John from Pembrokeshire Seaweeds Ltd has produced a gin rich in the taste of the sea – as you might expect for such a coastal location. With one of only 2 licences in Wales to gather seaweeds at specific locations in North Pembrokeshire, the input of Julia and John has been intrinsic to the production of this bespoke gin.
Discover your gin with In the Welsh Wind
Our partnership with St David’s Kitchen is an example of how we here at In the Welsh Wind can work with you to develop and produce a bespoke, premium gin for your business. We guide you through every stage of the process, from pinning down the flavour or flavours that capture a feeling, a place, an idea to branding and bottle design. To understand more about creating a bespoke premium gin with us at In the Welsh Wind, call us on 07814 354 786.
If you’re looking to experience gin making at a more personal level, we offer the opportunity to come to the distillery in a private capacity, to spend time with our distiller selecting botanicals and creating your own bottle of gin. Whether you need the perfect gift for a special friend, or just want to treat yourself, vouchers are available on our website.
Ramsey Island and Seaweed Gin images courtesy of St David’s Kitchen