Psychopomp is an independent distillery based in Bristol, who specialise in seasonal, small batch craft gins as well as absinthe, aquavite and single origin coffee digestifs- all lovingly made on their small 30 litre copper pot still. Danny Walker (co-owner of Psychopomp) and his team are just as passionate about craft spirits as we are about craft tea, so this project really was a meeting of mind and spirit.
The aim of Canton Gin was not to make a novelty tea gin, but to create a classic and timeless gin using the unique exotic flavours of Chinese teas; and to show tea’s versatility and potential as an exciting ingredient for the wider food and drink industry.
Canton Craft Gin
We spoke to Danny, the mastermind behind the Canton Gin recipe about the process of developing the recipe and distilling the final product: ‘Most gin recipes have at least 6 or 7 botanicals, with the Canton Gin we wanted to strip the recipe right back to the base notes of juniper and coriander seed and get all of the other flavours from the teas. For this we needed complex teas that could deliver many other flavour points. We used Silver Needle for depth and woody notes and the Honey Orchid for the bright floral and fruit notes, all of our gins are made in one shot on 30 ltr copper pot stills, so every drop of gin is distilled slowly with lots of copper contact for a rich oily mouthfeel. To get the best out of the teas we cold macerated them in wheat spirit for 24 hours to extract the flavour pre-distillation, this way we don’t heat the leaves and over extract, bringing out the bitter notes.’
The base flavours of the gin come from Canton Silver Needle (Yin Zhen), a white tea from Jing Gu, Yunnan Province China. Just the very top young buds are handpicked by farmer Liang Xu in March every year and simply dried in the sun. Brewed in hot water, Silver needle is delicate with the aroma of warm hay and tasting notes of cucumber, melon and oak. Distillation has brought out a rich, woody sweetness which works as a lovely backbone.
Canton Honey Orchid
The top notes of the gin are provided by Canton Honey Orchid, an oolong which is grown by farmer Cao Zhide on the rocky Phoenix Mountain in Guangdong Province, China. Honey Orchid is made from the unique Mi Lan Dan Cong cultivar tea bush which is prized for its intense honey, orchid and peach notes- a light charcoal roasting gives the tea richness and toasty notes. These exotic, fragrant notes really come through in the gin.