The word “turncoat” derives from a time when a person’s military allegiance was signified by the colour of their coat. Rebels and renegades who switched sides would, so the saying goes, turn their coats inside out.
While it is true we no longer (for the most part) wear our politics on our sleeves, the word has stuck around and as a name for Terry Langton’s gin distillery it is particularly apt. A highly-esteemed craft brewer by trade, Terry turned his attention to gin distilling in December 2016, setting up and licensing a small still in his garage and experimenting with recipes. “When I started the distillery a lot of my brewing friends thought I was a turncoat, going over to the dark side,” Terry explained, but he was motivated to try his hand at something new and to reinvigorate the commitment to quality that he felt was lacking in the craft beer scene.
“We want to make our gins mostly about a particular botanical, fruit or spice. We’re not keen on gimmicks so all of our gins are distilled with no added sweeteners or colouring. We also don’t use a base gin at the moment – each gin is its own recipe.” The above is self-evident in a sip of Turncoat’s Dragon Tears gin, a collaboration with BlackJack Brewery in Manchester. The gin’s distinctive flavour of jasmine is delicately floral and pairs perfectly with Mediterranean tonic garnished with Pink peppercorns and mint. Dragon Tears has been a particular favourite this summer, alongside Our Man in Sicily, a light and refreshing gin that takes its key notes from Sicilian lemons, rosemary and thyme.
Collaboration is a running theme in Turncoat’s products: their Bold St. Chai is a collaboration with Liverpool local tea merchant and restaurant chain, Leaf. “We use their Black Masala Chai Tea Blend in a gin”, says Terry. “It tastes amazing and is becoming our best seller at events. Lots of orange, cinnamon, ginger notes and a very palatable of level spice”.
The Turncoat team are also keen innovators. Their Cascade gin uses a hop much-loved by Terry from his brewing days: “that the hop tastes so great in gin it’s a bit of an achievement for us,” Terry says. “The technique of using vapour as opposed to boiling the hops means we can gently extract the oils we want while leaving the more unsavoury flavours behind”.
As an independent and relatively small distillery – the team is a five-man band, only two of whom are distillers – provenance, authenticity and integrity are central to Turncoat’s ethics. “You have to care about what you are making before it is a business – it cannot just be a business or you’ll sacrifice on quality,” says Terry. “Equally, those who don’t make their own gin shouldn’t pretend that they do. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having other people make your gin for you, but I think you have to be honest about that and include it in your story. If the very first thing you do with your customer is tell them fibs it’s not a great foundation.”
So what’s next for Turncoat? Well, they are launching a bar and fully operating distillery at the World Heritage site, the Royal Albert Dock Liverpool, in late October 2019. “It’s big investment for us but I think will be a great way to put our independent brand and a lot of other local ones in front of tourists and Liverpool locals alike,” says Terry.