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Sam Pembridge - Hayman’s Gin

Hayman's Gin Distiller
Written by Gin Foundry

Having followed the story of its creation for months, we caught up with Hayman’s distiller Sam Pembridge ahead of the distillery’s limited edition release, True English Garden Cup.

Hi Sam, let\s jump straight in, the Fruit cup is perennially overlooked, do you enjoy them as a drink yourself?

When it’s done properly a fruit cup is a really incredible drink – and by doing it properly I mean lots of ice, a quality base and mixer, fresh fruit garnishes and appropriate glassware. The issue is when out and about it can be quite hard to find a fruit cup prepared with the sort of love and attention the drink deserves.

In a sense it is reminiscent of where we were with G&Ts 15 years ago – it was hard to find places that were going the extra mile to make the serve really sing.

Of course that has now all changed now for the G&T and part of the thinking behind this release was to see if we could help spark a resurgence of interest in the fruit cup serve. It has an amazing history and the flavour can be incredible – complex, moreish and refreshing. It just needs a little love.

It’s certainly overdue a change over - you mention base mixer there in terms of the serve, but just looking at what’s in bottle - for those who don’t know what the category is, Fruit Cups are built on a spirit base (often gin), and vermouth. How did you approach that combination for this project?

Gin, fruit and vermouth are at the heart of this release – and it was important to us that consumers be able to taste all three elements. Vermouth gives the Garden Cup a really wonderful vinous, dry quality that sets it apart from other fruity, alcoholic drinks.

Gin provides the majority of the alcohol and the bright juniper citrus character that we all love. And the fruit takes you into the world of the English Garden – orchard pears, fresh peach, hints of rose. The combination is very special – and while we recommend serving Garden Cup long with lemonade the complexity is such that it also works very well served neat over ice.

During the development of the release, we’ve often spoken about creating a flavour profile based around the English Garden. Where did you look for inspiration and did you build the profile around specific botanicals at the centre?

Our inspiration came primarily from our own gardens but also from memories of gardens that we have visited in the past. Scent in particular is very evocative and tends to stick with you over time so we had lots to work with. We explored two potential options in depth.

One of them was based around the lemon verbena and mint growing in one of our team’s gardens – we’ve actually worked with this in the past to create small-scale steeps because the aroma is so incredible. However we felt that this was taking us too much towards the worlds of limoncello and Italy so we leaned towards our second route. This was based on capturing the more subtle notes that are so distinctive to English gardens – delicate rose, a juicy orchard fruit character that came from our fresh pear steep and a wonderful underlying bright peach note. It is incredibly different to the big, bold, quite heavy character that we see in other fruit cup products and takes you into a different place – lighter, more nuanced and very evocative.

Creating those flavours is one thing, but maintaining is another - Shelf stability has been a big talking point for the past few months too. For those who don’t know about that side of R&D, what is that and what do you look for when testing?

Shelf stability simply refers to the ability of a product (gin, fruit cup or indeed any other food or drink product) to retain its character as it makes its way to the end consumer – without spoiling, changing or developing off-notes. We complete a range of testing on any new release to ensure it reaches the consumer in perfect condition and typically this will include storing it in direct sunlight and at hot and low temperatures for sustained periods before comparing it against control samples. If any change has occurred we need to understand why, isolate the component that has caused the change and where necessary, find new ways to approach the recipe to ensure that the product tastes great not only when the bottled but also when opened!

Some products are inherently more stable than others – for example oatcakes will last longer than milk and so on. This release was trickier than most to manage because it included both fresh fruit steeps and vermouth but we’re delighted with the final recipe and pleased to say it passed stability testing with flying colours!

It’s a side of the industry that many don’t realise goes on and one that many of the new start up’s overlook in their early months / years. It’s so vital to make sure that what you have made holds true and maintains its flavour integrity. You’ve mentioned a few already, but what are the more prominent notes of the Garden Cup to taste?

When you first pour a glass the first thing that will hit you is the bright fruit character – orchard pears, bright peach and of course citrus notes from the gin base.

Go back to the glass and you will find delicate rose, bright juniper and a rewarding vinous character from the vermouth – slightly drying and aromatic it complements the fruit notes wonderfully. On the palate Garden Cup is wonderfully juicy – with the orchard fruit and peach coming through strongly, alongside fresh cucumber and some subtle background notes of spice.

It’s a fantastic drink served neat over ice – but add lemonade, a slice of fresh peach and mint sprig and it really bursts into life. Dangerously drinkable, it’s refreshing, delicate, fruity and incredibly moreish!

Completely agree, the rose isn’t there at first but once it hits you you notice a whole other layer. From a flavour maker’s perspective - what’s been the trickiest part to get right / most rewarding part for you personally as a distiller?

The trickiest part has been finding the balance between the various ingredients. We are working with some quite delicate flavours and the most important thing was to ensure that we did not let any single element dominate. We’re thrilled with where the liquid has ended up. Everything works in balance.

Nerd question for you - How did you settle on the ABV?

We wanted to create a release that stayed true to the English fruit cup recipes we’d seen in old bar books and also to the early commercial releases. From fairly early on we identified 31% as being the mark to aim for and we worked to that throughout – it definitely helps carry the flavours better than a lower ABV and creates a much more grown-up drink when mixed.

We always think of cups going with Lemonade, but also like it with tonic. Did you test the various iterations against various serves during the R&D to help develop the flavour and if so, what was the “must nail” combo in your mind?

We did indeed! There were a few serves we explored but the one we knew it really had to perform on was mixed with lemonade and fruit garnish. This is – ultimately – what people think of when they think of a fruit cup and if we didn’t perform here we knew it wouldn’t hit expectations for a lot of our audience.

Lemonade is an interesting mixer to work with – it contains a lot of sugar so one key factor we looked at throughout the project was how to work with that and balance against it. The vermouth really helps in this respect – it brings a drying quality that really works wonderfully with the lemonade.

And lastly, it’s a limited edition release for the summer, so how big is the final batch?

We’ll be bottling just 1,000 bottles of our True English Garden Cup. We’d love to hear feedback on it this year. If it’s well received we might even bring it back next year at a larger scale!