The Coast I Love The Most
Ben Bewley-Pope, Fishers Gin Distiller
Having spent some time away at the turn of the year, I returned to Aldeburgh with renewed enthusiasm.
It is quite easy to take for granted the beauty of what we have on the Suffolk Coast; the view across the beach and out to sea from our distillery has to be one of the best there is. The North Sea is close enough to throw a stone into from our Coastal Room. Constantly changing in the light, ambience, swell, temperature and mood, we really are so fortunate to have this wonderful landscape as part of our day to day lives.
Suffolk at this time of year is the coincidental antithesis to Cape Town. Flat, cold, short days with not much sunlight, the bright greens and vibrant colours are replaced by earthy tones and stony features. I love it.
It is because of these very features I describe that Fishers even exists. It was Andrew’s dream to create a spirit that encapsulates these very characteristics. The river, salt marsh and sea, all within close proximity of each other creates a unique area from which I can forage and grow the botanicals that define Fishers. Finding all three of these elements together is very rare in the UK let alone South Africa!
Our gins are defined by our unique botanical lineup.
Nine make up what I refer to as the base of our gin. Four of these are so classic you can find them in almost all gins, everywhere; Juniper, Coriander, Angelica Root and Lemon Peel. These four are the backbone of any good gin recipe. In addition to these, we include Fennel Seed, Caraway Seed, Orris Root and Cardamom. Fennel and Caraway are a great combination of flavours; the anise of the Fennel and the menthol of the Caraway make for an intense and pure aroma. Cardamom is another very classic botanical that only just misses out on being included in the base four. I can guarantee all the big gin companies (the likes of Gordon's, Tanqueray, Bombay Sapphire etc) all use it. Orris Root is used mostly for its binding qualities, mildly floral in taste and smell (think Parma Violets). It is capable of bringing more body and vigour to our signature botanicals. These nine make, in themselves, a very good gin, but...it's not Fishers yet.
A further six (making a total of fifteen) botanicals are included in the recipe, making the heart of the Fishers taste profile. Rare coastal plants such as Bog Myrtle, Rock Samphire, Wood Avens and Spignel, alongside Marsh Samphire and Sea Purslane (that I hand pick myself from the River Alde in the early summer months) are added in.
All of the six special botanicals I mention have small windows of prime opportunity for collection or harvest. Not being commercially grown, sometimes just growing in the wild, I have to stay vigilant to the weather and seasons throughout the year in order to collect them at the point they are at their best for distilling. Year to year they grow differently, sometimes prolifically, sometimes lacking in gusto, meaning I have to make adjustments to the recipe to keep Fishers consistent.
The resulting spirit is unmistakably savoury with distinct herbal and saline, coastal notes.
However, there is a part of Cape Town that I do wish was here, and that’s the wine culture and vast variety and number of vineyards. Shawsgate in Framlingham (a thirty minute drive away) is the closest to our distillery and there are a few others in Suffolk too. Giffords Hall is notable for the quality of its wine as well as being a rare (for the UK) producer of red wine. White varieties grow best here, with the greatest results coming from our sparkling wines; even the French acknowledge their quality. Perhaps a little more climate change is needed before we take the fight to them with our reds!
Within my first week back at work this year I paid a visit to Southwold to see my friend and fellow distiller at Adnams, John McCarthy. We are lucky here at Fishers to have a great relationship with Adnams and continue to do so. Fishers started off by employing the expertise of John to help create Fishers Original back in 2016 working with Andrew and our botanist James Firth. It was produced there until 2020 when we completed the build of our distillery and installed our own 400L still (the famous "Watson").
You can now find all our gins in all of the Adnams shops across East Anglia.