Ever had an Essex Sundowner? Check out this brand new fruity gin - with plum and apricot varieties

Reliquum gin Picture: Phil Morley

Reliquum gin Picture: Phil Morley - Credit: Archant

Essex farm launches fruity new gins

When George Thompson set out his stall as a vegetable wholesaler 70 years ago, little did he know his burgeoning family business would become known seven decades later as an artisan gin producer!

His grandson Pete, unwilling to form a part of the alarming statistic that up to 15% of produce grown on UK farms goes to waste, has taken the family business in a surprising new direction – and one that’s certainly bearing fruit.

This year, using apples, apricots and plums from the farm, Pete has launched Reliquum London Dry Gin, crafted with a base of eau de vie from the orchard’s apples and made in partnership with Dr John Walters from the English Spirit Distillery.

It’s been a natural progression says Pete, who diversified the farm into apples, pears, and then apricots and figs in 2008, selling 90% to wholesale, and some fruits into retail, with chefs and high end restaurants clambering for his figs – the only commercially grown outdoor produced crops in the UK.

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The Cotchel juice brand followed, using the farm’s Opal, Braeburn, Evalina and Topaz apples – winning multiple awards (including Best Juice at the National Fruit Show) and catching the eye of Albert Roux, who stocks the juices exclusively at The Langham in London.

“We like the fact the juices taste a bit different every year,” Pete smiles. “If it’s a wet year, for example, when the apples are picked, they’ll be a bit drier because the water dilutes the sugar. It’s little quirks like that we enjoy. Our Opal juices is crisp, and almost lemonady. And Topaz and Evalina are delicious off the tree. What we don’t use for juice we put out to the birds and they love it!”

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The leap from juice to gin followed. “Reliquum is Latin for ‘all that remains’ and our gin stems back to 2016 when we had an abysmal apricot harvest. There weren’t enough apricots worth bothering with but we had to do something with them! I cleared out a local retailer for their gin and went down the sloe gin route with them and it was incredible. I took bottles to friends who have bars or pubs and people were trying to order boxes of it!”

And there the seed was planted with three varieties – original, plum and apricot now available to buy.

“For the plum gin we use a variety of plum called Lizzie which nobody else has,” says Pete. “It’s incredibly sweet with sugar levels double that of an apricot, for example. It’s got very high juice levels and is almost like a sunset when you cut into it. Beautiful. And it’s different to other London Dry Gin because we don’t add any sugar. We’ve worked with an award-winning cocktail barman in London and a Plum Collins with our gin tastes incredible, while the apricot one with tonic has a lovely rose colour.”

So, what’s next on the agenda?

“We’d already got a project planting botanicals around the farm so Reliquum is the first step. Within five years we’d like to make our own gin, 100% from the farm!”

Reliquum is available at the Reliquum website and from Church Street Taven, Colchester, the MIstley Thorn, The Alma in Harwich, The Haywain in Little Bromley, Two Brews in Colchester and Wivenhoe House Hotel.

Make an Essex Sundowner

(Serves one)

Shake 50ml Reliquum Plum, 15ml Amaretto, 4 drops bitters, 40ml cranberry juices, squeeze of three lemon wedges with ice and serve in a glass, topping up with ginger beer.

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