Drink draws on historic ties

Couple launch gin with a link to tea trade

teasmith-smalleyAn Aberdeenshire husband and wife have created Scotland’s first premium gin inspired by the area’s links to the tea trade.

Nick and Emma Smalley from Udny Green have spent over a year learning the art of distilling to perfect their blend. 

Teasmith Gin is now being distilled in Perthshire’s Strathearn distillery and a limited first batch of 560 bottles goes on sale this week. The couple have big plans to export.

They have used botanicals associated with Aberdeenshire, and have discovered the nearby Newburgh estuary was once a thriving tea trading port.

Nick first began experimenting with spirits by creating sloe gin as favours for guests at the couple’s wedding.

He said further investigation into tea trading in the North-east inspired the concept and recipe used to create The Teasmith Gin. 

“Some of the world’s most notable tea-clippers were built in Aberdeen harbour, some of which played a major role in opening up the important tea trade routes with the Far East.

“But it was the story of a young man from Auchenblae, Aberdeenshire, who founded the first tea plantation in Sri Lanka in 1867 that intrigued us the most. James Taylor, known as the ‘Father of Ceylon Tea’, transformed the island into one of the finest tea growing regions in the world.

“This little known tale really affirmed our decision to use tea as one of our key botanicals.”

After identifying their trademark ingredient, Nick and Emma worked with tea consultant Beverly-Claire Wainwright to source a highly unique tea from Sri Lanka.  

The hand-rolled tea from Amba Estate offers something truly different.  It is a rare tea that has been developed with meticulous care, using only the finest leaf and bud, to create rich aromatic flavours. 

Production is tiny and is made entirely by hand without machinery in the same way that Taylor produced his very first batches of tea.    

The black loose leaf Ceylon tea is distilled by itself to capture its unique flavour and is blended with a classic gin recipe featuring juniper, coriander, citrus peels and other carefully selected botanicals which have been double-distilled in traditional copper alembic stills. 

“It was the first time the distillery had used tea as a botanical so it was a real step into the unknown,” explained Emma. “The result is in the taste – a sweetness, like that of a high quality tea, with a subtle essence of mint.”

Emma and Nick have also worked with a local design studio, FortyTwo Studio, to create the brand.

The Smalleys were supported by Business Gateway, after Nick contacted the team about market research when they first came up with the concept.

Emilia Stanczyk, business adviser at Elevator and Business Gateway, said: “It has been such a journey to see the development of this idea into a product which is now being created in Scotland, and I’ve no doubt it will be enjoyed by many gin enthusiasts throughout the UK and beyond.”  

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