Trevethan Gin x Schöffel Country

Back in 2018, the team at Cornish craft distillery, Trevethan, created a commemorative gin to toast the 25th anniversary of Schöffel’s Ptarmigan coat. Returning to the rugged coastlines and swiftly changing weather to launch our spring/summer 2021 range, we caught up with head distiller and co-founder, John Hall, to celebrate the return of spring. 

Cornwall has a special place in people’s hearts and minds. Over the years, the unique beauty of its coastline and countryside have filled memories, inspired artists and writers, and produced some of Britain’s finest food and drink. It keeps many important traditions alive, not least the great scone debate – jam first or cream? With spring weather capable of providing four seasons in the space of a few hours, it was also a perfect location to showcase Schöffel’s spring / summer 2021 countrywear range.  

Between photoshoots, sunshine and showers, we caught up with Marc Megilley, head of sales at one of our favourite Cornish businesses, Trevethan Distillery, which created the Ptarmigan Reserve gin for Schöffel for the 25th anniversary of the Ptarmigan coat in 2018.  

Traditionally, the Cornish would celebrate the changing of the seasons with home brewed alcohol, the recipes for which would alter as the hedgerow harvest evolved throughout the year. Trevethan has recently revived and refined this in the form of its 4 Seasons Society, a gin subscription club launched last year.  

Using carefully selected local botanicals and Cornish spring water from Bodmin Moor, the aim of each gin is to use taste and smell to trigger memories that epitomise each season, rather than relying on gimmicky flavourings. For the latest release the goal was the essence of a real spring; a season that mixes crisp, clear mornings and sharp, cold showers with fresh, floral-scented breezes, bursts of glorious sunshine and the promise of summer – the kind of spring that makes layering essential dress code for any event, from a dog walk to a long overdue al-fresco drink with friends. 

“Spring is always about hope for me, more so this year than ever. You get that first flush of growth after coming out of a cold dark winter: the first buds are emerging and the grass is starting to grow,” explains Marc. “We looked for botanicals we could source locally and settled on primroses. They’re an early splash of colour and sunshine, as well as being the first edible flower of the year, evoking candied petals on a simnel cake. Then we added gooseberries and chervil.”  

The team are currently formulating the Summer Reserve in conjunction with the Lost Gardens of Heligan, known for its stunning collection of rare plants. “We have a good relationship with Heligan, having worked with them before to make a rum from scratch using their pineapples and honey from the Cornish black honeybee. It’s a real pleasure to be able to celebrate one of the most beautiful spots of Cornwall,” explains Marc.  

Like the black bees at Heligan, Trevethan is intrinsically Cornish. The distillery was established in 1929 by Norman Trevethan, who worked as chauffeur to Lord and Lady St Germans. Driving his employers to high society parties, Norman was struck by how popular gin cocktails were in London. Though blessed by geography in many ways, Cornwall’s remoteness made it hard to come by delicacies such as gin, so, with typical Cornish ingenuity, Norman decided to make his own.  

“Cornwall has always been quite foody and well respected from a food-growing perspective. Being far from motorways gives cleaner air and space to breathe, leading to more vibrant flavours and better harvests,” says Marc. “The Tamar Valley, where we’re based, was renowned for its market gardens, which fed Plymouth, with barges sailing up the river to collect all the wonderful vegetables. There was always a mentality of ‘you don’t buy it; you grow it’, and essentially that was what Norman was doing, along with adding an element of Cornwall with hedgerow botanicals he could source on the St Germans estate. We still handpick gorse and elderflower for our London Dry, just as he did.” 

In 2015, the distillery was re-established by Norman’s grandson Rob Cuffe, whose expertise lies in designing and building food and drink production facilities. His friend John Hall was an experienced chemist and distiller, so they set about recreating the old family recipe using traditional copper stills.  

Originally from Kenya, Marc is now a fully-fledged honorary Cornishman and a great advocate for Cornish traditions, but originally hails from Kenya. His Cornish education comes partly from his colleagues at Trevethan and, more importantly, from his wife, Sammie, whose family has owned the picturesque Pentillie Castle, on the Cornish bank of the Tamar, for centuries. Marc’s previous job had involved a lot travel throughout Britain, and when his and Sammie’s first child – Charlie – was born, he decided he needed an alternative that allowed him to spend more time at home. Around about that time, he organised a serendipitous barbeque festival at Pentillie, where he met Trevethan founders Rob and John. They got talking – and tasting – and the rest is history.  

Since then, Marc’s love of Cornwall has been cemented through his passion for a variety of outdoor pursuits, from walking with his two Labradors and sailing around the famous coastline, to fishing and some of the most spectacular and secluded shooting England has to offer. It’s given him a valuable knowledge of local birds, beasts and botanicals, kept him fit, but there are limits thanks to the closely packed contour lines: “My wife keeps suggesting I cycle to and from work but I’ve flatly refused. No pun intended. It’s much too hilly!” 

One of the most notable things he has learnt since coming to Cornwall, however, is gin related. “I’m ashamed to admit that when I first started working with him, John pointed out that I’d been making a dreadful gin and tonic for years,” Marc laughs. “He took everything I thought I knew and turned it on its head, putting the tonic in first, then a big block of ice, followed by the garnish and then, finally, adding the gin before stirring it gently. Putting the gin in first in direct contact with the ice cools it too quickly and draws out the oil from the spirit, which spoils the balance of the drink.” 

So, if you’re tired of debating whether the old Cornish method of adding jam before cream is correct when it comes to scone consumption, it might be time to conduct some experiments to see if you agree with the new Cornish way of making a G&T.  

Cornwall has a special place in people’s hearts and minds. Over the years, the unique beauty of its coastline and countryside have filled memories, inspired artists and writers, and produced some of Britain’s finest food and drink. It keeps many important traditions alive, not least the great scone debate – jam first or cream? With spring weather capable of providing four seasons in the space of a few hours, it was also a perfect location to showcase Schöffel’s spring / summer 2021 countrywear range.  

Between photoshoots, sunshine and showers, we caught up with Marc Megilley, head of sales at one of our favourite Cornish businesses, Trevethan Distillery, which created the Ptarmigan Reserve gin for Schöffel for the 25th anniversary of the Ptarmigan coat in 2018.  

Traditionally, the Cornish would celebrate the changing of the seasons with home brewed alcohol, the recipes for which would alter as the hedgerow harvest evolved throughout the year. Trevethan has recently revived and refined this in the form of its 4 Seasons Society, a gin subscription club launched last year.  

Using carefully selected local botanicals and Cornish spring water from Bodmin Moor, the aim of each gin is to use taste and smell to trigger memories that epitomise each season, rather than relying on gimmicky flavourings. For the latest release the goal was the essence of a real spring; a season that mixes crisp, clear mornings and sharp, cold showers with fresh, floral-scented breezes, bursts of glorious sunshine and the promise of summer – the kind of spring that makes layering essential dress code for any event, from a dog walk to a long overdue al-fresco drink with friends. 

“Spring is always about hope for me, more so this year than ever. You get that first flush of growth after coming out of a cold dark winter: the first buds are emerging and the grass is starting to grow,” explains Marc. “We looked for botanicals we could source locally and settled on primroses. They’re an early splash of colour and sunshine, as well as being the first edible flower of the year, evoking candied petals on a simnel cake. Then we added gooseberries and chervil.”  

From Field

To Distillery

To Bottle

What makes Cornwall such a good place for gin making? 

“Cornwall has always been a centre of craft and rural ingenuity. The word ‘craft’ has become overused recently, but when you take it back to its roots, it’s about honing and developing skills to create something from scratch. For a long time, you couldn’t lay your hands on delicacies here as easily as in cities. You had to make your own. That’s exactly what Norman Trevethan did when he set up his distillery in the 1920s. He was working as a chauffeur for the Earl and Countess of St Germans, driving them to society events. He saw the booming gin craze in London and decided to bring a bit of it back and added some local botanicals to make it even better. 

“We’re also spoilt for outdoor opportunities to make strong sensory memories to capture. I’m quite sporty and love walking here, taking the dogs out – I have three miniature dachshunds - going to the beach, playing golf, and getting involved with the local music scene. It all offers either inspiration for a new gin or excellent places to drink one – or both.” 

 

How did you get involved with Trevethan? 

“I’ve always been involved in local business, but not always gin. I knew Rob [Cuffe, John’s co-founder at Trevethan] well and we’d worked together in Plymouth building food and drink facilities for other people working in and out of the south west. I’ve always been a big whisky and distilled spirits fan, as well as a bit of a technical buff, with chemistry as my first degree. I then gained subsequent qualifications in distilling. When Rob told me story of his grandad, Norman Trevethan, and the gin he used to make in the 1920s, it struck me as a perfect opportunity.” 

What was your favourite part about creating the Ptarmigan gin for Schöffel? 

“Learning why the coat was named after the bird and researching the ptarmigan’s habitat to work out what type of botanicals would evoke it best, which led to the wild bilberries and meadowsweet that gives the gin its distinctive flavour. Scotland is one of my favourite places to walk and I’ve spent a lot of time in the hills there over the years, so to be able to work on something to pay homage to it was a real pleasure.” 

 

Tell us about your latest project, a gin for each of the four seasons: 

“The idea came to me while developing our Christmas reserve. I wanted a gin that evoked memories – like walking into a room and smelling the Christmas tree – not just gimmicks like figgy pudding flavourings. That led me to think how we could translate that into different seasons using local, seasonal produce. The Spring Reserve is all about clear, crisp mornings and floral freshness, and we’re currently planning the Summer Reserve with the Lost Gardens of Heligan. Customers can buy each season as it’s released, as long as we don’t sell out, or they can subscribe to our 4 Seasons Society and receive all four along with some subscribers’ perks and a virtual distillery tour.” 

 

What would be in your perfect G&T? 

“For me, it’s all about keeping it simple and letting the gin be the main event. I like a light-tasting tonic – so you don’t get too much bitter quinine – and a garnish of orange, which brings out the gin’s lighter notes, and rosemary to bring out the juniper.” 

To find out more about Trevethan and the 4 Seasons Society, click here.