A work of ginius
Laura Cartledge meets a Winchester company that makes alcohol, but not as you ‘nose’ it.
If I said gin and watercress or vodka and wasabi you may think I was just really bad at the word association game.
“The first reaction is ‘watercress, are you mad?’ that is not going to work in a gin,” admits Paul Bowler, founder of Twisted Nose.
“There are many gins being launched at the moment, there seems to be one every week, but a lot of them are the same thing,” he adds.
“I wanted to create something with a real home, real roots, local flavour and a local story. People have really bought in to that.”
The local roots take on a literal sense when it comes to the combination of botanicals in the extra special gin.
In fact it began with lavender and watercress, both of which are grown nearby.
“I didn’t want to create a completely savoury gin, it is about balancing it,” Paul explains.
“Watercress is a hard ingredient to work with – too much and it is overpowering, too little and you don’t know it is there.”
Even the name ‘Twisted Nose’ owes itself to the leaf vegetable, as it is the meaning of ‘Nasturtium’ which the Romans knew watercress as.
Served in a G&T, Paul recommends adding grapefruit peel, admitting the combination comes from a favourite summer dish of his.
“If I have a watercress salad I put grapefruit in it. They bring out the best in each other, the pepper and the acidity,” he says.
As for the business, that began with a ‘moment of inspiration’ following a conversation in a pub.
“I was with a friend talking about the resurgence of gin. We were both big fans and thought wouldn’t it be great to make a local one and I took it from there,” he recalls.
Having spent 18 months ‘playing around’ with the concept – and thanks to a nudge from friends and family – Paul took the plunge.
“They said it was really good and ‘you should do something with this’,” he confesses.
“The contract I was working on was just about to be up and while I had been asked to renew for another year I knew it was a case of now or never.”
While Paul says he ‘hasn’t looked back’ he admits he hasn’t had the time too as it has been quite a year.
“I have already moved twice and now it is time to really expand,” he reveals.
“I’m flabbergasted by the whole thing; support around Winchester has been phenomenal. It just sells really well and the word is getting out there.”
As well as working with local growers, something also showcased in Twisted Nose’s Wasabi Vodka, Paul has also relished collaborating with local companies.
“I feel that it is unique for small businesses. Big businesses can’t do it – it is nice to share stories and it gives you a boost.”
From alcoholic treats with Winchester’s Chococo to a charcuterie mash up – which will see pork paired with the watercress gin and beef with the wasabi vodka – Paul means it when he says ‘there is lots going on’.
“It is good seeing what they do with it, it is exciting. I love trying out new ingredients, new balances, and seeing what works,” he insists.
“I have lots of ideas for new products, but the key now is focusing on the core spirits.”
When Paul jokes that launching a drinks company was a ‘natural progression’ in his career it only works to highlight the size of the change.
“I was working as a software developer and having to travel up to London every day,” he grins.
“I remember it was one of those Friday nights in the summer, the underground was boiling and had ground to a halt and I didn’t get home until gone midnight and I thought I just don’t want to do this anymore – life is too short.”
So what does he hope the future of Twisted Nose will bring?
“What I would like to do is build a business that is well known and have the ability to make a gentle living from it,” replies Paul.
“I don’t want to build a big business. If it gets to the point it stops being fun, that might be the time to stop – but I think I have a long time until then.”
For more information about Twisted Nose, visit www.twistednose.co.uk
Twisted Nose will be collaborating with Fat Olives, Emsworth, with tasting evenings and dishes. Find out more at www.fatolives.co.uk
National Gin Day falls on June 13.
Paul Bowler, founder of Twisted Nose
Picture: Jason Allen
Picture: Peppercorn Photography
May 29, 2015 Food and Drink