THROUGH THICK ... AND GINOYSTER
TWIST TO NEW DRINK
THE world is their oyster for two Anglesey producers who have combined their skills to launch a new tipple with a seafood twist.
Menai Oyster Gin is the result of a novel collaboration between craft producer Llanfairpwll Distillery and shellfish enterprise Menai Oysters and Mussels.
Distiller Rob Laming and oyster producer Shaun Krijnen hatched their plan to create an oyster-infused gin during the spring lockdown, which threatened to cripple both their businesses.
A devastating dip in sales forced them to get creative – and the resulting product is now on sale ready for Christmas.
It offers the intriguing prospect of a spirit whose flavour may change subtly depending on the time it is distilled.
“In the same way the ground influences grape flavour, so oysters have different taste profiles throughout the year,” said Shaun.
“This is based on what algae are present in the Menai Strait when they are growing.”
Menai Oyster Gin was conceived in late March when Shaun wandered into Llanfairpwll Distillery to discuss the concept.
At the time both producers were looking for alternative sales outlets and products.
Having launched as a kitchen-top enterprise, distillers Rob Laming and partner Maria Jones switched to a unit in Gaerwen after sales took off.
But they found 2020 to be a rollercoaster-ride.
“It has been a difficult and very different year,” said Rob.
“When Covid-19 hit, we switched production from spirits to hand sanitizer, which kept us ticking over during the first lockdown.”
Shaun, a marine biologist who established Menai Oysters and Mussels 26 years ago, also runs a sister enterprise, the Oyster Farm Campsite, Dwyran.
Until Covid-19 struck, his freshly cultivated oysters and mussels were sold wholesale and by mail order, often to be served at restaurants around Britain.
“Lockdown hammered our core business,” he said.
“But oysters still need looking after, and so we had to look for other ways to sell them.
“We switched to supplying direct to fish shops, and demand started to rise because people began cooking more at home.
He also began toying with the idea of using oysters in gin.
After chatting with Rob, they distilled fresh oysters to produce
a sample litre of gin, later experimenting with a variety of blends.
After exhaustive trials, the result was a “smooth and creamy gin with a gentle taste and aroma of the sea”.
It is, they say, “unlike anything ever done in Wales before”.
Menai Oyster Gin is available to buy from both Llanfairpwll Distillery and Menai Oysters.