Show­ing some bot­tle

For­mer mu­si­cian Lau­rance Traverso has picked child­hood mem­o­ries and cre­ated a lo­cal gin busi­ness, Dis­tinctly Gin. KATE WIL­LIAMS finds out how

Devon Life - - Distinctly Gin -

“The ro­mance of the story was tak­ing mem­o­ries from our child­hood and throw­ing them in a bot­tle - pick­ing ap­ples at my grand­mother’s and help­ing her make el­der­flower cham­pagne!”once a suc­cess­ful signed mu­si­cian with two al­bums un­der his belt, Lau­rance Traverso has had a ca­reer U-turn, launch­ing a lo­cally sourced and made ar­ti­san gin com­pany.

Liv­ing in South Devon, Lau­rance first came up with the idea at a gin-tast­ing evening.

‘This is the clos­est I’ve ever come to real work and it is hard, but I re­ally love do­ing it’

He ex­plains: “As with all of the best ideas, this one came over a drink. I was at a gin tast­ing - when it was a rar­ity - with my wife and we’d gone through two or three sam­ple gins and I turned to my wife and said, ‘I am go­ing to do this’.

“She wasn’t im­pressed! I think she thought I’d had too many. I spoke to the or­gan­is­ers, got the num­ber of a master dis­tiller and started the jour­ney the very next day.

“The week af­ter I spoke to my friend, Kes Os­borne, about get­ting in­volved and he jumped at it.

“He is Dart­mouth born and bred, and it seemed to be the right place to set up the busi­ness. At the time there was very lit­tle com­pe­ti­tion.”

Lau­rance, who has lived all over the world but grew up in South Devon, started think­ing about lo­cal in­gre­di­ents and what was ac­ces­si­ble in the area. Ap­ples and el­der­flower were the two in­gre­di­ents that he and Kes were drawn to and even­tu­ally they achieved a botan­i­cal mix they were proud of for Dis­tinctly Gin.

Af­ter cre­at­ing a bot­tle de­sign based on Dart­mouth’s strengths, the pair bravely shared it on so­cial me­dia.

Lau­rance says: “The re­sponse was over­whelm­ing. Then we had to launch.

“There was a fan­tas­tic buzz about what we were do­ing and peo­ple were ask­ing for the prod­uct be­fore we had our first 100 litres bot­tled.”

Fam­ily obli­ga­tions have meant Kes is now a share­holder but Lau­rance runs the com­pany.

Lau­rance says: “Since I left univer­sity I’ve al­ways been self-em­ployed - not al­ways suc­cess­fully! My wife and friends tell me I’d be un­em­ploy­able. This is the clos­est I’ve ever come to real work and it is hard, but I re­ally love do­ing it.

“I think I sur­vived on a level of hy­per-adren­a­line for about six months pre-launch. All of my avail­able time is spent run­ning Dis­tinctly Gin. If I had any spare time at all, I might con­sider a lit­tle sleep!

“We’re not sure how long this gin thing will go on for but we are ex­pand­ing into new places all the time. We’re now talk­ing to whole­salers in Switzer­land, Spain and as far as Ber­muda! Time will tell where this story will take us but we’re happy to be along for the ride.” dis­tinct­ly­

Brix­ham fish mar­ket at 6am and the strong aroma of the lat­est catch isn’t my idea of an ideal morn­ing. But it’s ac­tu­ally the pre­lude to a fas­ci­nat­ing day learn­ing how easy it is to cook fish.

I’m with James Mooney from King­fisher and chef Si­mon Hul­stone. James is a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor to the mar­ket and says we’re in luck to­day as there’s plenty to see. The mar­ket is piled high with box af­ter box of seafood, ev­ery­thing from tur­bot and red gurnard to megrim and crabs. Canny buy­ers bid on the boxes, which are then whisked off to res­tau­rants and fish­mon­gers.

In one area are stacks of cut­tle­fish – the floor is black with their ink. James says they’re sent on to France and Italy; we Brits won’t eat cut­tle­fish although to all in­tents and pur­poses it’s just like squid. As a na­tion we tend to be slightly ‘safe’ with our fish, though with the rise of the celebrity chef cul­ture this trend is steadily chang­ing.

I’m in­vited into the kitchen of

Si­mon doesn’t mess around with fish, it’s the star of the show. “I like ‘hero-ing’ the prod­uct,” he says.

Cod is next - the fish we all as­so­ciate with fish ‘n chips. It’s a fine look­ing spec­i­men with a skin of rac­ing green. This one swam in the crys­tal-clear wa­ter of the fiords which Si­mon be­lieves of­fers the clean­est meat. “It’s just beau­ti­ful, a mother of pearl fish with chunky flakes.” He preps a sig­na­ture dish of the Ele­phant; the cod is placed on parsnip puree

‘We hap­pily pick off a car­cass of chicken so why not a car­cass of fish?’

and a ver­jus sauce with spring onions, cu­cum­ber and golden sul­tanas, topped with iberico lardo and crispy onions.

Si­mon holds up a hal­ibut, which has a very slimy skin. “That’s ac­tu­ally a good sign; hal­ibut don’t have scales and the slime pro­vides wa­ter­proof­ing.” Raised on an in­land fish farm in deep pools us­ing wa­ter pumped from the fjords, our hal­ibut presents good fat and pure white meat. It’s served on a bed of salsa verde fea­tur­ing toma­toes from Si­mon’s 96 acre farm where he grows pro­duce for the restau­rant, part of his drive to be as sus­tain­able as pos­si­ble. Home­grown in­gre­di­ents that make his dishes ex­tra spe­cial in­clude her­itage car­rots, white straw­ber­ries and mi­cro herbs. Mi­cro basil fea­tures in the hal­ibut dish and Si­mon re­marks how im­por­tant it is to be spar­ing with these pow­er­ful herbs.

I ask why there’s still a re­luc­tance to cook fish at home; while many of us are more than happy to eat fish in a restau­rant we’re not con­fi­dent enough to cook it our­selves. He thinks for a mo­ment. “Per­haps peo­ple aren’t sure what to do with a whole fish – though most hap­pily pick off a car­cass of chicken so why not a car­cass of fish?” It’s even trick­ier to get the ‘fishfin­ger’ gen­er­a­tion on­side with eat­ing fish. Si­mon in­tro­duces us to James, one of the restau­rant’s young ap­pren­tices, who just does not want to eat fish. Ap­par­ently, he ‘doesn’t like the way it’s made’.

But we all know that fish can be sim­ple and quick to cook, low fat and full of protein – an ideal com­bi­na­tion for peo­ple with busy lives who want to eat well - so what’s the best way to tempt a wary teenager to start be­ing more ad­ven­tur­ous with their diet?

“Start with hal­ibut or cod,” Si­mon sug­gests, “and sim­ply grill it. Or to make it more tempt­ing, put a crust on it, a cheese crumb with lemon and gar­lic.” A con­vert, I make a men­tal note to visit my lo­cal fish­mon­ger and try to get my fam­ily more fa­mil­iar with fish.

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