Cascade - The Story
Updated: May 11, 2020
Cascade Gin is Gin Of The Week 2/5/20-9/2/20 which means you receive a free Turncoat Glass with every bottle purchased. It also means we send a free bottle and glass to a frontline worker nominated by you and chosen out of a hat. To enter someone into a draw please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a name and a little one liner about what you're nominating them. Once they are in the draw they are in it for the duration of the scheme - so no need to nominate twice!
Cascade Gin was the second gin we ever made - back in 2017. It has become a firm favourite amongst the pubs and bars in Liverpool - and now further afield. It's probably the gin that tells the story of our distillery the best. We also distill a special edition gin for Purity Brewing Co. using the hops from their hop store. This is being championed across the Midlands and London - where you see a Purity Beer, you may find our Special Edition Collab gin quite close.
The hops are what make Cascade such a unique gin. When we distilled this back in 2017 there were not many gins featuring hops. Hops are by no means a new addition to gins - they have been part of recipes for a long time. But not many gins had featured a specific hop for its specific flavour characteristics and managed to let that flourish in the gin flavour. A lot of breweries have now jumped on that bandwagon. To be fair Eden Mill were the first distillery I'd heard of making a thing of hops in their gin. And it's a really good gin too!
But it was something else that inspired me to have a go at featuring a specific hop and making sure it's flavour came through. It could not just be an addition - it had to be the feature. It also couldn't just be 'hops'. When you're a brewer and you read the ingredients on the side of a beer bottle you've enjoyed, you're dismayed to see 'hops' as an ingredient. What hops did I just drink!!!??? So it had to be a specific hop.
Cascade are incredible hops with a big history in the Craft Beer movement. These hops are American, although bred from British hop lines. They are piney and citrus and very versatile. I could write a long blog simply about Cascade hops... but I'll try to stay on point...
My entry in the realm of making booze was initially in a brewery called Liverpool Craft Beer, based on Love Lane in Liverpool. Myself and my friend Paul set it up in 2010. This was before 'Craft Beer' was even a term being used in the UK.
Our most successful beer was an American Pale I created called Love Lane Pale Ale. If you're in the Liverpool area you've probably heard of it. Myself and Paul faced a few financial growth issues so we felt we had to sell it. I decided not to stay on as head brewer as it was all bit corporate for me.
The brewery is still running but now on different site and as I say with a much more corporate approach - the beer is unrecognisable from what we made in our little railway arch on Love Lane - but that's craft beer! Great then successful, then corporate then profitable!
But the key ingredient of this beer was Cascade Hops. I was working with these hops for years and I loved their history and independence, the flavour and nuance they brought to the beer. I spent years trying to get more and more aroma and citrus notes from the hops. So when I launched the distillery I was determined to have a gin that connected with our roots in brewing - and specifically this Love Lane Pale Ale beer - so that had to be cascade as a key ingredient. Love Lane had paid the bills for me, my business partner and our families, so I felt I needed to bring some if it with me - even though technically none of it belonged to me any more.
This is also why the distillery is called 'Turncoat' - turning coat from brewing to distilling. It's also a bit of a message to the new owners of Love Lane Brewery. The little guy who founded it has turned coat and started his own thing - what a Turncoat.
So without thinking I got a design and ordered 10,000 labels of 'Cascade Gin'. Yep - no recipe, no tasting - absolutely confident these hops would just deliver in this new gin.
Did it crap. It was so difficult to get to where I wanted it to be. I tried all sorts of distilling processes to try and get it to what I imagined. No joy. We used a 'compound method' in which the hops are left to soak and infuse the neutral alcohol and then filtered to become the gin. This made the gin almost green and brown, and just didn't do it justice. It looked bad - also at the time I wanted a distilled gin, not a compound or bathtub gin. The bottles we used were clear, and hops are very sensitive to light - so the gin would have become light struck and would have tasted very bad after a while.
I tried straight forward distillation - but hops are leaves. They have a lot of properties you don't really want. In a beer this doesn't really come through, but in distillation it does. So there were lots of vegetable flavours coming through, as well as skunk marijuana flavours! Hops are a close relative of marijuana so this shouldn't have been a surprise! They're close but they don't speak at weddings... (that's my Cascade/Marijuana joke...).
Then we had a new starter to the company. Joanne started distilling with us. Joanne was a science teacher until she got sick of Headmasters running schools like businesses instead of the very unique institution they should be. Loved teaching, hated headmasters. Come and be a distiller!
She suggested sticking to the recipe, but increasing Cardamom to balance the hops, but also removing the hops from the still completely and investing a gin basket. A gin Basket is a container that is 'post still' but 'pre condenser'. Meaning that the still heats up the alcohol with the botanicals in it main vessel, then the 'gin steam' rises out the still and through to the condenser to be cooled before turning back to liquid and becoming gin. Our gin basket sits above the still, and is filled with hops, so they are never boiled, but rather steamed with the 'gin steam' before being cooed at the condenser. This then gently, over 5-7 hours, strips the hop oils (which is all we wanted in the first place) from the hops leaving the vegetation flavours behind and out the flavour profile.
This created a viscous gin we were a little tentative about, but knew was very different. This was only our second gin and it was outside our comfort zone. We hadn't really decided what kind of distillery we wanted to be and here we were going to launch this weird highly unusual gin.
But fortune favours the bold and the gin was more than very well received. Nobody had tasted anything so bold, citrus and just unusual but pleasant and moreish. It took a long time to get right but I'm glad I bought 10,000 labels as it made sure we stuck with it!
So this is why Cascade is very special to me as the founder. It's the bridge between moving from brewing and into distilling. It confirmed we were on the right track and our first gin Turncoat London Dry was not a fluke!
I've always approached products as a test of how much quality you can invest into them. If you get the core business right, the taste and quality your product, then you can build a business around it. This sounds obvious, but the gin world is actually home to a lot of brands that build a business around marketing, gimmicks, mass production and bottom lines. We've got no interest in that at all - make a great gin you believe in and the rest will fall into place. It is now our most popular gin.
Although at the bar our new pink gin was starting to overtake it - but that's another story...
Check out my first efforts above in the video. If you like these videos subscribe to our site here as well as Youtube. Not all our videos go into the blog so make sure you don't miss out by subscribing to YouTube here.