Bringing a touch of sweetness to the Cuckoo family
When we launched Cuckoo Gin back in June 2017, my vision was to create products I considered to be ‘proper’ gins; with a high ABV, plenty of punch and, if desired, could be sipped on ice with the same delivery as a good whiskey; no mixer required! We launched with our beloved Signature and then the looming winter of 2017 called for something a little bit different and so, our cult classic Spiced was born. However, during our first year of trade, travelling the country and meeting all you lovely folk, we were asked many questions along the lines of:
‘Do you do a pink gin?’
‘Do you do an *insert fruit here* gin?’
‘Do you do anything sweet?’
Now, perhaps I was a little naïve to think that we could launch into the gin market and get away with not producing a flavoured gin because, to be perfectly honest, they really aren’t my bag! However, after hearing these questions from customers the UK over at shows and festivals, and closer to home in our very own Nest, I stepped back, took a long hard look and realised that we did have a gap in our range, which needed to be filled by something a little bit sweeter. Whilst experimenting with different flavour ideas and what would work well for us as a brand, we met Simon and Cath who are the team behind The Bee Centre at Samlesbury Hall (who have since, along with their daughter Mel who works behind the bar, become steadfast friends of Cuckoo). When discussing our upcoming plans to develop a new ‘sweeter’ gin recipe, but wanting desperately to avoid the use of sweeteners, sugary syrups and synthetic flavours that are currently dominating the gin shelves, we suddenly had a light bulb moment and a perfect way for our two enterprises to collaborate. We decided that honey would be the star of the show in our new Cuckoo; enabling us to sweeten our gin in a natural, delicious way, whilst also protecting and showcasing our incredible British bees. Simon and Cath brought a number of hives up to the distillery, where they would kindly nurture and rear the Lancashire honeybees and extract the honey we would need to make our newest recipe. In terms of what would pair perfectly with honey, I took inspiration from what I love to eat with honey and the first thing that came to mind was honey drizzled over yoghurt, granola and, most importantly, fresh raspberries; one of my favourite breakfasts! And thus, our ‘sweeter’ recipe was born.
In terms of structure, the base of the gin is very floral and sweet thanks to the botanicals we use which include hibiscus, Madagascan vanilla pods, almonds, a hit of lemon, elderflower and soothing chamomile. Believe it or not, there is actually more juniper in this recipe compared to any of our other gins, due to the need for balance in flavour, so that it can stand up and compete with the sweeter botanicals. The botanicals are then macerated in the alcohol over night before being distilled through Maggie. Once we have this high strength spirit, the honey and raspberries (in what is essentially a gigantic tea bag!) then sit in it for a week before a very technical cold filtration process, which enables us to remove the solids of the honey from the liquid. We then dilute the spirit to 40% ABV using our spring water from the farm, before we bottle it and sell it to our amazing customers! Although the bottle itself is pinky-red in colour, we do not add any artificial or natural colouring to our recipe, but it is certainly ‘pink’ in flavour!
When thinking of a name for our new product, we knew that we wanted something wholesome but with a summery feel, due to its fruity botanicals. We worked alongside our good old friend Graham from Design by Gray, who has worked with us on our product development and design since the very beginning. After a few brainstorming sessions, we landed on the name that my father-in-law Gerard calls his loved ones, especially his children, which also provided continuity with our ‘S’ theme and so – our Cuckoo Sunshine Gin was born. We kept the bottle design the same as our Signature and Spiced but, we wanted the colour of the bottle to represent a luscious, deep summer sunset (think ‘red sky at night’) so we had the bottle sprayed with its recognisable red/pink colour, which stands out on the shelves, and added a few small honeybee images onto the labelling. Sunshine has a very sentimental connection to the distillery as we launched it the same week my daughter, Olive, was born. And what a busy week it was! And so, rather than the first batch being numbered #1 as Signature and Spiced were, we named the first batch of Sunshine the ‘Olive’ batch, after our little sunshine and to mark the special occasion.
Since it’s launch in May 2018, Sunshine has become Brindle Distillery’s best selling product, despite not being my favourite style of gin. More fool me for not wanting to create a flavoured gin! Sunshine has also won a number of prestigious awards including a two star Great Taste award, Best Flavoured Gin of 2018 at The Gin Guide Awards and, most recently, achieving gold at the London Spirits Competition this year. I couldn’t be more proud of the recognition that Sunshine has brought to our Cuckoo range and I know for a fact that it really is a customer favourite. For the best way to serve Sunshine, either as a perfect G&T or in our very own cocktail creation, please check out the Cocktails page on our website for recipes and tips.
So, despite going against the grain, Sunshine has brought me a lot of joy and I know it will continue to do so, even if I don’t drink it that often!
Thanks for your support as always. Mark
Ghost written by Liz Long