Meet the Maker: Tarquin Leadbetter

What is happens at the Southwestern Distillery?

We make Tarquin’s Gin and Cornish Pastis in a couple of copper pot stills, on the far-flung coast of north Cornwall. Run by me (Tarquin), my sister Athene and a lovely small team that seems to be growing fast (shout outs to Tom, Marc & Ruby!).

How long have you been doing what you do?

It has been 4 years since I was desk bound. 3 years since I worked behind a bar. And almost 2 years peddling the good stuff… with a lot of R&D and responsible drinking during the gaps.

When did you have your eureka moment? 

Plans for my restaurant fell through, and within 1 day I convinced myself it wasn’t completely ludicrous to make a living by distilling a few bottles of gin in the morning, then go surfing in the afternoon.

Why did you set it up?

To make amazing booze. To be my own boss. And live by the sea.

What would you be doing if you weren’t running Southwestern Distillery?

Running a cachaça distillery on the coast of southern Brazil.

Big up someone that you’ve met along the way?

Tom, our London sales dude. He’s written an epic travel-cum-cook book (that you all must buy). Having cycled for 500 days across the planet!!

Advice for other people looking to start their own thing?

Don’t be afraid to roll the dice. But do so intelligently.

If you had a super power what would it be?

Hmmm... Superman is a pretty cool cat. I’ll have what he’s having.

What’s been your biggest achievement?

Winning Gold at the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) 2014 for our Tarquin’s Gin.

Sure, most competitions hand out medals like cookies… because you pay to enter. But the IWSC is the big one. Only 6 gins in the world won gold in a huge field, so to be a part of that group was insane.

Who would play you in a movie?

I’d like to say Brad Pitt in Fight Club or Leo Di Cap in Blood Diamond. But unfortunately, seeing as I’m quite sarcastic, I’m probably better suited to being some sort of baddie…. Errr.. Heath Ledger as The Joker?

Tell us something amazing about the drink industry? 

A couple of things that I still think are amazing about the industry. For one, your competitors are also your friends. And secondly: people who work in the drink industry actually enjoy their work.

While these two simple things sound basic. But they’re really not.

Do you have any quirky / OCD rituals?

I’m the guy who will think to himself…

“Shit. Did I lock the door?”

…“I am sure I did”.

“But what if I didn’t”…

“I know I did”.

“In fact, I definitely did”.

“Oh bugger, I’ve got to go back and check it now”.

Other brands you respect? 

Anyone who makes their own stuff I respect massively.

I just bought a bottle of rye whisky from the tiny Tasmanian Belgrove Distillery. Everything they do is incredible. They grow and malt their own rye, distill in a copper still they built themselves, char their own barrels, use homemade biodiesel to fire the still, use rainwater caught off their distillery roof as cooling water… And when I say ‘they’ I mean pretty much one guy called Peter. That is the kind of brand that I respect the most.

Worst day at the distillery?

F***ing up a batch of gin/pastis.

Best day / achievement at the distillery?

Taking delivery of our new still Ferrara from Italy. Pretty exciting for me because it also involved hiring a crane. Which put it one notch higher than taking delivery of our company van!