Growing up by the sea in Dorset, I have always felt the shoreline’s magnetic pull. I have had a lifelong love affair with the British coastline and set out to create a spirit that would connect us all directly to the shoreline, no matter where we are.
I have spent the last 25 years working as a TV cameraman, travelling the world and working on a multitude of food and drink programmes in the process. But it wasn’t until I was shooting a pilot with Roger Phillips, the highly respected and charismatic author of ‘Wild Food’ (which has been in publication for over twenty years), that I was introduced to the wonderful flavours of seaweed which are in abundance around our shores.
It was also at this time that I was introduced to the delicate art of craft distilling, specifically gin. Some may find this as incredible as I did, but prior to this I had no idea that gin was essentially flavoured vodka – only differentiated by the fact that gin has to contain one essential ingredient, juniper.
While there are many beautiful complex gins available, most flavoured vodkas are based around a single flavour or a simple blend. So, I identified a real opportunity to create a complex and interesting vodka for the botanical spirits market, with the same delicacy of flavour as gin but appealing to the palate of vodka lovers. This exciting emerging category is known as ‘botanical vodkas’.
My two new interests collided and I decided there and then that I wanted to capture the delicious umami flavours present in our local seaweeds and create a brand new and totally unique botanical vodka, based around a blend of these ingredients.
I have spent the last few years experimenting with every seaweed until I found the very best. Each of the seaweeds I decided upon brought something slightly different to the table and together they create a rich umami base to the vodka. However, I didn’t want to stop there! I then spent a year working with hundreds of flavours I felt could complement the seaweed. In the end, it was no surprise that I settled mainly on flavours that are frequently used with seaweed dishes and in Asian cuisine.
Hugh Lambert, founder of Shanty Spirit