There’s more to Turncoat Bar and Distillery than meets the eye. Managing Director, Terry Langton, told Imogen Sandbach how he grew from a garage distillery to Royal Albert Dock bar and how there’s a story behind every gin they serve.
Photo: Terry Langton by Anthony Lavender
WHY DID YOU DECIDED TO SET UP A DISTILLERY?
Well, I used to be a brewer, hence the name Turncoat. I had a brewery called Love Lane Brewery, and I was also involved in another brewery called Black Lodge. My life was all about brewing beer. I did that for about eightyears and then I decided it was time to sell up and do something different and that’s when I got the idea to start a distillery.
I STARTED SMALL, JUST A LITTLE DISTILLERY IN MY GARAGE.
Luckily, our two gins were very really well received, so we moved into a unit, bought a larger still and started making new gins and growing the business. Then in 2018 Royal Albert Dock approached us and asked if we wanted to partner up and put a bar in one of their basements. We obviously said yes. We thought it was a great location and would really help us expand our customer base and brand. It was a huge challenge getting everything ready in time, and then of course, lock down happened four weeks after we finally opened, but it was still worth the work.
AS GIN HAS GROWN IN POPULARITY HAS IT INFLUENCED YOUR RECIPES?
Yes definitely. You’re always paranoid when you start anything new because you haven’t found your feet and you don’t really know what you can do or what you’re about. You don’t know if what you’re doing is going to land with people.
ULTIMATELY, YOU’RE MAKING GIN BUT WHAT’S YOUR CONTRIBUTION TO THE GIN WORLD?
I mean, you have to kind of work that out. So, I think we decided really early on that everything we do is going to be distilled. You can make gins in all sorts of different ways. You can make a compound gin where you rest the botanicals in the ethanol, but you don’t re-distil it, you just filter it and then you get a coloured, flavoured gin, or you can blend different gins together, but we decided that everything we make is going to be distilled.
AS PEOPLE GET TO KNOW GIN BETTER AND BECOME MORE SOPHISTICATED IN THEIR CHOICES, THEY’LL WANT TO KNOW THE STORY BEHIND IT.
They’ll want to know who makes it and how it’s made. We have to have that integrity and we want to stay really small as a distillery, only selling to independent companies. Our aim is to make lots of different gins that interest people and have a story behind them and we want to collaborate with other
companies. We’ve already collaborated with Leaf and with the Botanical Garden. We’ve collaborated with a brewery in Manchester for one of our gins and we’ve made a gin from Marray.
WE TRY TO BE PART OF THE COMMUNITY RATHER THAN MAKE A COMMODITY GIN FOR THE MASS MARKET.
SO, IT’S MORE ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE AND THE STORY BEHIND IT RATHER THAN ‘JUST ANOTHER BOTTLE OF GIN’?
That’s it, absolutely. And this is where the bar came in. We were offered the bar, and I just thought, that’s an extension of the story, we’re not just a website and then you see us at events and managing festivals. You can actually come into the bar.
APART FROM GIN, WHAT ELSE CAN PEOPLE FIND IN YOUR BAR?
We focus on gin, beer and pizza. We’ve installed 15 beer lines to get as many local beers on as possible. We make sure a lot of the lines are from local breweries like
Chapter, Carnival, Black Lodge, Neptune and we're finally getting Birkenhead's Glen Affric on the lines too. We've also invested in a huge pizza oven and kitchen, so we can make our own pizzas from scratch. We make all our own dough, and the oven is wood fired only, which is a great combination of freshness and flavour. Our cocktail menu is doing really well. Good ingredients and good processes with no gimmicks. Our team are really friendly and down to earth.
WE'RE NOT A PRETENTIOUS COMPANY. WE JUST WANT CUSTOMERS TO ENJOY OUR OFFER AND HAVE A GOOD TIME.
DO YOU HAVE OUTDOOR SPACE OR OFFER DELIVERIES?
We do have a lovely outdoor space which seats up to 30 people. We’re a basement
bar, but our space upstairs has great views of Albert Dock. Our distillery offers deliveries of all our gins, and you can pick up all of our range at the bar.
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE FUTURE?
We’ve just invested in a pop-up kitchen at the Bombed-Out Church. Our pizza team is selling hundreds of pizzas a day over there. We’re also hoping to open a new bar very soon.
WHAT’S THE BEST-SELLING ITEM ON
Dragon Tears Gin and Tonic. It’s a very unique gin, made using Dragon Tears, which are the flowers that bud on a Jasmin plant. Our best-selling beer is Parabola Pale Ale from Chapter, and our best-selling pizza is the Meat, Heat and Sweet. It’s a delicious pizza with Nduja, pepperoni which is drizzled with honey. There’s also a vegan version which flies out!