Taplin and Mageean is a distillery inspired by the rich landscape of the Yorkshire Dales. Founded in 2018 by Chris Taplin and Barry Mageean, both men wanted to create a distillery that was built around and within this historic location, and at the same time produce an ultra-premium product that excelled in its own right. We learn how they managed to do both.
The first thing that strikes you in approaching the Taplin & Mageean distillery is the fact that it is located in one of the most iconic and beautiful places in the United Kingdom.
Taplin & Mageean resides in a building which actually sits on the platform of Leyburn train station, part of a still-functioning heritage line that runs through the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. The distillery nestles in a landscape of towering fells, wild heather moorland, dry stone walls, and ancient barns.
Leyburn is in the heart of Wensleydale, a place that is home to numerous world-renowned artisan food and drink brands. However, in 2018 the region was not yet represented by a high-quality gin, and it was this gap in the region’s drinks production that provided the stimulus for the distillery opening two years ago.
From the outset, Taplin & Mageean has been driven by a passion to create gins that truly reflect the grandeur and boldness of the Yorkshire Dales, and of which the local community can be justly proud. It is all about provenance, and the goal is to bottle gins that are synonymous with, created from, and reflective of the Dales. If you take a close look at the label, you’ll even see that the bird most closely associated with the Dales – the Curlew – is represented there in all its glory.
At the heart of all gin is juniper, and an abundance of it grows wild in the very dale where Taplin & Mageean gins are made. The distillery uses water naturally filtered through the landscape, locally-grown apples, and hops from the world-renowned Dales-based beer-maker Black Sheep Brewery. Its botanicals are sourced from around the world, including orange zest from Spain, Angelica root from Belgium, Oris root from Italy, and Coriander seeds from Morocco.
Chris Taplin, founder of Taplin & Mageean, says, “The taste of our gins is bold like the landscape in which they are created. They can be savoured like a good view, each taste reminiscent of this quintessentially English landscape, known locally (and for good reason) as God’s own country.”
Taplin & Mageean produces 4 ultra-premium craft gins: Signature Edition (a winner at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirit Awards), Elderflower Orchard, Spiced Orange, and Peach and Basil.
“Each gin is made with a recipe that allows the taste to evolve when sipped, with the different botanicals used presenting on the taste buds at different times. Each also uses the best grain neutral spirit, the best botanicals, and optimal soak times so that flavours can be layered,” says co-owner Chris Young. “The best gins — like good stories — have a beginning, a middle, and an end, each combining to create a unique taste journey.”
At the Taplin & Mageean distillery there is a meticulous focus on quality, heritage, and a real passion that underpins the entire process from recipe creation, distillation, bottling, and labelling, all the way through to dispatch (the gins are delivered across the world in innovative and eco-friendly FLEXI-HEX packaging).
The distillery has a real atmosphere. It occupies 200-year-old buildings and is grafted from a place that was once a storage facility for cargo being delivered into the Dales, and where trains were mended before continuing their journeys across the county. It seems appropriate that Taplin & Mageean’s method of distillation — using steel and copper — resonates with the building’s industrial heritage.
The distillation process at Taplin & Mageean also dates back hundreds of years. This tried-and-tested method uses hand-made alembic copper stills to make the small-batch ultra-premium gins. Copper stills may be inefficient in many ways when it comes to maximising profit but Taplin & Mageean uses them for a reason — they cling onto every flavour molecule.
Taplin continues, “Our distillation and bottling all takes place under one roof, so there is no chance of our gin being adulterated by third parties who don’t share our attention to detail and passion for premium quality. Trials of our recipes take place in an alembic copper pot named Ruby, and once the recipe is finalised, distillation scales up to our 100L copper still (Wendy) and our 300L copper still (Jenny). Each distillation takes two days from soaking of first botanicals to extracting the final product, and the botanicals are soaked for different durations to ensure each note is tasted at the correct volume.”
The gin distillation process can be divided into 3 parts: the heads, the heart, and the tails. The heads can contain unpleasant chemical compounds like acetone and methanol, while the tails are low in alcohol and contain sulphates and fatty acids that give a stewed taste. In the middle, the heart is the highest-quality part of the distillation. Unlike run-of-the-mill gins, Taplin & Mageean focuses in on a slim central heart cut to ensure premium quality and smoothness. “This is why we can maintain that Taplin & Mageean gin is truly from the heart!”, Young comments.
In more normal times, and ready to be restarted when the coronavirus lockdown is lifted, Taplin & Mageean runs distillery tours and its much-loved Gin Train Experience, which is a nod to an unconventional part of its history which made international headlines at the time.
Back in 2018, the distillery was due to open, the gin was ready, and all the tickets for the launch event had been sold — but the premises licence was still in the post. However, the owners spotted a loophole in the licensing laws which permitted gin to be served without a licence on a moving train or an aeroplane. The launch event then took place on a train running on the heritage line that goes through Leyburn railway station, right next to the distillery (and the licence arrived a week later!).
Taplin eloquently sums up Taplin & Mageean’s vision. “What we are trying to do is put the essence of the Yorkshire Dales in a bottle. We strive to create gins that anyone with a love of this part of the world will understand, and which when sipped will remind them of the bold magnificent fells and valleys that define this beautiful part of the world.”
For more information, visit the Taplin & Mageean website.