The world is their oyster for two Anglesey producers who have combined their skills to launch a new alcoholic drink with a seafood twist.
Menai Oyster Gin is the result of a novel collaboration between craft producer Llanfairpwll Distillery and shellfish enterprise Menai Oysters and Mussels Ltd.
Over the first lockdown, distiller Rob Laming and oyster producer Shaun Krijnen hatched a plan to create an oyster-infused gin. Now the spirit is on sale ready for Christmas.
Llanfairpwll Distillery is a member of Food & Drink Wales Fine Food Cluster, and Menai Oysters and Mussels Ltd is part of the Food & Drink Wales Seafood Cluster. Facilitated by the Cywain project, the Cluster programme fosters connections between businesses in the sector.
The launch of Menai Oyster Gin said Fine Food Cluster Manager, Jayne Jones “Exemplifies the spirit of collaboration and the ethos of clustering.”
“We’re delighted to support Rob and Shaun with their new venture. The past months have been incredibly difficult for food and drink producers, so it is wonderful to see the development and launch of such an inventive product.
“Cywain is encouraging people to ‘Keep it local, keep it Welsh!’ this Christmas, and I’m sure Menai Oyster Gin will be a popular present choice.”
Local ingredients are the key to Llanfairpwll Distillery’s success. In just two years, the business has become one of the biggest craft distilleries in Wales.
Started as a kitchen-top enterprise by Rob Laming and Maria Jones, the distillery quickly outgrew its domestic surroundings and is now housed in a distillery unit in Gaerwen.
Capturing the spirit of Anglesey in a bottle, the company believes in harnessing the nature of the island as much as possible.
“Everything we make has something local in it,” says Rob. “All the fruit, honey and key botanicals we use are all from Anglesey.”
Like most producers, Rob and Maria have found 2020 to be a rollercoaster-ride. “It has been a difficult and very different year. When Covid-19 hit, we switched production from spirits to hand sanitizer, which just kept us ticking over during the first lockdown. But now we’ve re-started making spirits again.”
However, a chance conversation back in March led to a lockdown project and the eventual creation of Menai Oyster Gin – not to mention a successful collaboration between two Anglesey businesses.
After much trialling and testing, the result is a ‘smooth and creamy gin with a gentle taste and aroma of the sea’. Complemented by juniper and citrus it makes a refreshing long mixed G&T.
Unlike anything ever done in Wales before, the gin is now available to buy from both Llanfairpwll Distillery and Menai Oysters.
Says Rob, “It’s great to be able to work with Shaun. It fits in with our company ethos of using local produce and helping local businesses. It’s more important than ever these days to look after each other.”
More information: www.llanfairpwlldistillery.co.uk
MENAI OYSTERS AND MUSSELS LTD
It is 26 years since marine biologist Shaun Krijnen established Menai Oysters and Mussels Ltd on the banks of the world-famous Menai Strait.
From cultivating shellfish, he’s now embarking on a new venture – and outlet – for his oysters by joining forces with Llanfairpwll Distillery.
Until Covid-19 struck, Shaun’s fresh cultivated oysters and mussels were sold wholesale and mail-order and served at restaurants around the UK. While a sister-enterprise – the Oyster Farm Campsite – added to the customer base.
Said Shaun, “Lockdown hammered our core business. But oysters still need looking after, and so we had to look for other ways to sell them. We switched to supplying direct to fish shops, and demand started to rise because people began cooking more at home. Thankfully we’re getting back to where we were.”
Producing an alcoholic drink, however, has been a new experience.
“I’d been toying with the idea of using oysters in gin, so I wandered into Llanfairpwll Distillery and began talking to Rob about the feasibility of creating a gin made with Menai oysters.
“We distilled fresh oysters to produce a sample litre of gin, and then undertook several blends, batches and taste trials. Now, we’re ready to launch our Menai Oyster Gin.
“It is a craft gin, and in the same way the ground influences grape flavour, so oysters have different taste profiles throughout the year based on what algae are present in the Menai Strait when they are growing.
“Rob is the gin man, and I’m not, but working together we’ve developed something I think from which both our businesses can benefit.”
More information: www.menaioysters.co.uk