A Tale of Two Rivers
From the Thames to the Douro
Like any good distillery we have water at our core. The pure mountain water we use for our distillation and the two rivers which unite our brand – The River Thames in the UK and The Douro River in Portugal.
The connection between the two countries and their history is equally important for us. Both the Thames and the Douro were important arteries for the transport of teas, spices and of course wines. It is the existence of these trade routes which allows us today to use the fine teas, herbs and grapes which we use in our distillation.
It was actually treaty of Windsor, signed by England and Portugal in 1386, which sowed the seeds for the emergence of Port wine and the transformation of the Douro Valley into one of the most renowned wine regions in the world. The treaty established a close alliance and a strong trading relationship between the two countries which has lasted since that time.
Interestingly, it was Queen Catherine of Braganza, the Portuguese wife of King Charles II, who had been accustomed to taking tea in her native country who, once tea made it to England, helped make it popular among the wealthy upper classes, most of whom had never heard of it up until this point.
From London to Marlow
The Thames has been a key to supporting trade with the capital and across the south east for hundreds of years and while today it is used more for pleasure craft than commercial the history of Marlow’s place in trade has been a key one. Marlow attracted merchants who traded with those in the capital and acted as middlemen for rural resources needed by the swelling numbers of urban dwellers.
Drifting into the relative calm of the Victorian era, leisure pursuits began to replace labouring on the river. Fishing and boating were already popular, but when Jerome K Jerome published his famous Three Men in a Boat – reputedly written at Marlow’s Two Brewers pub – in 1889, the number of boats registered on the river increased by 50 per cent to 12,000 in just one year.
The Shard - Our HQ
Our head office is based on the 24th floor of Europe’s tallest building, a 306 m high iconic tower, The Shard, located just near London Bridge directly overlooking the Thames. The architect Renzo Piano wanted The Shard to resemble a church spire, inspired by a painting of London by 18th-century Venetian painter Canaletto as well as the masts of sailing ships.
Apart from the iconic building why is this location important for us? Well it is close to the river, a theme which runs through our history, but more importantly, this location is connected to the main botanicals we use in our distillation.
Directly in front of the Shard beside the Thames is Hay’s Wharf (now Hay’s Galleria). From 1840 onwards, around 80% of the dry goods imported to London arrived in Hay’s Wharf and the building was used as a warehouse for tea storage. Thirty years later, the newly-built Butler’s Wharf by Tower Bridge, also in Southwark, became the largest tea warehouse in the world. Once unloaded, the chests of tea were trundled into the vast storage space and kept safe until they had been sold at the weekly tea auctions in Mincing Lane, and then delivered to the various tea companies, many of which had their tasting rooms, packing facilities and offices overlooking the river.
Harleyford Estate - Our Tasting Centre
The Harleyford Estate is steeped in history and nestled on the banks of the River Thames, near Marlow, the grounds and parkland of this beautiful Estate offer a perfect blend of leisure and tranquillity. With the greatest of care and affection, this 160 acre Estate has been sympathetically developed and is situated on a picturesque stretch of the Thames between Temple and Hurley Lock.
Harleyford was part of the manor of Marlow, which was given by William the Conqueror to his wife Matilda in about 1071. During the next 500 years, the estate passed through various hands until 1536 when Tucher Bold built the first manor house there. The next 200 years, saw four owners, until William Clayton bought it in 1735. William’s family fortune came initially from Sir Robert Clayton, a former Lord Mayor of London and Director of the Bank of England.
The house remained in the Clayton family until 1950 and was sold to the Folley family in 1952 who made the developments to the estate you can see today including the fabulous Marina and Golf Course. The house has recently been purchased and refurbished to its former condition by a private owner. The surrounding gardens of the house remain as they were along with the urn to the south west of the house, the ice house to the north east, and the dairy to the north.
Neighbouring Harleyford is the Wittington House Estate where we continue our links to trade and specifgically the Tea industry. The most famous owner of the Estate was Hudson Ewbanke Kearley, later 1st Viscount Devonport (1856 – 1934) who was a grocer and politician and founder of the International Tea Company’s Stores. He later became the first chairman of the Port of London Authority and served as Minister of Food Control during World War I. Kearley’s fortune was based on importing and distributing tea and this is commemorated by the sprig of tea in the carved crest over the main door Wittington House.
From Porto to Tabuaço
The third-longest river on the Iberian Peninsula, the Douro (whose name many believe is derived from the Portuguese for “golden”) flows westward from its origins in north-central Spain, forms part of the border between Spain and Portugal, then cuts across northern Portugal all the way to the Atlantic coast, where it empties into the Atlantic at Porto. The Portuguese section forms the heart of the Douro River Valley vinhateiro – one of the oldest wine-producing regions on Earth, active for nearly 2,000 years. The home of world-famous Port wine, the region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In 1791 the eastern reaches of the Douro River were opened to navigation when the massive outcrops of rock obstructing the Valeira Gorge were finally removed. This made it economically viable to plant vineyards in the eastern area of the Douro Valley which became known as the Douro Novo, or ‘New Douro’, and later as the Douro Superior. In the years that followed many new estates were established in this area, including some famous properties whose magnificent wines did much to enhance the prestige of Port.
Tabuaço – Our Distillery
Located in the hills on one side of the valley formed by the Douro river, nestled amongst the vineyards producing the finest port wine in the world we have our distillery. Directly looking out over the valley across the river as far as you can see are the beautiful green and yellow of the slopes of vineyards and terraces or the almond trees in bloom, in early spring. The Douro River and its tributaries, Távora, Tedo and Torto highlight the beauty of Tabuaço.
The roots of the village of Tabuaço date back to a time before the Portuguese nationality. During Prehistory, people settled here and developed shelters and large numbers of ceramic pieces, and primitive oil presses and wine presses have been found in the area.
At the heart of Tabuaço is the renowned Sandemans Quinta do Seixo, with its hundred-year-old vines producing the grapes that give rise to Sandemans most precious and highest-quality wines.
Peso da Régua - Our Vineyard
Just along the river towards Porto is the vineyard where we source the grapes for both our base distillate that gives our Gin its unique flavour and the additional grapes we use as botanicals in our distillation process.
The family we work with are 5th generation growers and each generation sees their role as managing the harvest and production for the next generation. The wines they produce are some of the greatest Tawny Ports made in the Douro. They have vines that are over 100 years old and they have the port from those vines still maturing in casks, which we were very privileged to taste.
Learn more about us...
We bring together our botanicals from Europe & Asia
Creating our Unique Taste
After 100 different blends we find our flavour
Our First Batch
Working with our distillers, blenders and Chemist we create our refined blend
Partnership with Fever Tree
We become a Fever Tree partner and our Gin joins the tasting wheel with a perfect pairing
Winning our First Award
Folium Gin wins the Best in Class for the Contemporary category at the World Gin Awards
New UK Tasting Centre
We open our UK tasting centre at the Harleyford Estate in Marlow