Meet Iona’s exclusive new partner


Salcombe Gin shares our zest for adventure and discovering new and exciting flavours, creating unforgettable holiday experiences on Iona. To find out more, we talk to Salcombe Gin cofounder Angus Lugsdin about the inspiration behind the recipe and the brand’s historical connection to the sea.

Salcombe Gin is an award-winning distiller of exceptional gin. Established in the beautiful coastal town of Salcombe by Angus Lugsdin and Howard Davies, the spirit of Salcombe Gin is infused with the town’s rich heritage. Their like-minded zest for adventuring by sea and discovering new and exciting flavours makes Salcombe Gin the perfect partner for creating unforgettable experiences on Iona.  

Here, Angus Lugsdin tells us all about this refreshing collaboration. 

Q. How did the idea to create Salcombe Gin come about? 

A. Howard and I met in Salcombe in our late teens when we were both teaching dinghy sailing at the Island Cruising Club. After a hard day’s work on the water, we’d retire to the yacht club in Salcombe for a G&T or two, so the idea was probably sown back then. After university, we went on to separate careers but stayed in touch through social media. Eventually, we both reached a point in our respective professional lives where we wanted to start out on our own. Together, we decided that Salcombe and gin were a match made in heaven and set off with the idea to create the finest white spirit in the world. 

Q. How has the sea and sea travel influenced your gin? 

A. Salcombe is home to the Salcombe Fruiters, fruit schooner sailing vessels that in their 19th-century heyday imported up to 80 per cent of England’s citrus fruits and spices. These elegant vessels were the fastest of their day and travelled the world in pursuit of the finest produce. When we can, we try to use those same fruits and spices from the same places in our gin. There was a great sense of adventure in these pursuits, and this has influenced our gin too.  

Q. How does Salcombe’s maritime connection tie in with P&O Cruises?

A. At the same time that P&O expanded its passenger operations from transportation to leisure cruising in 1844, the Salcombe Fruiters were entering their heyday, importing cargo from the Mediterranean to England. The Salcombe Fruiters and early P&O cruise vessels probably passed each other on their voyages.  

Salcombe Gin is one of the only distilleries in the world – if not the only one – that is directly accessible by boat. We’re located on Island Street in Salcombe, which is the historic home of boat building, and the distillery itself is actually a large boathouse. The site on which the distillery now stands used to be the old boat repair yard for the sailing club that Howard and I met at, so our story has gone full circle! 

Q. Tell us some more about the ingredients and botanicals you use. 

A. All the botanicals we use in our gins have full provenance traceability and come from small suppliers and farmers. Our water comes from Dartmoor National Park. It’s very pure and naturally soft, so perfect for distillation. We use English wheat spirit to create the base; English coriander seed from Suffolk; juniper from Macedonia, and Mediterranean organic unwaxed red grapefruits, lemons and limes that we hand-peel fresh each morning to make sure we capture the best of the essential oils. 

Q. You’ll be creating a bespoke gin for Iona. Where will you seek inspiration from? 

A. We’re drawing inspiration from the history of P&O and our shared love of the sea. In terms of botanicals, we are spoilt for choice. The island of Iona and the British coastline will provide some of the inspiration, and the trading routes and cargos of the Salcombe Fruiters, along with the cruising routes of P&O Cruises, will provide much of the rest. So there will be citrus from the Mediterranean, and perhaps ingredients that grow in and around the Hampshire area, and in the spirit of Iona’s adventures, maybe something from Norway. 

Q. Why is it exciting to be producing this gin on board? 

A. To create the first gin to be distilled on the first distillery at sea is an incredibly exciting honour. There is something very romantic about the idea of guests joining a cruise and witnessing the gin being distilled, then enjoying it in a G&T or cocktail as they embark on their own maritime adventure. The exclusive gin recipe we’re creating will be replicated in the still and available to purchase on Iona. The exact same recipe will then also be produced in Salcombe on our 450l still ‘Provident’ and distributed to the rest of the P&O Cruises fleet for all guests to experience. 

Q. In what other exciting ways are you going to help guests explore the world of gin on board? 

A. We’re developing a Gin Tasting Masterclass Experience, where the team on board will provide expert tips on how to nose and taste a range of gins, how to pair them, what garnish works best and which classic cocktails they work best in. We’ll also be developing a gin blending concept in Anderson’s bar on Iona. Here, guests will really get stuck into the creative process to formulate their very own blend. It’s amazing to see their delight when they realise they can create something to rival or exceed most big-name gins. The process feels quite scientific with conical flasks, pipettes and measuring cylinders – all very retro! 

Q. Why is Salcombe Gin and P&O Cruises a perfect partnership? 

A. It’s our shared love of and history with the water. We are kindred spirits, born of the sea – the British coastline in particular is a source of inspiration for both brands. A sense of adventure runs through Salcombe and P&O Cruises – a history of breaking new ground and exploring new horizons. A G&T is one of life’s little pleasures, which when you close your eyes, cold glass in hand, transports you to a happy place filled with wonderful memories, in the same way a holiday of a lifetime can. 

Find out more about gin on Iona