“We decided that Salcombe and gin were a match made in heaven and set off to create the world’s finest white spirit.”


In their late teens, Angus Lugsdin and Howard Davies spent their days sailing off the South Devon coast and their evenings sipping gin and tonic sundowners at Salcombe Yacht Club. Little did they know that these carefree golden moments were the seeds of a great business venture.

Having sought careers elsewhere, they met up again over a G&T: ‘I had a long-standing interest in distillation and a love of fine spirits, so suggested the idea of starting a distillery to Howard,’ says Angus. ‘We decided that Salcombe and gin were a match made in heaven and set off to create the world’s finest white spirit.’

Thus began Salcombe Distilling Company, a business that would bring to life the town’s rich seafaring story.

‘Salcombe is famous for its Salcombe Fruiters, elegant fruit schooner sailing vessels that in their 19th-century heyday imported up to 80 per cent of England’s citrus fruits and spices,’ says Angus. ‘With copper-clad hulls and rakish sail designs, they were the fastest in their day, travelling the world in their pursuit of the finest produce. This sense of adventure influences our gin, in terms of provenance and the story of the botanicals we use.’

Now working with P&O Cruises, Angus delights in the two brands’ shared spirit and love of the sea. ‘When P&O expanded its passenger operations in 1844, the Salcombe Fruiters were importing cargos of citrus fruit from the Mediterranean to England. The Salcombe Fruiters and those early P&O vessels may have passed each other on their voyages. We’re kindred spirits, born of the sea.’

Today, Angus continues the Fruiters’ quest to source the finest produce and botanicals: water from Dartmoor National Park; English wheat spirit; coriander seed from Suffolk; juniper from Macedonia (it gives the piney, resinous mouthfeel and aroma required of a top-quality gin); and Mediterranean organic unwaxed red grapefruits, lemons and limes.

Shortcuts are never taken: ‘It’s all about provenance and quality,’ says Angus. ‘Many gin producers use dried peel. Our citrus fruit is always hand-peeled in the morning before distillation to ensure the best of the essential oils is captured in the distilling process,’

For Iona’s launch, Angus is working with P&O Cruises to create an exclusive gin. Its maiden production run will take place in Iona’s custom-made still. Made by Craft Distilling Business, it’s the first of its kind at sea.

‘It’s an incredible honour,’ says Angus, who is planning a gin with botanicals and flavours that reflect the British coastline, the sea and Iona. ‘I want to visit the island of Iona to see what grows there. I want to talk to people, smell the air and get a sense of place and terroir,’ he says. ‘Mediterranean citrus will be in there, too, to celebrate past and present trade routes, plus something local. It’s about our shared history, and our love of the sea.’

Angus is excited about seeing and tasting the first cut of the first gin distilled at sea. ‘It’s a romantic notion,’ says Angus. ‘It makes me feel close to the adventurers who travelled the world to seek out the finest fruits, spices and herbs that we use in our gins today.’



Guests who love gin are in for a treat on Iona, which boasts the first boutique gin distillery at sea in Anderson’s bar and a range of gin experiences created by the Salcombe Gin team in partnership with P&O Cruises.

Gin Tasting Masterclass:

The trained on-board team will provide expert tuition on how to nose and taste a range of gins, how to pair them and how to choose the best botanicals to garnish different gins.

Gin School:

Guests can get stuck into the creative process of blending their own gin using conical flasks, pipettes and measuring cylinders, choosing from a library of botanicals and distillates.


Working with cocktail consultants, guests can enjoy and learn how to create bespoke gin cocktails.


Click below for more information about Iona and the first gin distillery at sea

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