Meet Marabelle Gin, a unique spirit from P&O Cruises and Salcombe Distilling Co. inspired by the island of Iona and ocean adventures



The sea is inescapable in Salcombe. The crisp air that fills your lungs; the rolling hills and golden beaches that surround calm, turquoise waters; the freshly caught seafood that’s served up at the pubs and restaurants tucked amongst the South Devon town’s winding, rolling streets. Salcombe has long held a strong connection to the sea. It was home to the Salcombe Fruiters, the 19th-century fruit schooners that imported cargo from the Mediterranean to England. Coincidentally, the Fruiters operated at the same time as P&O expanded its operations from transportation to leisure cruising – it’s highly likely the ships passed each other on their respective adventures. It’s this natural affinity – with the sea and with each other – that drew P&O Cruises to Salcombe Distilling Co. when it was looking for a partner to create a unique gin and unforgettable experiences aboard the new ship Iona. In turn, the island of Iona inspired Marabelle Gin, a unique spirit created for P&O Cruises guests by Salcombe Distilling Co. ‘Iona is an amazing place to visit,’ says Jason Nickels, master distiller at Salcombe Distilling Co. The thing that stood out to us was the sea breeze: you can taste it in the air. That’s one of the things we wanted to recreate.’ Every botanical in Marabelle Gin has been carefully considered. ‘The island of Iona has been an inspiration,’ says Salcombe Distilling Co. co-founder Angus Lugsdin. ‘When we were there foraging, we found some fantastic examples of juniper bushes. We also looked further afield around the British coastline, including the P&O Cruises home port. We’ve used heather, which grows in Hampshire and around Southampton. Then we wanted to impart a freshness in the flavour, so we added the likes of fresh green apple and blackberries. Rose petals add a lovely bit of perfume…’ ‘And mint,’ adds Jason. ‘It lifts up the other flavours, gives a vibrancy and complements the apple. My particular passion is seaweed [sugar kelp is an ingredient in Marabelle Gin]. It can give a flavour or aroma of the sea, but it also adds a rich mouthfeel that smoothes out some of the drier flavours.’ Other botanicals in Marabelle Gin include angelica root, cypress and English oak. ‘All the gins we create are about balance and taste,’ says Angus. ‘In Marabelle Gin there are botanicals we’ve used that people wouldn’t readily associate with gin. But more often than not, they’re actually being used for the way they work with other botanicals. What we’ve created here is something that’s incredibly balanced.’ Just as much thought went into the name. Marabelle means ‘star of the sea’ – a fitting tie with the new ship, where the sea is the star. ‘It seemed really appropriate for the ship Iona, like a really natural fit,’ says Angus. Jason agrees. ‘Being on the island of Iona is very much like being on a ship. It’s out in the sea, it’s a real inspiration – it’s celestial.’ After all the planning, testing and tasting, it’s time to bring Marabelle Gin to Iona – and, in due course, across the fleet. Until then, Iona guests can immerse themselves in great gin serves, buy bottles distilled on board, try masterclasses to uncover the secrets of distilling and create their own gin blend at the on-board Gin Blending School. Iona’s very own gin still, Columba, takes pride of place in Anderson’s Bar & Library and is the first of its kind at sea. ‘P&O Cruises and Salcombe Distilling Co. – we’re kind of kindred spirits,’ says Angus. ‘We hope that guests on Iona and across the P&O Cruises fleet enjoy the passion, care and attention to detail that has been put into creating this fantastic product.’