What did you do before creating your gin and distillery?
In another life I was in the education sector working on university level provision in the arts. Those who know teachers will also know they like a drink every now and then - I just took it a stage further and set up my own distillery with my Father-in-law and left education behind! That was nearly 5 years ago, but before fully biting the gin-maker bullet there was a lot of research and dreams, conceiving models that were either relatively on budget or vastly off the scale! Once my sights were levelled the hard business began.
What made you decide to create your gin and distillery?
Gin has always been a favourite spirit and one that most people have dabbled with to produce their own sloe or damson variety. Given the abundance of naturally growing fruit and ingredients around the farm it was an obvious and inevitable precursor to experimenting with other fruit-led gins. One experiment led to another, then another and before we knew it we had developed quite an extraordinary range focussed initially on fruit combinations using both a part distilled and part cold-compounded approach. This quickly led to developing solely distilled spirits which is where I (as the sole distiller) truly began to appreciate the craft element, honing my skills literally on the job.
What's the inspiration behind Black Powder Gin?
I took inspiration from a few select gins already out in the market which I truly enjoyed. My ambition was never to emulate them but to create spirits in the same class i.e nothing generic, I love gins that transcend typical run-of-the-mill mass market stuff - there’s way too much of that about with much of the focus on branding and marketing as opposed to what truly matters - what’s actually in the bottle!
Can you tell us more about the distillery?
We’re situated on a family farm not far from the coastal towns of Lytham St Anne’s and the hedonistic bright lights of Blackpool. The farm has been in the family for over a century and has an incredible history linking to Cromwell, Thomas Miller and Charles Dickens. With 300 acres we have a number of them dedicated to orchards specifically for growing fruit for our spirits. In fact in the last few years we have planted 100,000 bushes and trees with another 45,000 in the next 2 years - mainly native for wildlife but 20% for growing fruit such as wild brambles, apples, quince, damson, sloe, black plum, Victoria plum, greengage, whitecurrant, redcurrant, blackcurrants, gooseberry, raspberry, hawthorne, rosehips, elderflower…..The original distillery started off in a small cow shed which is now our bar and tasting room. 4 years later and we are now in a large purpose built warehouse and distillery which majestically overlooks the lake adjacent - it’s a pretty stunning place to live and work with lots of natural wildlife pottering about!
Can you tell us more about your stills and distillation process?
Before our expansion we originally started with very traditional flame-fired alembic stills before going all out on a more contemporary version. Personally, I love gins that have a complex, exciting and lingering flavour profile - ones you can quaff and feel every part of your mouth and tongue being coated and taken somewhere compelling and immersive. To capture a profile like this requires a lot of beefing up on the ratio of ingredients and knowing just how well the spectrum of flavours combine and how they work within the ensemble. Our London Dry for example contains 28 botanicals so you can imagine the difficulty in making sure everything works and compliments each other harmoniously.
What can people expect and experience if they visit the distillery for a tour or event?
My team are like family so you’re sure to get a very personal, informal and relaxed experience from a dedicated and passionate bunch of Black Powder aficionados. Our setting is pretty unique with many visitors commenting on the beautiful surroundings. There’s a lot of history on the farm and so there are plenty of interesting anecdotes which we interweave with gin production along with factual and occasional tall tales of gin’s history. Importantly, visitors have access to an extensive range of gins and cocktails - we pretty much have something to suit each discerning palate. However, if tours aren’t enough don’t worry as we have our incredibly popular Ginsperience Events - a hedonistic knees up involving 180 people per event with music, dancing, food, cocktails and lots and lots of gin of course! Events sell out fast and we love em as much as our guests!
What have been the biggest challenges/achievements, or your favourite story so far?
Lasting this long in an industry that is so highly competitive and dare I say, somewhat over saturated. It’s becoming increasingly harder to find new markets given how competitive the landscape is. Saying that, our internationally recognised awards, such as being a Winner in the Contemporary Gin category and Flavoured Gin categories of The Gin Guide Awards 2021, have helped to provide kudos and our strong provenance in terms of production, and the entirely natural ingredients used are a major USP that helps to elevate our presence from a lot of the crowd.
How would you describe your gin in 3 words?
Unconventional, mouthwatering and intoxicating, of course!
What's your favourite way to drink your gins?
The true test of a good spirit is to taste it neat - let the natural oils sit on the tongue and do their job. After that see if it’s up to the mustard by testing how well those flavours expand or dissipate under dilution. Why meddle with a good spirit by throwing flavoured tonic at it unless it’s a bad spirit that is. Keep it simple - a premium Indian Tonic, lots of ice and a garnish that doesn’t look too much like it’s come out of Del Boy’s cocktail cabinet!
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!) Any favourites at the moment?
Garden Swift, Conniption, and currently Defiance’s Navy Strength are all pretty stunning spirits!
What's next for Black Powder Gin - any exciting plans?
Given the pandemic we’ve all been hit hard. The fact we’ve managed to get through it and emerge the other side relatively unscathed is something. The period has really helped to sharpen and hone our business model and with that we’ve made a lot of efficiencies and have greater clarity in terms of direction - we’re just looking forward to getting back to business, meeting public again and sharing our story and range of products.
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