What did you do before setting up Puddingstone Distillery?
Kate and I have both worked in creative industries. Kate has been running her own graphic design business for over 15 years and is naturally responsible for all our branding across products, social media and the website. Kate also manages events, accounts and staff. I moved from product design and production management into marketing and then brewing and customer engagement. It's fair to say that whilst my career path has been varied, each role has provided skills that have proven invaluable in the creation of our gins and running the distillery. My primary role revolves around distilling, recipe development, production and host for tour and tastings.
What made you decide to create your distillery and gins?
We'd both reached a point where we wanted to take full ownership of a product and brand… create something that reflected our personalities, interests and also tied in with the work we were doing to help raise the profile of the Chilterns as a tourist destination and hub for great food and drink producers.
What's the inspiration behind your gins and your approach?
Our collective experiences, most of which have centred around our love of travel, adventure, outdoor pursuits and our work helping other brands communicate and grow, forms the basis for our working ethos.
Above all we wanted to produce a gin of an exceptional and inspirational nature, created with a mindfulness of community and environment, with an aspiration to invigorate consumers' senses, enable them to discover simple pleasures and connect with kindred spirits.
Can you tell us more about the distillery?
The distillery is compact, efficient and divided into two defined areas. We kitted out the retail/tour space with a lot of repurposed materials, predominately wood, corrugated sheet and aged copper. Materials and colour are very much tied into the brand and offer a natural feel. The other area, set aside for production is, in stark contrast, a lot of white walls and stainless steel. This area is all about experimentation, production and is where most of the magic (and a few mishaps!) takes place.
What can visitors expect when they come to the distillery for a tour/tasting?
First and foremost a relaxed and unpretentious environment. Secondly the opportunity to discover how we got from a hospital in north London to where we are now, and finally, plenty of gin. We try to keep it relaxed, humble, informative and effortless. The challenge over the last few years is choosing how many gins we sample as our core range increases along with the frequency of special edition projects.
What have been the biggest achievements so far?
This is a tough business requiring a lot of hours and focus, so the fact we've now been operating for over 3 1/2 years is a big achievement for us, as are the multiple awards and accolades received in during this time. Our belief that our London Dry made a great Martini was validated in 2019 when we won the 'World's Best Martini Challenge' and we were pretty stoked when we sat in the company of 250 like-minded folks toasting to the future of exploration with Ed Stafford, Sir Ranulph Feinnes, Pip Stewart and many other great adventurers - all with a serving of Campfire Gin in hand.
Our ever growing base of customers really makes what we do worthwhile. More recently, with the increase of online orders and requests for us to post gin to customers friends/family and add hand written notes, we’ve noticed people saying things like ‘here’s a gin from our local distillery’. For us that sense of pride, trust and ownership displayed in such a succinct note resonates very strongly and we feel that there’s a genuine connection between us, our business, the gin and our amazing customers.
What have been the biggest challenges you've overcome so far?
Up until the arrival of COVID-19 the hardest challenge was in the early days, upscaling from our 1 litre test still to our smallest production still, Isabella. Over the period of a few weeks we created some truly horrific gin and discovered that large ratio upscaling is neither linear, rational, or indeed cheap!
The pandemic has meant we lost a huge revenue stream through tour, events and the closure of the hospitality industry. I don't see things ever returning to where they were in 2019, however, new opportunities have arisen and in circumstances like this, being a small, flexible and creative minded business has huge benefits. We've been running cocktail masterclass nights online, alongside tasting nights featuring the Campfire range, but it will be nice to get folks back into the distillery.
How would you describe your gins in 3 words?
What are your favourite way to drink your gins?
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf, or any favourites at the moment?
What's next for Puddingstone Distillery and the Campfire Gin range - any exciting plans?
We're continuing the theme of working with wildlife/conservation trusts to create gins that ultimately allow us to give back to the community. We've just added Domestique, a limited edition gin to our core offering. Domestique was created in collaboration with ashmei, a local cycle clothing brand. Originally we made just 200 stainless steel bottles a year filled with a very unique gin created using botanicals from the host nations of all major cycling events. The recipe has not changed, just the packaging. So instead of stainless steel we use our standard glass bottles and the lid is sealed with a section of bicycle inner tube.
We did have a very exciting new gin ready for launch in 2020. This was another collaboration with the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust. Again due to COVID 19 this has been postponed but hopefully we will get to release it in 2021. It's the culmination of a lot of things we have wanted to try both respect to design, packaging but most importantly what we believe is a very unique production and distillation process. There's a teaser to get folks signed up to our newsletter!