What did you do before creating your distillery and gin?
I was a Naval Officer for over 25 years, leaving in 2012, when I went to sea again working for Geest Line Ltd, the banana importers in the Caribbean.
What made you decide to create your distillery and gin?
Along with my business partner and friend of 30 years we started The Rum Club in November 2015, and we would often talk of making our own rum one day. I was made redundant in August 2017 so we decided to take the plunge. The Gin was created after we found 3 botanicals growing here in Fort Cumberland; Gorse Flower, Elderflower and Sea Radish. These three components are the framework around which I created the gin. Being a long term rum drinker I was very keen to create a gin which could be sipped.
Can you tell us about the distillery, the distillation process and the botanicals?
The distillery is housed in an ancient monument that is Fort Cumberland on Eastney point on the island of Portsea - Portsmouth. The still room itself is in a casemate where once men and munitions would have been. The Fort was built in 1747 and is the finest example of an 18th century bastion fort in the UK. We make our gin by steeping the botanicals (15 in total) in the base spirit for 24 hours before running it through our 500L pot still.
What can people expect and experience if they visit the distillery for a tour/tasting?
At the moment we are not quite set up for official tours, but we do always welcome visitors between 11am and 2pm on weekdays. If someone turns up to buy a bottle and we are not busy we will happily show them around. Official tours are very much on our agenda to provide in the next few months.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
Our biggest challenge so far has been building the still, once she arrived from China with no instructions. Our biggest achievement has got to be the bottling of Fort Gin - the labels are fantastic and reflect the style and beauty of our location and the manner in which we mean to provide quality for our customers.
How would you describe Fort Gin in 3 words?
Smooth, flavoursome, different.
What's your favourite way to drink Fort Gin?
With a very light tonic and a squeeze of lime over ice - it can even be sipped over ice.
What's next - any exciting plans?
We are concentrating on our rum and building a large stock to age in oak here in the Fort. I am also working on another gin and probably a fruit gin later in the year. We also continue to expand and bring on new premises in the fort in order to provide a real tourist experience for people visiting us in the future.