What did you do before creating Shropshire Hills Distillery?
I’ve been lucky, I’ve had two very enjoyable parallel careers, classical music and architectural conservation. Prior to starting Ludlow Gin, I was both Director of Music and Clerk of Works at one of England’s finest and largest mediaeval churches, St Laurence’s, Ludlow. I still keep my hand in giving recitals all over the UK, most recently at Westminster Cathedral.
What made you decide to create your distillery and gin?
There were two keys moments - on December 30th while dozing after the Christmas lunch, my sister-in-law told me about their neighbour who was distilling apple brandy. She simply said ‘you could do this you know’, it was a seed. The next day I was on a 10k run and ran past a gin distillery, the eureka moment, no one has made Ludlow Gin, my obsessive character kicked in, I love planning and I like a challenge. Before I knew it, I’d applied for the license, bought my first still, been granted a license and made my first gin about two months later.
A business plan followed; I thought I’d make 60 bottles a week as a hobby. 14 months later, I’ve just made many thousands in a week.
What is the inspiration behind the gin and the Ludlow Gin brand?
Having moved to Ludlow 20 years ago when my husband was appointed to Hereford Cathedral, I ended up working in Ludlow and it’s become my work home, having got to know so many people in the food trade, it was a natural progression. A big inspiration is the fact there are so many interesting ingredients with Ludlow connections:
Can you tell us more about the distillery?
We currently have a temporary home at the moment. 2020 is all about finding and setting up a permanent home with a visitor experience. Our temporary home is practical, modern, and simple. The focus is on the quality of the product.
We have a range of stills, six in total from the smallest ‘Nicholas’ which we use to create new recipes, our first workhorses Joys and Felicity, and our latest editions Edward and Richard are the big guns.
Can you tell us more about the Ludlow Gin team?
Our team is small and like a family: John Villar, a local wine merchant, acts as one of my main distributors - he’s a brilliant salesman and is long established in the region. Finn helps with all things practical, chief bottler, assistant distiller and can often be found running bars and stalls at major events. We then have a team of freelancers who are all part of the extended family, the creatives: Ashleigh - Photographer, Matt Mills - Design, David Lewis - Printer. We’re all grafters, and we always have a good crack.
Can you take us through your current gin range?
Our gins, they’re like children:
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
Starting a business is no mean feat. Having an idea is all very well, but getting it to market successful takes a whole range skills and a truck load of determination. Ludlow is a really special place and one of our main aims was to increase the reputation of the foodie heaven. It’s been a great privilege to do just that.
How would you describe your gins in 3 words?
Classic, Handcrafted, Timeless
What's your favourite way to drink your gin?
It really depends on mood, the time and the place. Essentially I’m a short drink man - I love our Ludlow Dry Gin as a martini, either neat or with a dash of Noily Pratt. It’s also sublime as a Bianco Negroni, paired with vermouth and the unique french bitters Suze.
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
I like to restrict the amount I drink of our own products, it helps me to remember how special they are when tasting them. I have to confess to enjoying a wide variety of spirits and a short single malt is always a late night treat. in terms of gin, I enjoy trying the many samples I collect on my travels, a favourite at the moment is from Venice, a distillery called Poli, interesting pine needle notes makes a fragrant G&T!
What's next for Ludlow Gin - any exciting plans?
We have a major project which is about to launch in March 2020 and it’s taken almost a year of planning. We’re also preparing for lots of major shows, including our first time at Badminton Horse Trials, as well as supporting our local shows in Ludlow and in Malvern Three Counties show ground. We launched two liqueurs at the end of last year - a citrus liqueur and a coffee liqueur, so we’re looking at increasing our market with those.