What is the history of Nicholson Gin?
The Nicholson family began distilling gin in Clerkenwell in the early 18th Century. From 1828, the distillery was in St John’s Street, the frontage of which still stands today. In 1872 William Nicholson acquired the Three Mills site in Bow, much of which can still be seen today, allowing for greater levels of production.
One of the largest distillers of Victorian and Edwardian England, J&W Nicholson exported its products all over the world. Although principally known for its gin, the company also produced whiskies, vodka, rum and various other alcoholic products.
The production of Nicholson Gin ceased in the mid 1980s after the business was sold to Allied Breweries who were primarily interested in the pub estate (Nicholson’s Pubs). Nicholson Gin was revived in 2017 by Nicholas Browne and Tim Walker, cousins and direct descendants of the original Nicholson family.
What inspired you to revive the Nicholson Gin brand?
With the gin market showing tremendous growth, particularly at present in the UK, we saw an opportunity to revive what is the oldest British gin brand and a brand with tremendous history and heritage, providing today’s consumer with the finest of classic London Dry Gins. As well as wanting to return this historic brand to the UK market, the Nicholson brand is fully entwined within our own family heritage. As we are both direct descendants of the original Nicholson founding family this revival is even more special.
What is the connection between Nicholson Gin and cricket?
William Nicholson (1824 – 1909) MP and Chairman of J&W Nicholson & Co, was a keen cricketer making 148 known appearances for MCC, Middlesex & England between 1845 & 1869. In 1866 he loaned the MCC funds to purchase the freehold of Lord’s Ground, saving it from property developers and securing the future of the club. In 1889 he loaned further sums to finance the building of the present pavilion, affectionately known at the time as ‘The Gin Palace’.
It is generally accepted that because of his generosity MCC adopted the Nicholson ‘egg & bacon’ (yellow and red) colours, now instantly recognisable across the sporting world and prominent on the neck of Nicholson Original Gin today. In 2016 MCC recognised William Nicholson as ‘the man who saved Lord’s’ in an exhibition to mark the 150th anniversary of securing the Lord’s ground. When we revived the brand in 2017, it was fitting that the first place we went on sale was Lord’s.
We are proud of our long connections with cricket and our history in this sphere genuinely engages consumers. The fact that Nicholson is a brand with a long history, passion and real impact in the cricket world, bestows a strong distinctiveness on the brand; a key advantage in a very competitive gin market.
How are you celebrating the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England?
To celebrate this 2019 season of world class cricket in England, we’ve designed garnishes for Nicholson Original Gin & Tonics inspired by native fruits and spices from of each of the nations playing in the ICC Cricket World Cup. The Nicholson Original World Garnish Tour can be explored on our website here: https://nicholsongin.com/nicholson-cricket/
We hope that the Garnish World Tour inspires gin lovers to explore the limitless possibilities of garnishes and to share their discoveries with us on Instagram using the hashtag #makeitnicholson.
During the Cricket World Cup we have also teamed up with Gray Nicholls to award players who score a century with a Gray Nicholls cricket bat and a bottle of Nicholson Original.
What have been some of your the biggest achievements so far?
We are very pleased to have been adopted by the MCC as their house gin and with the excellent relations we have established with them and with the MCC Foundation – a charity that provides coaching to boys and girls in the UK and other cricket loving nations.
How would you describe Nicholson Original Gin in 3 words?
Enough said in two words!
What's your favourite way to drink Nicholson Original Gin?
Nicholson Original Gin is ideal for classic cocktail serves as well as with tonic due to its complexity and flavour profile. It was one of very few spirits to be individually recommended in the great cocktail books of the 1920’s & 30’s – The Savoy Cocktail Book, The Waldorf Astoria Bar Book and Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails.
We have several cocktails on our website which represent a modern twist on some of these classics including the Nicholson 66 which is a variation on the classic French 75: 25ml Nicholson Original, 10ml each of fresh lemon juice and sugar syrup, shake and top with English sparkling wine, garnish with a sprig of lemon thyme. Our signature G&Ts are served with a garnish of a twist of lemon and English rhubarb, or a slice of lemon and juicy pomegranate seed.
The red and yellow symbolism of our signature garnishes are a nod to the brand’s original striped colours on the bottle and the egg and bacon colours of the MCC.
What's next for Nicholson Gin - any exciting plans?
At present we are concentrating on reviving Nicholson Original London Dry Gin, telling the brand story and engaging customers to build a natural affiliation with the brand. We are beginning to explore export markets, particularly those where Nicholson was widely available in the past. There is a wealth of history to explore and further expression of gin and other spirits but much depends on evolving consumer tastes and market conditions.