What did you do before creating Pinnock Gin and establishing your distillery?
I was a college lecturer for 11 years, running a Film and TV course.
What made you decide to create your gin?
Firstly, I'd had enough of my old job - I loved the teaching side, but had just had enough of all the politics, which was a shame. I decided to start a business, which was either going to be something media based, which I was trained in and was probably the sensible option, or something completely different like making booze, which seemed far more exciting to me than probably filming and editing wedding videos every week!
After umpteen brewery and distillery tours, I'd always had a hankering for maybe one day owning my own brewery or distillery, but always felt that the start-up costs would be too much. When I read an article one day about the craft distilling revolution and people legitimately making gin in their kitchens and garden sheds, I was totally hooked on the idea. It took about 5-months of obtaining licences, constant swatting-up on gin-making articles and 30 odd goes to get the right recipe on a tiny 0.5L still.
What is the inspiration behind Pinnock Gin?
I wanted it to be smooth enough to drink on its own, include at least three local botanicals/ingredients and incorporate some of the local history of the area, in and around Kineton in South Warwickshire. This predominantly centred around 'The Battle of Edgehill', where King Charles the 1st and his cavalier army clashed with the roundhead army in the first battle of the English Civil War in 1642. It also turns out that Charles was the first ruler to bring into affect a tax on distilled alcohol, which was referred to as 'strong waters' and was generally seen as medicinal. As a result of the regulation, his physician, Sir Thomas Cademan wrote out a series of botanical recipes, which I obtained and were a heavy influence on my final recipe.
Can you tell us more about your distillery and Gin School?
After originally starting the business from my cottage kitchen, I have now moved the distillery up to the top of the tower at the Castle Inn at Edgehill, which has a tremendous amount of serendipity about it, as the pub sits upon the spot where King Charles raised his banner at the battle. It's a fantastic location, in what is at one of the highest points in the county, so I feel extremely lucky to be now based there. It was the first pub to take the gin behind the bar when I started and Mark Higgs, who runs The Castle was totally on-board with the idea of refurbishing the room at the top of the tower and turning it into a gin school and distillery. The connection was already there with my products story, so it all seemed like a great fit. It also meant that people could now visit the distillery and stay over, as well as have a meal and drink at the bar/restaurant downstairs - essentially a weekend experience.
Can you tell us more about your still and the botanicals you use?
We informally named my 40L pot still 'Theodora', as my mini still was called 'Thumbelina' at the time, so there was a bit of a ring to it and Theo was the big sister. I usually produce over 100 bottles in each batch, using the double-shot method. In the Dry Gin I use: juniper, coriander, angelica, cassia, Seville orange peel, cubeb, fennel, and cardamom seeds, as well as the three local ingredients: Cotswold lavender, quince and honey.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
With minimal budget and getting everything off the ground by myself at the start was a pretty big challenge. Also resisting going down the the third-party distilling route (not that there's any problem with that), as learning everything from scratch has paid dividends and meant that I have been able to produce a lot of gins for clients, separately to my own. Also, getting through the pandemic as a fairly new business (without a lot of the government financial aid) and establishing a new distillery and gin school during these uncertain times has been pretty stressful, but well worth the effort. I think having spent a lot of time working on low-budget films when I was younger, you learn to be resourceful and maximise everything.
How would you describe your gins in 3 words?
Something for everyone.
What's your favourite way to drink your gins?
A slice of orange and grapefruit with our Dry Gin, over ice and Double Dutch Indian tonic. With the Rhubarb & Strawberry gin, I like it with Indian tonic again, either over ice and with fresh strawberries, or no ice and a handful of frozen summer berries (I'm not a gin snob!). With the Sloe, Damson & Honey gin, I like it on its own or on the rocks, and in summer with a slice of lemon, ice and lemon tonic.
Which other gins would you always have on your gin shelf?
Tanqueray Ten Gin, No. 209 and Deaths Door Gin for my all time favourites. I also recently tried Linden Leaf 88, which was exceptional and is now firmly in the favourites category too.
What's next for you and Pinnock Distillery - any exciting plans?
Innovate and expand the range. I recently did a limited edition rum, which did really well, so that'll be something we do as regular fixture and I also want to produce a series of limited edition gins throughout the year. Possibly a Navy Strength Gin and a Barrel Aged Gin too. Now we have the new Castle Gin School, there's a lot more scope for innovation, so it's time to add to the Pinnock Distillery range.
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