Spirit of Skegness - Meet the Maker
What did you do before creating your distillery and gins?
Before building Skegness Distillery I wandered the land searching for a purpose in life, after many years in the wilderness I stumbled upon the elixir of life that is gin... OR I ran a marketing and design agency. I’ll let you decide which is true and which is more interesting!
What made you decide to create your distillery and gins?
First came the brand idea and the recipe, which we had contracted to produce, then once we’d proved the brand 'had legs' I wanted to take more control over the process and create a visitor attraction so I purchased a building on the coast and built a distillery. How I wish it was as simple as that sounds!
What's the inspiration behind your gins?
We produce several brands but the one that drives me to do this business is our Stonewall Gin range. On a night out in Leeds a family member (my girlfriend's son’s partner) who is gay told me about how he discovered the story of the New York Stonewall Riots and how the events of one night in 1969 propelled the Gay Rights movement forward in the public consciousness of the US and subsequently changed the the laws in many parts (not all) of the world.
He wanted to retell the Riots story and the bravery of the protestors whilst raising money for LGBTQ+ charities. So we decided to use gin as the vehicle to do just that and have donated thousands to LGBTQ+ charities to continue the fight for acceptance and equality in society in general and specifically for the LGBTQ+ community. When you buy Stonewall Gin, £1 goes directly to LGBTQ+ charities in the UK.
Can you tell us more about the distillery and your distillation process?
The Skegness Distillery combines a shop, an events area, a private bar, a gin school, a distillery area, and packing and dispatch. Its all crammed into a building in the centre of Skegness and about 500m from the beach. Dora the still from Brazil, is a 300L Bain Marie copper pot still which looks like a Heath Robinson (one for the older readers) inspired machine that has been thrust into a SteamPunk metal outfit. We’ve experimented with all sorts of local grown botanicals such as samphire, blackberries etc but the main coastal ingredient are Sea Buckthorn Berries which grow on the beach near where I live.
What can people experience if they visit for a tour/tasting or Gin School experience?
We’ve had lots of people through the doors for a Gin School, Tour or Gin/Cocktail Tasting and the feedback has always been good - see Facebook or Instagram posts at Skegness Distillery etc. We give people a combination of a bit of education and a lot of fun - we give you a speedy induction into the science and art of distilling, we taste our way along the history of gin and we end up with a devilish, palate challenging, prize winning, taste quiz.
What has been the biggest achievements so far so far?
We’ve had a few ups and downs but selling into a national retailer was a buzz.
What has been your favourite story on your gin journey?
My favourite story is slightly embarrassing but absolutely true. We make a liquorice gin product that uses Pontefract sweets and early on in the product life and before we had the final product we needed to do some professional photographs, so we mocked up a prop product with water and coloured ink and sent it to the photographer...
The photographer returned the prop bottle a couple of weeks later, just as the actual product had been produced and was on our shelves in the distillery. Have you guessed it yet? Somehow the returning photo prop bottle got placed on the shelf too and was sent out in a customer's order! Two weeks on I had a call from a retailer saying a bottle had been returned as it wasn’t very liquoricey (an understatement). I was concerned so I visited the customer only to discover they had the inky watery photo prop! I died a thousand deaths with shame, but lesson learnt.
How would you describe your Stonewall Gin in 3 words?
LGBTQ+, Individual, Inclusive.
What's your favourite way to drink your gins?
A question I often get asked - I think at the moment it is our own oak barrel aged Negroni which we make for people coming to the gin school and events. Negroni is such a classic, great yet simple drink. Barrel ageing just makes it a bit more mellow and woody. Pour over ice, heat the rind of an orange and spray a bit of zest on the drink and you're done.
Which gins would you always have on your gin shelf (as well as your own of course!)?
At the distillery we have examples of different types of gin i.e. Navy, Old Tom, Genever etc, so we can tell the history of gin. Darnley's Navy Strength Gin is especially nice.
What's next for you and Skegness Distillery - any exciting plans?
Too much to tell really, but we are looking at extending the Stonewall brand across other spirits and watch out for ready to drink Stonewall Spirits.
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