What did you do before setting up Sloemotion Distillery?
With my background as an ecologist, my work for the RSPB and passion for wildlife conservation, the ethos of Sloemotion Distillery has always been one of respect for the environment, wildlife and the countryside. We consider our impact on the planet in every decision made in the business; it is a way of business for us, not a marketing fad.
What made you decided to set up your distillery?
The business began nearly 20 years ago, in the rural surroundings of North Yorkshire when I was working with a local farmer aiming to enhance wildlife habitats on his land. One of the practices was to stop regular cutting of the hedges, which resulted in thick bushy hedgerows, great for wildlife but also an abundance of sloes (fruit of the blackthorn) all over the farm; we had all grown up drinking home-made Sloe Gin and an idea began to take shape and Sloemotion was born.
We began with our eponymous Sloe Gin and worked our way down the hedge, creating a range of award-winning hedgerow fruit liqueurs, including Bramble Whisky and Cherry Brandy.
What’s the inspiration behind your Hedgerow Gin?
In 2015, looking for ways to make our Sloe Gin even better we began to think about the botanicals that were used in the “base gin” and went back to forage in the hedges, looking for inspiration. The ensuing gin made with traditional gin botanicals and foraged ingredients was so delicious we decided to launch it as a standalone product, giving it the name Hedgerow Gin. Our Hedgerow Spirits range has expanded now to include the popular pink Hedgerow Gin with Rhubarb and Raspberry, a Blackberry & Apple version and our innovative Hedgerow Botanical Vodka.
What is the Sloemotion distillery like?
We are based at Green Farm, Barton-le-Willows just north east of York in renovated farm buildings. Instead of building new, we re-purposed redundant grain stores, cow sheds and a dairy into a now a fully functioning distillery, production room with large on-site storage areas and office space. Nearly in our 20th year, we are a team of 22.
What type of still do you use?
When thinking about purchasing a still, we needed to consider the efficacy and efficiency of the device; will it make great tasting products and as a still uses large amounts of energy, what will be the impact of our energy use on the planet?
IStill was the responsible choice. The iStill has been shown to make great tasting products and is now the biggest selling Still producer in the world. Not only this, but it is highly energy efficient. The iStill’s design, insulation and computer controls means it uses up to 10 times less energy than a traditional still. Our distillery is always literally (& metaphorically) cool!
What have been the biggest challenges and favourite moments so far?
We were the first artisan spirits business to set up in Yorkshire and now there are over 50 – it’s a very crowded market! That doesn’t put us off – it keeps us on our toes, as well as being proud to be part of a very fine selection of Yorkshire gins.
A favourite moment was when the Archbishop of York happened to be carrying out a pastoral walk around North Yorkshire and was having a mid-walk lunch in our village. He had heard there was a gin distillery close by and decided on his own he wanted to bless our Sloe Gin tanks! In he came, and was totally charming. It was an honour.
How would you describe Hedgerow Gin in 3 words?
Authentic, classic, delicious.
What is your favourite way to drink your gin?
I love our perfect serve for our classic Hedgerow Gin: lots of ice, garnished with a slice of English apple and a small sprig of thyme. Almost have this every night!
Which gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
I like Hepple Gin – and have over the years enjoyed Silent Pool Gin and Cuckoo Gin.
What’s next for you and Sloemotion - any exciting plans?
This Autumn we’re moving our much-loved Sloe Gin into a new look eco-friendly, locally produced bottle. Putting the liqueurs into our Hedgerow Spirits bottle with its ‘hedgerow-botanicals-sketch,’ not only brings them in line with our Hedgerow Spirits range, but more importantly the bottles are made less than 40 miles from the distillery and are lighter in weight. This means less energy and fewer resources are consumed in production and, crucially, in the subsequent transport through the life of the bottle.
We are always creating and developing new ideas and recipes – keep an eye out in 2022 for new releases!
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