What did you do before establishing Steeplechase Distillery?
I am a full-time Secondary School Chemistry Teacher, having spent 10 years to date in the Education sector.
What made you decide to start your distillery?
Amidst a global pandemic in May 2020, I had a discussion with my Mum about how nice it would be to make gin at home for myself. There was the opportunity to utilise all I’d learned in my years as a chemistry teacher, as well as everything I’d picked up from many wonderful distillery experiences and a deep affection and appreciation for high quality gin.
What is the meaning and story behind the Steeplechase Distillery name?
Our gins are distilled furlongs from the Home of Jump Racing, with the aim being to produce a range of Spirits in Cheltenham that are synonymous with the town in which they are brought to life. Our gins pay homage to the history and heritage of Horse Racing in this beautiful Regency Town.
How did you get from the idea to launching?
I applied for and obtained the required licences, purchased my first 2.5L Copper Column still and did a lot of reading to prepare myself. I began to develop flavour profiles that centred around a key theme, Horse Racing. I drew on Horse racing’s most historic winners and prestigious races to produce gins that encapsulate the heart and spirit of the sport. Due to my location and affinity for the area, alongside Cheltenham’s rich history as one of the sports most renowned venues, this felt like the ideal brand to launch. I believe that if done right, these gins will flourish, both locally and nationally, with racegoers and gin lovers alike. After a lot of hard work, sleepless nights and vast amounts of trial-and-error, Steeplechase Distillery was under starters orders and raring to go.
Can you tell us more about your distillery and your stills?
The distillery is very small, in the basement of a Grade 2* listed building in Cheltenham. We have two production stills which are both copper alembic, split-top column stills at 40L and 20L in capacity. Utilising traditional methods was the decision I made when starting, despite the allure of rotary-evaporation stills and procedures I was familiar with from my degree.
Can you tell us more about your distillation process?
Both of our stills are used to produce our full range of gins, with all of our gins combining compounding and rectification, whilst also utilising the vapour infusion ability of the column. Each of our gins has a discrete botanical profile, the benefit of which is seen in the flavours we are able to derive from the botanicals. Using compounding, the pot and direct infusion we ensure that the deeper flavours provide a base for each of the gins. Then we utilise fresh citrus, herbs and fruits to obtain a more nuanced and distinct flavour through the vapour infusion.
What can visitors experience if they visit the distillery for a tour and tasting?
Our tour and tasting sessions run on (most) Saturdays from 3:30pm and last for around an hour and a half. The distillery is open generally and for other events at different times.
Our tour and tastings are a fun, engaging and informative look at the history of our brand, our processes, botanicals, and the opportunity to try our range of gins. Visitors have noted how much they learn from our experiences (possibly the teacher in me!) but are always enthusiastic about the distillery and brand. We also offer tours and tastings for private and corporate functions.
What are your ambitions for your distillery and brand in the years to come?
After numerous international awards, we want to bring things closer to home by becoming one of the biggest regional gins in the county, and beyond that into the South west. Beyond that, as a Whisky lover I have ambitions of producing an English Whisky in the future.
What are your favourite ways to drink your gin/s?
As a purist, on the rocks or in a Gin and Tonic will always be my go-to. It does however depend on which of our gins I'm drinking. Having discovered the draw of a gin and ginger, Kauto Gin (my favourite from the range) with ginger ale is incomparable. And I have used the range of gins as a way of me delving into the world of cocktails, and our house offerings have been inspired by some of my favourite drinks when out and about.
Desert Island Gins: Which 3 gins would you take with you?
I often give a different answer to this question depending on what I have tried recently. There are always a few gins that are ever-present on the shelves at home.
What's next for you and Steeplechase Distillery - any exciting plans?
Short term, trying to make the distillery my primary workplace is an ambition, and looking for the opportunity to make possible. This will allow us to look at the range we offer, with a plan to explore the alcohol-free and RTD sectors. Our ambition is to open a small distillery school in the coming 12-18 months.
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