Sun Bear Gin - Meet the Makers
What did you do before establishing your distillery?
Before my gin journey began, I was a police officer in a large metropolitan force for 12 years. I joined at the age of 21 and believed that it would be my life long career and was a job I truly enjoyed. Unfortunately, due to the role I was in (proactive role relating to drugs and gangs) I was subject to an incident which subsequently caused me to be diagnosed With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and was medically retired at the age of 33.
What made you decide to start distilling?
Having spent time in Poland visiting friends, I was introduced to a whole new culture of drinking. It was during one of these trips that I confessed to my wife that I was struggling, and then ultimately received help. So having been medically retired with a lifelong debilitating condition, I needed a distraction and also a goal in life. So, with my time in Poland as an inspiration I wanted to create a range of spirits that would bring people together and be sociable and talk. The first spirits I produced were vodkas, 3 flavoured and a neutral Vodka (this went on to win Gold at the World Vodka Awards 2021).
What took you from vodka to gin?
It was during the gin boom and I was taken to a gin school in Manchester with my wife to experience other spirits and the way they are produced. I Instantly fell in love with the process and art behind creating a gin. During this lesson I remained sober and took a real interest in the different botanicals and how my gin would turn out, choosing botanicals not just on how they would compliment each other, but also using influences from my own life, such as daisies (for my daughter), Lemongrass (inspired by holiday destinations) and Lavender (which brings fond memories of passed loved ones).
How did you develop your first gin?
Having enjoyed creating my own gin and the therapeutic element of the process I decided to purchase a small copper still and recreate what I had made at this Gin school. So, on my small 10L copper still I recreated my recipe for our London Dry and following feedback I decided to enter it into the San Francisco World Spirits Awards 2020 and won Silver. So, our signature Gin is created with botanicals that represent the life me and my wife have had together and the happy times through those years.
Can you tell us more about the rest of your range?
Or Lychee Gin uses the same recipe and it is then infused with one of the greatest flavours that we discovered on our travels. With wanting to create a fresh, fragrant and altogether tasty gin we decided to use lychee.
Along with our Sun Bear range of spirits, we have created a 999 Gin. This was created to bring attention the mental health issues caused by the roles of emergency service workers. We have since added blue flashing LED’s to the bottom of the bottle to connect it with the emergency services.
Can you tell us more about your distillery and distillation process?
Our gin started life using a 10 Litre Copper Alembic Still in a unit at the bottom of our cottage in the heart of Stafford. Using 9 botanicals which are macerated inside the pot, we use juniper, lavender, chamomile, yarrow, orange peel, lemon peel, lemon grass, cardamom and mint. Our cuts are harsh so as to keep a lot of the floral notes, and we leave the hearts to mature for around 3 weeks prior to bottling. We believe that this helps the oils mix and create the best flavour. We have since upgraded to a 500 litre still but the process remains the same.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
The biggest challenge so far is breaking into the market, Covid and having a very young family. Our greatest achievements have been winning Silver at the San Francisco Spirits Awards 2020 with one of our first batches and then winning bronze at the World Gin Awards 2021. We have also won Gold at the World Vodka awards 2021 with our neutral grain vodka.
How would you describe your gins in 3 words?
What's your favourite way to drink each of your gins?
What's next for you and Sun Bear Spirits - any exciting plans?
We were due to open our Gin school and Dispensary but due to unforeseen circumstances we have had to move away from the location. We are currently looking for a new location as interacting people is one of my favourite things to do regarding spirits. We are working on a number of gins for other companies which is very exciting, and there’s always exciting new concoctions being made in the background!
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