What did you do before creating Three Wrens Distillery?
I was managing a well known global gin brand for the owners and prior to that, running high end cocktail bars and hosting gin masterclasses, so I’ve spent my entire adult life in the drinks industry.
What made you decide to create your own distillery?
I had harboured a strong desire to branch out on my own and create gins that were unique, that drew inspiration from the rural woodland location where we live, and would be full strength, able to work with a range of tonics and also in cocktails.
We spent months looking at premises, when in the end the perfect one was right under our nose the whole time! A beautiful old coach house opposite a 12th century castle, 5 minutes from home had just become vacant. We signed the lease literally 10 minutes after viewing it.
What is the inspiration behind your gin and the Three Wrens name?
The name of our brand comes from the very simple fact that we are a family of three from Wrenbury, Cheshire. The village dates back to 1300 and is famous for its fields of Wrens. Our main inspiration is nature, we are based in a bit of a foragers paradise, you can walk out of our big barn doors and find up to 50 different edible plants, roots and flowers in the forest that surrounds our distillery.
Can you tell us more about the distillery?
Small, but perfectly formed! The distillery is based in the quiet sleepy village of Cholmondeley (pronounced Chumley), next to a lovely farm shop, and less than a mile away from a fabulous, award winning gastropub, legendary for its gins.
Valerie, our 50-litre copper still sits proudly on a tiled mosaic floor, we have a tasting table that can seat up to 16 people, a cocktail bar, kitchen area, comfy sofa and just enough space for Rocky, our labradoodle. Our big blue barn doors open on to a courtyard overlooking the forest, which means we can host events outside in the summer time.
Can you tell us more about the botanicals and distillation process?
We are self sufficient for 5 of the botanicals in our original dry gin: Fir, Magnolia, Apple mint, Lemon balm and Angelica, which grow in the forest around us, and in pots outside the distillery.
Each of our three gins have a very different recipe. We don’t just take the Original Dry Gin and use that for the flavoured gins. There is also quite a lot of preparation before we distill. With our rhubarb gin for example, we sous-vide local rhubarb with fresh vanilla pods for 8 hours, then leave it in the spirit for 48 hours before distilling.
Everything really is done by hand, with lots of care and attention to achieve consistency. My wife toasts the oats for our apple crumble gin, which again are macerated in the spirit for a long period before we distill. A typical run of 50 litres takes around 4 hours to distill, but the time is really in the preparation.
What can people expect and experience when they visit the distillery?
They will get a big warm welcome and meet us personally. Our tasting events are small intimate experiences and they are very interactive. We will generally make a batch of gin together before sitting down to taste the range and finishing with a ‘shake-off’ behind our cocktail bar, where guests compete to create the best cocktail of the day.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
Location has been everything for us and there is no way we would have done this without having the perfect base to nurture the brand and grow. The recipes took over 200 distillations to perfect, the licensing applications are endless, sourcing reliable suppliers is challenging, so the process in general was quite long. You’ve a period with lots of cash going out and nothing coming in so I would advise anyone else thinking of starting a distillery to be prepared for that!
I’m lucky in that I had great support from my brother who is an architect and designed the look of brand, and from my wife who also has a keen eye for design, and was willing to put up with me doing 80 hours weeks and waking up in the middle of the night obsessed with recipes. This allowed me to focus on fitting out the distillery and sourcing the very best equipment. It also helped me concentrate on how we could make gins that were really exceptional.
I’ve basically lived and breathed gin recipes, botanicals and various methods of distilling, steeping, macerating and blending ever since we started (there has been A LOT of tasting involved) and I think that commitment has helped us get off to a flying start, which I am really proud of.
How would you describe your gins in 3 words?
True Cheshire Gin.
What's your favourite way to drink your gin?
50ml Original Dry, 150ml tonic, 2 big ice balls, elegant highball glass, slice of pink grapefruit. Heaven.
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
I’m a sucker for Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin and also have lots of admiration for our Cheshire neighbours at Forest Gin.
What's next for Three Wrens Distillery - any exciting plans?
We are looking at ways to expand the tasting space and start running a weekly gin school. I’m also working on 3 or 4 new recipes with the intention of launching a special edition next year.
I will always do the distilling myself, but I would like to employ some local people to help with the bottling, sweeping up, packaging, shipping, admin, accounts and various other tasks that keep me up past my bedtime. Luckily it is looking like we should be able to do that before Christmas. All in all, I’m living my best life, I am super lucky to be doing something I truly love and believe in, and excited for whatever the future holds!