5 of the best new gins in Berkshire
PUBLISHED: 15:32 06 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:32 06 January 2020
There are some new gins on the block in Berkshire, so Sarah Rodi spoke to the people behind the brands. We never liked the idea of Dry January anyway... (Please drink responsibly)
Lumber's Bartholomew Gin
Landlord Pete Lumber of The Newbury gastropub launched the town's first gin distillery in 2018. "A friend mentioned he had started making gin, so I tried my hand at making some," says Pete. "I bottled my first gin in mid-December 2018 and I started selling to trade in January 2019."
And since then, things have really taken off. "There are four blends: Lumber's Bartholomew Berkshire Dry; Country Garden; Traditional London Dry and Navy Strength, and it's now being sold across the world," says Pete.
"We decided to turn the courtyard in The Newbury into the 137 Gin Distillery, after the number of the building on the street. Here people can enjoy tasting, distilling and creating their very own bespoke gin blend. We also host gin festivals throughout the year." Since they launched, they have won many awards. "We've had a lot of success, including Great Taste awards for each of the four gins; at the Royal Berkshire Show we won the Silver Rosette for Country Garden and Bronze for our Berkshire Dry. Internationally, we've won IWSC bronze medals for Country Garden and Berkshire Dry, and at the Gin Guide awards we were finalists for Country Garden, Berkshire Dry and Navy Strength, and were runner-up with Navy Strength. I feel really proud of everything we have achieved so far," says Pete. We will keep our fingers crossed for their continued success in 2020.
The game of cricket and also the Berkshire countryside, Cricketers Gin is an independent British gin company set up by Rachel Tyrell and her father, David. "My husband and I live on Pinkneys Green, near The Pinkneys Arms pub, with our two children and two dogs," says Rachel. "My father and I went to our first gin festival together five years ago. Since then, we've been to many gin events, and then one Sunday afternoon in 2018, we were watching cricket on Pinkneys Green, where my son plays, when we had the idea for our own gin. Surrounded by the stunning Berkshire countryside, we decided that the quintessential British game of cricket, along with the wild botanicals growing in abundance on Pinkneys Green, deserved a bespoke gin of its very own."
David had just retired, and Rachel, who had given up her corporate career in brand marketing to become a primary school teacher 15 years before, had recently left her position in a school to start her own tutoring business. "It seemed like the right time to embark on this new gin-making adventure," Rachel says.
Surrounded by beautiful woodland, Pinkneys Green is home to three of the local botanicals that feature in Cricketers Gin; wild marjoram, milk thistle and blackberries. "These unique flavours harmonise with zesty orange, spicy coriander and subtle tones of liquorice to deliver a smooth juniper-forward gin," says Rachel.
"We hadn't made gin before, so we did lots of experimenting. It took a while to perfect the recipe - we have been testing recipes since spring 2019 - and also to find a distillery. We settled on Laurence Conisbee's Wharf Distillery in Northamptonshire. He specialises in working with artisan gin makers to make small batches of gin. His values aligned with ours, so we took our recipe and were involved in the whole process to make our first batch of 150 gins."
Rachel and David launched their gin at The Pinkneys Arms (see the photos on page 26), and the response they've had so far has been fantastic. "We recommend serving our gin with Fever Tree Light Tonic, which allows the flavour of the orange to come through. At the launch, we served the gin neat over ice with a slice of orange. The milk thistle makes it creamy," says Rachel. "We're delighted Cricketers Gin is being sold at The Wine Cellar and The Italian Shop (italiancont.co.uk) in Maidenhead, in The Old Butchers Wine Cellar in Cookham (oldbutcherswinecellar.co.uk) and in SJWines (sjwines.co.uk) in Newbury. The Hind's Head in Bray also featured us as their gin of the month, which was amazing.
"We made our second batch just two weeks after the launch, and our third batch just before Christmas. We've been blown away by the support and response we've had so far, and the aim is to open our own distillery in 2020."
Rachel says she has a great partnership with her father: "We're very close. Our skills complement each other, and it has been a privilege working together on producing Cricketers Gin. We're really excited about the future."
The Bathtub Gin Company
The Bathtub Gin Company gives you the opportunity to make your very own unique gin. Set up by Jenny Collicott, who lives with her husband in a leafy close in Harman's Water in Bracknell, the idea came about when she and her brothers were making gin in the kitchen one day. "I've always been interested in events, and having tested our gin and practice workshop out on friends, The Bathtub Gin Company was born," Jenny says. "Gin is pretty much the only thing we drink alongside tea and water!" The Bathtub Gin Company offers gin-making workshops using the cold compound method with raw botanicals. Jenny explains: "In two-and-a-half hours, our guests make their gin using their own recipe. They have 30 botanicals to choose from. And by the end of the session, their gin is bottled and ready to drink. We run public workshops and also private events in people's homes."
Unsurprisingly, the response they've received has been good. "People seem to like using the natural raw botanicals and the traditional process, plus we offer unlimited gin to drink!" Jenny says. "We offer three tasting gins to give our guests an idea of what they'll make. Our absolute favourite is the savoury gin with smokey flavours of cubeb and black cardamom rounded off with angelica root. But our guests' favourite seems to be the floral gin; rose and hibiscus with pink peppercorns, rosemary and lemon peel."
Looking ahead, Jenny says they are striving for a zero waste business, having no single-use items. "We're well on our way, having just switched our standard tonic to Bermondsey Indian Tonic Syrup," she reveals. "It's made naturally, using no solvents, and once we've finished with a bottle we send it back to them for a refill. We pair this with our Soda Stream water to create zero waste tonic water. After the gin-making we compost all the botanicals and filters." They are also hoping to expand the business. "We'd love to have more people running workshops to spread the gin-making love," she says. So watch this space.
Berkshire Botanical gin is based in the wonderful village of Yattendon in Berkshire. Owner of Berkshire Botanical Johnny Neill, his wife and their two children moved to Berkshire from London over 10 years ago. "We initially lived in Frilsham, very close to Yattendon, and for the past few years we have been living in the lovely village of Chieveley," he says. "There are so many good bits about Berkshire. The countryside is absolutely stunning and we love walking the dog on the footpaths surrounding Kintbury and Hungerford."
Johnny previously worked in finance, but didn't enjoy it, so just over 15 years ago, he developed and launched a gin brand. "My family has a long history in gin distilling, dating back to the mid-18th century, so it must be in the blood!" he says.
"Berkshire Botanical is my quest to build something local and sustainable. It is very early days - we only launched the gin two months ago and we have a very small presence. We have our pot still, Harry, sitting in the Royal Oak Pub in Yattendon right in the heart of the 9,000-acre Yattendon Estate. Rob McGill, the landlord of the Royal Oak, has been extremely helpful and supportive, as has David Slack and his team at the Yattendon Estate. I am grateful to them."
Johnny says they are drawing their inspiration from the estate, looking at the flora and fauna around them to develop recipes and bottles. "The Estate is probably the largest sustainable grower of Christmas trees in the country, with the likes of Norway Spruce and Nordman Fir taking up a large proportion of the land in the area. We use Norway Spruce in our Berkshire Botanical Dry Gin and we also produce a delicious Sloe gin."
So what kind of response have they had? "Incredible," he says. "Local pubs, bars, farm shops and village stores have been wonderfully welcoming and supportive. I dearly want to become a local fixture and grow our presence on the estate and in the local community. We hope to develop some more tasty recipes based around the estate in 2020."
Horse Guards London Dry Gin
"I believe that if you want to do something, even if it isn't easy, you will find a way in life," says Paul McCarthy, CEO of Horse Guards London Dry Gin. And he found a way to resurect a gin brand from the 1960s.
"I live in Bray with my wife, Deanie, and our two children, Hayley and Toby. I've actually lived in Berkshire for 30 years," Paul says. "We are so lucky to have the river on our doorstep, with all the events it brings, such as the regattas and festivals, plus we're blessed with amazing bars and restaurants.
"I have spent most of my career working in IT, working on new technology. But then I had the idea to launch a gin... We did it differently to other companies," he explains. "Most people start with the gin and then come up with the name. But we started with the brand, as we acquired Horse Guards London Dry Gin, which was born in 1890 but disappeared in 1968. We thought it was a shame not to resurrect it, so I started mixing botanicals and investigated how to develop the gin. I tasted 33 versions over a period of months. I wanted to create something that was refined, elegant and quintessentially British."
Paul says they use six botanicals in their gin: juniper, coriander, angelica, orange and grapefruit peel and cardamom, and although they're based in Maidenhead, they found a distiller in London. "We didn't have the money to build our own distillery, but that is the plan for the future. We'd love to open a visitor centre in Maidenhead, where people can come and try the gin," he says. "And we're thrilled to have the support of London's Household Cavalry."
Horse Guards Gin is currently sold in local bars and restaurants, such as The Waterside Inn, and also in London. "And we're also exporting it to Abu Dhabi, France and Austria, plus we're looking at how we can break into the US market," says Paul. "We've appeared at Maidenhead's Gin Festival, Taste of London and Pub in the Park. I'm so grateful to our customers and our investors for being so supportive."
3 gin brands on the berkshire borders
Mr Hobbs Gin
Mr Hobbs Gin has been launched by Jonnie and Suzy Hobbs, Directors of Hobbs of Henley. When browsing the business archives, records pointed them towards the rumours that the founder of Hobbs & Sons, Mr Harry Hobbs, had been distilling his own gin back in the day and it inspired them to follow in his footsteps. Book a gin cruise and taste their three spirits, or you can buy a bottle online.
Cross Stream Distillery
After years of working in the hospitality and drinks industry, husband and wife Charles and Chloe White quit the rat race and started distilling premium spirits in Marlow. Self-taught distillers, they do everything themselves by hand, from sourcing botanicals to distilling on their 60-litre alembic copper pot still Jinx, to bottling, waxing and hand labelling.
Bombay Sapphire Distillery
Bombay Sapphire Distillery at Laverstoke Mill, Whitchurch, offers a range of experiences. The Self-Discovery tour uses a map that activates whispering walls, or enjoy a Hosted Experience. Learn about the history of gin, Laverstoke Mill and Bombay Sapphire, and find out about the botanicals that make the gin unique. See the Vapour Infusion distillation process in the Dakin Still House, walk through the Botanical Dry Room and have a cocktail in the Mill bar.