A new distiller will help shine a spotlight on the UK’s growing craft gin category when it features on popular BBC series Countryfile this weekend.
Tom Warner and Sion Edwards with their Holstein still “Curiosity”
Based in a converted barn in the Northamptonshire village of Harrington, Warner Edwards launched its “Harrington Dry Gin” on 6 December 2012 and is now building distribution with specialist outlets such as Fortnum & Mason and Master of Malt.
The company was founded by agricultural college friends Tom Warner and Sion Edwards, who decided to go into business together after 10 years building separate careers.
Having considered ideas including an essential oils business and a Welsh vodka operation, the pair settled on the opportunity presented by the growing interest in craft gins and took over a barn on Warner’s family farm.
With an RRP of £33, Warner Edwards gin uses spring water from the farm and homegrown elderflower, which is blended with 10 other “secret” botanicals. Last month the business added a new “elderflower steeped” expression, with a damson version due to launch in time for Autumn.
For the distillation process, the company produces batches of just 700 bottles at a time using a copper Holstein still that it claims is the only one of its kind in the UK.
Called “Curiosity” after a cat that left paw marks in the wet concrete when the barn floor was relaid, the still features a patented catalyser that extracts harmful cyanides, acids and carbamates during the distillation process.
Explaining that the top of the distillation column also contains a section full of copper plates, Warner told the drinks business: “The greater the copper area, the smoother the spirit.”
While the Countryfile appearance on 7 April will provide welcome publicity, Edwards expressed his confidence that the UK’s craft distilling movement offers “significant room for growth”.
However, he also warned of an element of “saturation” as a flurry of new small producers enter the market at the same time as some larger brands move to tap into the artisanal image of the boutique operations – Bombay Sapphire is due to open a new “Home of Imagination” distillery and visitor centre in Hampshire this Autumn.
Despite such moves and an increasingly crowded market, Warner remarked: “consumers are becoming wise to the ‘faux’ brands and true craft distillers have an anchor point and scale that bigger brands will struggle to replicate.”
Predicting a polarisation in the market as consumers seek value either “through discernible quality or cost,” Warner said: “I envisage the market share of larger brands will diminish and craft distilleries will take this share.
The large brands will always be big but they will probably focus growth in emerging markets, where competition is lower.”