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Holy spirit: English cathedral launches its own gin brand

We’ve had cannabis gin, a £4,000 mulberry tree gin and a gin released by one of the UK’s oldest castles, but now the church is getting in on the act with a new expression launched by Blackburn Cathedral.

The Dean of Blackburn is hoping the launch of Britain’s “first ever” cathedral-brand gin will boost the church’s coffers.

The Very Reverend Peter Howell Jones wants to cash in on the so-called ginnaissance with Cathedra Gin to help raise funds to redevelop the cathedral’s crypt.

“This is not a novelty; this is a cathedral doing business,” he said.

“Blackburn is not a tourism centre, it is not a rich part of the world, and we need to reach out to markets beyond our town and region to be sustainable long term”.

The gin will be made by Lancashire’s Brindle Distillery – the home of Cuckoo Gin. It is hoped that sales of the spirit will help the cathedral’s fundraising efforts for a £1 million redevelopment of the crypt into a community and conference centre. The crypt will also act as an exhibition and heritage space chronicling the region’s history and cotton production heritage.

In the longer term, the Dean is optimistic that sales will provide “an income stream to guarantee sustainability” in order for the cathedral to continue its day-to-day operations such as its social cohesion projects and music development programme. This currently involves 6,500 children from 160 different schools in the area.

The gin was unveiled to local business leaders and civic dignitaries at the cathedral yesterday (15 November) and is available to purchase online from the cathedral’s website at a cost of £39. 

The 40% gin is distilled with juniper, orange, elderflower, almond and vanilla. Named in reference to the seat of the Bishop found in every English cathedral, the gin’s name was also chosen with the hope that other cathedrals may stock the product with profits going to them instead.

The Dean added: “Gin is on trend; it is a developing market, and there is a long history of monastic communities brewing mead, wines and beers.

“I wanted to create a brand that would work across the country; that could create a income stream from which all English Cathedrals can benefit.

“It’s about engaging with people; that’s our core business. It is imperative that cathedrals commercially engage with different groups of people. We should not be afraid to engage with all aspects of society.

“Creating a gin here at Blackburn Cathedral to sell in the commercial world helps us develop our reach beyond Lancashire and reflects a well-established tradition of monastic and religious communities brewing, fermenting and distilling dating back to before the medieval period.

“And in doing so, we are helping to reflect something of the entrepreneurism and creativity, which is the spirit of England”.

Howell Jones has also been involved in projects including opening a falconry centre and hosting the Ark exhibition which included Damian Hirst’s Golden Calf alongside works by Jacob Epstein and Elizabeth Frink.

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