Norfolk Gin tickles the taste buds of region’s drinkers
PUBLISHED: 06:30 16 December 2015 | UPDATED: 10:13 16 December 2015
Copyright Archant Norfolk 2015
The revival in recent years of a juniper-based spirit has seen an increase in the number of craft gin makers setting up business. KATE ROYALL spoke to an entrepreneur whose homemade spirit is flying off the shelves.
In a pine-lined studio in Eaton, an entrepreneur is busy mixing a secret recipe of botanicals to produce a gin which has taken Norfolk’s spirit drinkers by storm.
Norfolk Gin launched in June and has sold at an unprecedented speed.
After the first batch of 15 bottles were complete, maker Jonathan Redding approached Norwich wine merchants Harper Wells who agreed to sell a handful of bottles.
Major Redding, a resident of Norwich for 11 years, said: “I tweeted ‘do you want some gin’ and they said ‘sure thing’.
“I left the shop at 11am and by 12.15pm they had sold two and by 3.30pm they had sold another two so a request came in for more.
“I took six more bottles the next day and the first batch just went.
“The shop had a waiting list of people wanting to buy more, that was a surreal day.
“That’s how it started really.”
The 55 year old, who takes his Norfolk Gin with a slice of orange, a sprig of thyme and a dash of tonic, said: “After all the business planning I’d done, I thought I’d sell a couple of bottles to shops and they’d buy more a few months later.
“When it sold straight away I thought ‘I’m going to have to change my plans’ - so I built a studio in the garden and thought I’d make 25 bottles a month.
“My wife initially said ‘who’s going to buy it?’ You need a critical friend when setting up.”
Now Major Redding produces around 300 bottles a month, packaged in eye-catching 75cl stone bottles with hand-drawn labels by Polska Design.
The batches are produced in the space of a week in the wooden studio which measures just three metres by two metres.
Six botanicals are mixed with a neutral spirit, bought in from distinguished pedigrees in Scotland and Poland, to create the gin’s signature taste, pale yellow colour and 39pc strength.
Major Redding said: “With the botanicals, juniper is the king, cardamom is the queen and there are a few knaves like coriander that play around in there.
“I’m probably quite extravagant with the botanicals I’m using but that’s what gives the gin its flavour.”
Three other botanicals are added to the mix including lime and two other secret ingredients, one of which is grown in Major Redding’s garden.
Mr Redding, a former officer in the Royal Corp of Transport, said: “The rules of gin are very simple, it must be flavoured with juniper and above 37.5pc.
“I did a lot of research trying other gins and speaking to lots of local producers who were very helpful.
“There are some tipping points in the final process where minutes can make a difference.
“I thought I’d change the recipe every few months but people said ‘this recipe is great’ so I thought I’d stick with it – it’s one strong recipe.
“My retail partners are enjoying it, they tell me it’s their favourite spirit.”
Major Redding delivers his stock once a week to six outlets in branded wooden crates and jokes he is the ‘milkman of gin’.
He said: “For me it’s the satisfaction of hearing people say ‘that’s delicious, wow’.
“Many people are repeat buyers which is very pleasing.”
After an Army career lasting 23 years, Major Redding worked in human resources for a number of organisations in Norfolk including the Big C and the Benjamin Foundation.
Deciding he wanted to be an entrepreneur came next.
“I thought about brewing, but beer has a short shelf life. I thought maybe I could make a gin and spent a year and a bit developing it. It’s already got quite big and it seems to be going very well.
“I do want to make a living and I’m starting to feel confident there is a business here so I should clear my start up costs early next year, but it all takes time.
“I’m enjoying making it and as long as people continue to like it I’ll make it.
“It’s exceeded my expectations. You’ve got to keep adjusting to it, keep your feet on the ground and work in the now.
“My model is not to build it up and sell it, but continue it as it is.”
Asked if there were expansion plans ahead, he said: “I might just keep it for Norfolk for now. That’s its home.”
The gin retails for £40 and is available by the bottle from six independent wine merchants across Norfolk.
For more information visit www.norfolkgin.co.uk
Do you have a business success story? Email firstname.lastname@example.org