BRIGHTON’S first legal distillery is preparing for a working Christmas as demand for its craft gin soars.
Brighton Gin launched in December last year and is already producing 500 bottles a week – with hopes to expand.
The micro-distillery has quickly won over the city’s gin-sipping public – as well as beating Hendrick's in an international spirits competition.
Founders Kathy Caton and Helen Chesshire create the spirit, once called Mother's Ruin, from the basement of The Urchin pub in Belfast Street Hove – were punters can also taste it upstairs.
An impressive 54 bottles of the premium product are delivered around the city by Kathy - hauled on the trailer of her bike.
Craft gin has exploded in popularity in recent years, shaking off its seedy image, spurred on by Sipsmith - the first copper-pot distillery to start up in nearly 200 years.
Brighton Gin, stocked in scores of pubs, off-licences and hotels including Quaff, 21 Wines, Brighton Dome and Duke of York’s, was born out of a shared love of Brighton and gin.
Kathy said: “We were thinking about how much Brighton deserved to have its own gin.
“It goes so well with Brighton outlook, but there wasn’t a local still.
“Everyone who lives here goes out and works really hard. And gin is quite forgiving – you can drink it and still function he next day."
Several years in the making, the pair spent a long time developing recipes, which were meticulously recorded on spreadsheets for consistency.
Some batches ended being over-boiled and "deeply unpleasant", and there were haphazard experiments with make-shift camping stoves.
While some gins have more than 100 botanicals ingredients, Kathy and Helen were keen to make every ingredient worthy of inclusion.
They ended up opting for a classic juniper berry, which used to grow wild on the South Downs, though sadly now hard to find; fresh orange peel, with dried peel tasting too Autumnal; coriander seeds, which comes from a farm near Ringer, the first commercial crop in the UK; and milk thistle, which grows on the South Downs and is known for its liver cleansing properties.
Kathy said: “We wanted it to taste like gin and something you can drink a lot of, not just have one of and move onto something else.
“A lot of people have had a bad experience of gin, but something people think they don’t like it because they don’t like tonic.
“The aim was to create a high quality ingredients without being extortionately expensive.”
While the pair had never created their own spirits before, both had hospitality experience, with Kathy managing pubs and restaurants, before moving into radio, at the BBC and Radio Reverb.
Helen has worked the wine industry for 15 years for various companies, and her grandfather owned Longhurst Brewery which used to be of Preston Circus.
Brighton Gin is much in demand this Christmas – so much so the pair expect to take just one day off.