IT’S as familiar as a stick of Brighton rock – but Brighton Gin is merely nine years old, writes Nick Mosley.

Gin’s image was a little dated until about 15 years ago when small batch distillers began to pop up – including in Sussex – accompanied by demand from for more flavoursome food and drink products, local provenance and quality. Last year the UK gin market was worth £2.3 billion.

Kathy Caton founded Brighton Gin in 2014, with her lightbulb moment coming unexpectedly as she took a Sunday morning run on Hove seafront.

“It was the morning after a pretty hefty and gin-lashed night before.” she said. “It occurred to me that if I’d been drinking anything other than gin, I wouldn’t have been off my sofa, let alone going for a run.

"I thought ‘gin is the one thing that lets you get away with it. Brighton is a place that needs to get away with it on a regular basis – that’s it! Brighton needs its own gin, and I want to make it’.”

Gin is typically produced from a neutral grain spirit, although it can be made from other spirits of plant origin including potatoes and grapes.

What differentiates it from flavoured vodka is the ingredients – or botanicals – all need to be natural with the predominant flavour coming from juniper berries. Herbs, fruits and spices are then compounded into the spirit to create a unique flavour profile.

Making a quality gin takes a good palate, patience and a lot of experimentation, according to Kathy.

“It was a journey of many, many mistakes but they’re mistakes that I don’t regret, as that’s how and when you learn the most,” she said.

“Gin has always been my drink of choice, even in the bad old days when it was desperately uncool.

“I love juniper-led gins and those with lovely citrus too and that’s the flavour profile I was striving for with Brighton Gin. I read a lot of books, made some toe-curling mistakes, nearly started a fire in my flat – and kept going.”

She wanted her gin to be led with a strong profile of juniper and citrus but it was a long road to making a unique product that would stand up in the market place and meet her exacting standards. She ended up distilling each botanical separately and using the tastes of those to decide what to leave out.

Today, Brighton Gin is ubiquitous in bars and restaurants across the city and surrounding county – and in Marks & Spencer and Waitrose.

Kathy said: “We’ve tried in every way to be and to embody the spirit of Brighton – accessible, fun-loving and independent whilst also being committed to and firmly involved in our community.

"We’re Brighton through and through right down to the seafront blue of our labels – the official colour of the seafront railings.

“From day one, ethical and sustainable production has been one of our core goals. Whether it’s our coriander seed from Ringmer, our bottle, which is made from 85 per cent recycled glass sourced from around Brighton, doing as many deliveries as possible from our reconditioned ex-Post Office bikes through to valuing and celebrating diversity in our workforce, we’re doing everything we can to make sure people can enjoy Brighton Gin knowing its production treads as lightly as we can.”