Formed in 2013, the Brighton Spirits Company was founded on a shared desire to create a gin worthy of the city’s creative and vibrant nature. Their flagship, Brighton Gin, launched in December 2014 and has since managed to accumulate fierce local support to become one of the Gins to watch for 2016.
The distilling operation is situated in the basement of a little pub outside the city centre and run by five Brightonian’s. Kathy Caton and Helen Chesshire are at the head of this still small operation, which completed its first run of 400 bottles late 2014. Caton is a former restaurateur while Chesshire is a spirits specialist & drinks PR (formerly in-house at Champagne Pol Roger). The remainder of the team is made up of a former drinks editor for The Daily Telegraph and GQ, an entrepreneur responsible for companies such as Small Batch Coffee, Velo and the former owner of WJ King Brewery.
The duo initially found an office on a residential street in Hove and set up their gin lab in one half of the room. Like most small start-ups, distilling, experimenting and fine-tuning their recipe had to occur in between doing their day jobs at the time.
The distillery is now permanently housed in a small room beneath The Urchin pub in Hove. The copper still stands proudly in the corner, with the rest of the distillery’s operations (stacks of empty bottles, rolls of labels, a small waxing station and bags of ingredients) find a home wherever there is space. This is not a big budget operation, but it’s got a charm of its own and in time will expand.
The team has looked to incorporate the city’s rich history into the design of the gin wherever possible. Landmarks such as the Pier and Royal Pavilion, individuals such as Phoebe Hessel and Max Miller and widely recognised events such as the Veteran Car Run and London to Brighton are all referenced on their label. Who knows, one day Brighton Gin may well be added to the prestigious list of Brightonian icons too.
Incidentally, the bottles’ wax seals and labels are the same colour as the railings on the prom – Brighton Seafront Blue. The label is ticket-shaped, itself a nod to the idea of representing an invitation to a new adventure, to all sorts of fun possibilities.
Given that they’re the first legal distillery in the city, they have quickly found an enthusiastic audience keen to support the locally made gin. The difficult part however, is delivering on their promise to produce a gin Brighton deserves and one most would agree is an accurate representation of the city. Brighton is so many things to so many people and encapsulating any city’s spirit (let alone one as eclectic as Brighton) is a huge task.
So have they achieved this..?
The full list of botanicals used to create Brighton Gin remains undisclosed. Most notable of the ones we know to be used are milk thistle (native to the southeast), juniper, coriander seed, fresh orange peel, lime and angelica root.
As a base, Brighton Gin use 100% organic British grain spirit. Their still can produce around 600 bottles a day however, aware that expanding too quickly would most likely effect the consistency, they have deliberately been scaling up productions slowly to keep up with demand.
Brighton Gin to taste…
The milk thistle is evident on the nose, blossoming ahead of a resinous juniper. Slightly reminiscent of Edinburgh Gin, the aroma of milk thistle adds depth to the overall aroma and its complex nature, both herbal yet creamy, compliments the gin’s core “Dry” characteristics well. To taste, the piney juniper takes the fore in Brighton Gin, with a touch of coriander seed and softer citrus underlying it all and emerging towards the finish.
The Brighton Gin team recommends pairing it with a slice of orange in a Gin & Tonic to accentuate the fresh orange peel. We agree, the warm citrus adds a soft touch while keeping the more distinct notes of milk thistle and juniper clear and upfront.
It’s hard to see how anything could encapsulate the sense of a multicultural, eclectic city in the form of a liquid, yet when one compare’s it to St. George’s Terroir Gin, Rock Rose, Napue or even Hernö Gin – Brighton Gin doesn’t project as strong a sense of place as they do in their liquid.
Brighton Gin is a tasty, classically styled gin and it’s easy to see why it has appealed to so many. The spirit itself is very smooth too. However, we would have liked to have seen something a little more adventurous for it to encapsulate our (personal) interpretation of what Brighton is as a city; young, artistic, fun, progressive and refreshing. This is not to say that the gin is anything other than a well rounded, tasty new gin that will – justly – have many fans signing its praises. It’s just perhaps not the transcendent spirit that transports you to the seaside, the pier etc… that many (including ourselves) would want it to be.
Their success to date is a testament to the overall quality of their gin and the hard working nature of their team. Since launching in 2014, sales have soared. Despite a deliberate focus to grow within the city, Brighton Gin has found an audience far outside the city and can now be seen in bars all over the South. Within the city, Brighton Gin now has over 100 stockists from The Grand, to independent off licences who have enthusiastically embraced the local brand. The recently refurnished Grand Central has even seen Brighton Gin become their top-selling spirit in 2015 too.
It’s an impressive start to their journey and if you do happen to see the small bottle with the ticket-shaped label – take a minute to discover more and give it a try, we’ve got no doubt you’ll enjoy the ride!
For more information about Brighton Gin visit their website: www.brightongin.com
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