Ben Kaberry – Big Hill Distillery
There’s two of you at the heart of the operation and you co-founded the distillery with David. What’s the connection between you and what did you both do before?
The main connection is that we live in the same village, Mobberley Cheshire, and our kids go to the same school. As you might expect the village pub is the epicentre of village life and that ensured that we got to know each other really well.
When did you decide to become distillers and what was the major factors leading into it?
Not everything revolves around the pub BUT…it was after one of those long lazy sessions at “The Bulls Head” that we were stood at the bar wondering what to drink. Gin was clearly in the ascendancy and we just had one of those brilliant ideas conceived in drink: “Let’s make a Gin”! We told the whole pub…& bought a still a week later!
Neither of us had a gin making background as such, but we both had a love and knowledge for Gin. With a bit of a Creative touch (Ben) and some business acumen (David) we spent a year and a half learning and developing a recipe that on 11th December 2017 was the ‘Spirit of George’. The gin we all drink now.
Who is George and when did you come across his story?
After we decided to follow through on the drinks’ fuelled idea, we had a serious sit-down and we quickly arrived at 3 main features that would be essential to make any in-roads into the gin market. A great look, great taste and also a story. We needed a great story! We then realised that we had a great story right under our noses. George Mallory is a son of Mobberley and he is a Great British un-sung hero. The story definitely deserves to be told.
And so, this great untold story then… What you want to base you gin on it?
George Mallory led an expedition to the Himalayas in 1924 with one primary objective. To conquer Everest. He was the one of the greatest climbers of his time. On June 8th 1924, Mallory was seen just 800ft from the summit. It was another 75 years before George was found – he’s still there on the north side of Everest. Many believe that because of where his body was found, he must have been on his way back down. We believe, as do so many other climbers that he made it to the top. The first man, alongside Andrew Irvine to do so in history. He’s from Mobberley like us, a tweed wearing hero!!
How is it reflected in the gin?
So we know it’s a strong story, emotional and heroic but we knew we could do more to tie in the story to the liquid. We found some Nepalese farmers who grow amazing tea blends. After much experimentation with flavours/ingredients and different ways of blending them, we came up with a London Dry Gin that contains classic London dry botanicals plus ingredients from the Himalayas that link directly to the George Mallory story.
And what made you choose to release a Pink Gin as a second release? Do you see a crossover in drinkers between it and your flagship, or are they very different?
Our Pink Gin “Rose” is very different from S of G. We wanted to create another great gin that just happened to be pink! It had to fit with what we believe a “pink gin” should be. So we decided on using only fresh ingredients, no essences, 40% abv, NOT just a low abv liqueur style, with no added sweeteners or sugar. Rose is lighter, more delicate than George but it is own thing, it’s a good honest gin, a proper gin.
You mention in a few places on your site just how competitive it is out there – what makes your gin stand out and why should people try it?
Great story…Why wouldn’t you want to sample after hearing about the legendary George Mallory.
Unique ingredients that link geographically to the story from one of the most spiritual places in the world.
Multi Award winning across USA, Europe and Asia
Passionate owners/distillers that do all this alongside full-time jobs! It’s a labour of love.
Quick fire trio for you…
What are you distilling with? ie still, size?
We use a 130ltr Copper pot still. She’s called Ruth and she’s gorgeous. She’s a double walled boiler with a gas burner, hand-made to our specifications.
How big is a batch (in bottles)?
Each run will give us 130 bottles at 40% abv
How often are you distilling nowadays?
You will normally find us in the distillery on Tuesday and Thursday nights distilling between 6pm and midnight! If you are passing and lights are on just call in for a chat!
It’s a competitive industry, but it’s a fun one too. Who’s another distiller you admire and why?
It’s difficult to pick just one distiller we admire. When we first started it would have been Sipsmith’s as for us, they led the way for small batch distilling. Another distiller that we have a lot of respect for would be Mason’s. They are 4/5 years ahead of us on this gin journey! The way their brand has grown and also how they’ve carried on after the fire last April deserves a great deal of respect.
Okay and finally, what’s the big aim for The Spirit of George 2020?
In the true spirit of George Mallory, The Spirit of George wants to explore beyond these shores and have more adventures in the far-flung corners of the world. We want to embody the spirit that took him so far into unmapped and wonderfully remote places. If we can send George on new adventures in 2020 then we will be very happy. In particular we look forward to Junipalooza this year as well as a foray into Hong Kong and China!
Copyright © Gin Foundry