Kathy Caton – Brighton Gin
From Pride celebrations to their second ever release, Brighton Gin has had an undoubtedly exciting few months. The gin is a stalwart on the local scene, having been embraced far and wide by Brightonians, a bunch not quite known for sitting idly by. Needless to say, Founder Kathy Caton had a lot to say on the matters of Pride, morals and Trump…
Well what a year you’ve had! And it all culminated in a big announcement: the arrival of your Seaside Strength Gin! What can you tell us about it?
Kathy Caton: We’re super-excited to be releasing our Seaside Strength! It has been a huge amount of fun to work on. We hope we’ve created a real Gin-lover’s Gin, a spirit as versatile as our original Pavilion Strength, but with amazing bursts of juniper and citrus and the most fabulously long finish. It’s great as a sipping gin over ice with just a slice of grapefruit or twist of orange, but we also hope we’ve created a gin that you can drink with every tonic and mixer on the market and still have the beautiful juniper and citrus notes coming through. We’re in danger of moving in to proud parent syndrome…!
There’s nothing wrong with that at all! You’ve resisted the temptation to expand the range for so long, focusing on distillery growth instead. What prompted the new addition?
The process we follow for Brighton Gin is a very labour intensive one. It has been hard to focus on doing that one thing, though; I’m easily distracted and love recipes, flavours and experimentation. There have been regular boozy experiments going on at the distillery, but we’ve tended to drink them on a Friday afternoon with the team!
We’ve also been working very hard on getting our core product out there and recognised (hopefully!). It’s been a delight working on the new Seaside Strength and experimenting with flavours and concentrations – I’m really happy that we have something that sits well alongside the original Brighton Gin, but with the flavour up to 11.
It’s interesting to see that you haven’t tried to reflect the overall category by just releasing something pink and fruity that will sell by the bucketload. Was that a conscious decision?
It’s certainly been interesting doing various gin festivals and meeting people who’ve said they only drink Pink Gin – quite a few of those have been twenty-something lads, defying my assumptions about who’s leading the pink charge! What I hope with all things pink – which looks like it’s going to continue booming – is that that provides an introduction to the Gin category for a whole new range of people, who’ll then go on to experiment and try all sorts of other gins. The versatility of our category is such an amazing thing, there’s so much to explore.
With our Seaside Strength we’ve wanted to do something that is complementary to our original gin and sits comfortably beside it, is made to the same production values and uses the same quality of fantastic ingredients. I’m sure there’ll be some playing with future limited releases and seasonal editions, but ensuring we maintain our focus on our core product and making it reliably brilliant each time has to be the main focus.
Doing something different yet clever isn’t new for you though. One of the things that caught our eye was the label work that you did for PRIDE. How was that received locally?
We’re incredibly proud to live and work in Brighton, home of the UK’s biggest Pride and one of the biggest Pride festivals in the world.
Over the last three years, our limited edition bottles have gone down very well with several people becoming ‘collectors’. Profits from the Pride bottles go the Rainbow Fund, a grant-giving fund for local LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS organisations.
We’ve also given bottles to various unsung LGBTQ community heroes who deserve to have their work recognised and for them to be thanked. We had our first walking float in Pride this year and the reaction was amazing (although none of us could speak the next day for shouting).
You certainly seem to be a part of the community, which is lucky, as Brightonians are fiercely loyal and supportive of local makers. What has it been like being a part of that as you’ve grown?
Brightonians have been true champions of Brighton Gin and we wouldn’t have made it without them. Local support has been overwhelming and we’re incredibly lucky to be surrounded by folks who really share our values. Everyone at Brighton Gin is passionate about the place they live, everyone’s very actively engaged in the community outside of work and there really is no finer feeling than going in to a great Brighton boozer or venue and seeing BG on the shelf. It makes us ridiculously proud!
You’re quite a green spirited brand (and no, we don’t just mean the bottle.) Can you tell us about your sustainability efforts?
One of our absolute core beliefs at Brighton Gin is about making the best ethical choices we can within the business. Our bottle is made using 40% recycled glass, some of which is sourced from the Brighton area, and while distilling is traditionally very resource-greedy, our bespoke still recycles its cooling water rather than wasting hundreds of litres. We are a flexible employer, too, specifically to enable those with childcare concerns to work for us. We want to try and be part of the solution rather than part of the problem, for example encouraging people to volunteer and be part of the beach cleans, and saving tons of plastic being washed in to the sea. We’ve worked with a charity to get our Brighton Gin delivery bikes made; they are old Post Office ones that have been saved from landfill, reconditioned to our spec by a community project aimed at getting people back in to employment. For each one we’ve had made, a bike goes to a micro-finance project in Malawi which supports people starting their own businesses.
It sounds like a great place to work!
It’s wonderful and hilarious and fun, and fairly eccentric. We’ve tried to create an environment where everyone feels that they can voice opinions or make suggestions. A diverse team means that we’re often encouraged to think about things differently to how we might on our own and that can only be a good and useful thing.
We also have to take it in turns to have our radio station of choice playing so we get a fabulously eclectic range of soundtracks to our Gin making! Quite a few of the team have an arts-based background so there are some great harmonies and dance routines going on!
The office, so to speak, has moved around a fair bit. What was it like to find a steady home?
The Brighton Gin recipe development happened round various kitchen tables in Brighton – thankfully we didn’t actually burn anyone’s flat down, but we had some close shaves!
Our biceps were never as good as they were when we were lugging bottles of gin up the tiny, narrow, Victorian staircase in the basement of The Urchin pub day in, day out.
We have very fond memories of those times but it feels utterly luxurious to now have space for a fridge, a toaster and a pallet truck!
And growth, it seems, is on the up; you’ve just got a new still! What’s on the horizon for next year?
Well, all being well, Trump won’t have started WW3. Assuming that hasn’t happened, our biggest challenge will be surviving Brexit, just at the time when we really want to get cracking with our export strategy.
We’re over the moon that we’re already exporting to Denmark and Germany so we want to support those sales whilst venturing into other markets. We want to take the spirit of Brighton to the world!
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