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Peter Lumber – 137 Gin Distillery

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Written by Gin Foundry

Hi Peter, as a distillery owner you are now just over a year into your journey. What have the first twelve months been like for you?

Phew! Overwhelming is the first word that springs to mind. 12 months is an incredibly short amount of time to squeeze in all of the gin experiences I’ve delivered, having Lumber’s Bartholomew ranged both across the UK and now internationally, awards, recipe development and much more. I suppose I should mention that all of my gin is made and bottled exclusively by me onsite in my gastropub, The Newbury, in West Berkshire too! Some would say I’m a workaholic – I like to think of it as me being in love with what I do.

What were you doing before opening a distillery?

I’ve been in the pub & restaurant business for most of my career, which is why when I decided to embark on my journey into the world of distilling I’d do so from my own place.  When the distillery first opened I managed two places – one in Bristol where I am originally from, and here in Newbury where I have been for 8 years. Newbury is now my home, a multi-award winning site that continues to enable me to share my passion for both food and drink but without over-stretching – I’m just one guy, doing what I love after all.

What’s been the biggest learning curve you’ve faced as a producer so far?

Botanicals and consistency, undoubtedly. When I first started recipe development, I underestimated the influence a different batch of botanicals can have to another. Having an industry background I’m aware of the influence of climate on grapes when winemaking, but it wasn’t until I made one of my batches and it tasted different somehow that I really noticed. After tracing back my steps I soon realised there was only one change – my coriander seeds! In the latest blend the seeds were nearly twice the size of the first and the flavour profile had changed. To this day when I speak to other craft distillers we often chat about the nuances of botanicals because what we all recognise is consistency is vital.

One of the big decisions new producers face is what to release, when to wait and what their range looks like. You have 4 gins. What made you want to come out with those at once?

It all came down to blind tasting really. Recipe development was intense and fun, taking over 10 months to complete. You can imagine – bottles all over the place – I could have been in trouble with the wife has she not been chief taster, but eventually we got down to 60. A few round of blind tastings with friends, family and industry reps later we were at 20. Another few rounds and we were down to 4, with each bringing something completely different to the table. So there we had the range, which all are still proving incredibly popular to this day.

Navy aside, what’s the difference between the London Dry, The Country Garden and the Berkshire Dry?

As a traditionalist at heart my goal was to stick to the London Dry method. My London Dry, like many others, is a juniper forward gin using very traditional botanicals and forms the base of my range. My Berkshire Dry builds on this with being juniper forward but with the addition of spicy notes. It’s much bolder in flavour with a real earthiness that lends well to the area namesake. Spicy in flavour more than heat, makes it an all-year rounder that stands up well in bolder cocktails like the Negroni. The Country Garden is my best seller so far. A contemporary gin, it takes you on a fragrant, floral journey due to the deep blue French lavender, elderberries and cardamom, which leads nicely into a little warmth with clove, best served with elderflower tonic.

What was it like to choose a bottle shape and aesthetic – did you always have something set up in your mind or was it a long design process?

So many elements need considering carefully – the bottle shape and colour, label, cork and seal need to work seamlessly. My design was label first – heralding from Bristol where it’s rumoured the infamous Black Beard also resided I love that overall my design has a pirate feel to it, right down to the rustic waxed seal – which I hand-dip myself on-site. The bottle is also considerably lighter than most making it travel ready when weight is of concern.

What’s been your proudest moment so far?

My proudest moment so far has to have been recently when I reflected on the amazing recognition I received across various awards. From being a finalist and runner up in the Gin Guide awards to the 2 bronze awards from IWSC. A star for each gin from Great Taste through to my bronze and silver rosettes at the Royal Berkshire County Show, each one has been a huge moment in what I can only describe as an epic year. And I haven’t stopped there – the recognition has only proved inspiration as to where we are heading next, learning every step of the way.

Looking forward, where do you see the Gin category going in the next?

I believe the gin movement in terms of craft distilling will continue to grow, mainly because these days people take real care over the background of what they consume. Wouldn’t it be great if one day there was a distillery like 137 in every town, connecting people through enjoyment and appreciation of a good quality G&T, hand crafted on-site. Cheers!

We’ll drink to that too – See you at Junipalooza!