This Saturday 11 June is World Gin Day – a celebration of the world’s favourite spirit not only here in the UK but also across the globe – with promotions and events happening around the county. Nick Mosley talks to local distilleries to discover how they’ll be championing Sussex-made gin this weekend.
It’s hard not to be impressed with the growth of independent distilleries in our county. During the past decade we’ve witnessed a tiny craft spirits scene explode into a Sussex-wide phenomena with gin lovers taking their passion for drinking gin one step further and actually making it.
Thinking back to a dozen years ago, you’d be hard-pushed to find locally produced spirits on the back bar of a bar or pub but the revolution arguably began with the Blackdown Distillery based in Lurgashall near Petworth and their Sussex Gin and ever-memorable Silver Birch vermouth distilled from the sap tapped from the local forest. Sarah and Nathan Thompson were trailblazers and, in retrospect, a few years ahead of their time. For those of us who were there in that delicious moment, I doubt neither their contribution nor their joyous personal gregariousness will ever be forgotten.
The now iconic Brighton Gin has not only made waves with imbibers and bartenders throughout the county but is consistently going from strength-to-strength nationally with a new distribution deal at Waitrose Cellar, international export to 15 countries and an astonishing but clearly well-deserved score of 98/100 at this year’s hugely prestigious International Wine & Spirits Competition for their ‘Seaside’ navy strength gin that packs a punch at 57%.
Despite the exponential growth and acclaim, founder Kathy Caton is taking it all in her stride.
“This week alone, I’m giving a speech at the Gin Guild’s Ginposium event,” said Kathy. “It’s nerve-racking but an incredible honour as we’re the first Sussex distillery to be asked”.
“Over this weekend we’re hosting a stand at Junipalooza at Tobacco Dock in London. It’s the world’s biggest international gin festival with an incredible line-up of gins from every continent. We’ll be representing Sussex there alongside Contractors Gin from Dedbest Distillery near Lewes”.
Elsewhere, Katie Overton-Hart of G&H Spirits will be at the annual South of England Show at Ardingly this weekend where she’ll be championing her newly launched Lemon Gino – a fusion of the G&H Old Tom Gin and lemon.
“It’s a busy weekend of events for us,” said Katie. “We’re really excited to introduce our unique Lemon Gino made with the juice and zest of two and a half fresh lemons and a hint of jasmine in every bottle”.
Closer to home, the Sussex Gin and Fizz Festival makes a welcome return to Southover Grange in Lewes tomorrow (Saturday 11 June). With two sessions – a family-friendly afternoon until 5pm, followed by a more grown-up vibe from 6-10pm – local gins include Birch Gin (Wadhurst), Cabin Pressure Spirits (Horsham), Ditchling Gin, Generation Distillers (Chailey), G&H Spirits (Steyning), Harley House Craft Distillery (Seaford), Madame Jennifer Distillery (Hove) and Slake Spirits (Worthing) alongside numerous Sussex vineyards.
“The Gin and Fizz Festival is a great opportunity for us to promote our spirits,” said distiller Tom Martin-Wells of Slake Spirits. “I think festival goers will be excited to sample our gin-based Wild Elixir”.
There’ll be plenty of local food available too, alongside live music, entertainment and informative masterclasses with the gin makers. Adult tickets are £17.50 and available from www.sussexginandfizzfestival.com
Right now Sussex can not only quite rightly claim to be the home of not only of the best of English sparkling wines but also craft gins. I think we can all say ‘cheers’ to that!