Do you remember walking into a bar five years ago, asking for a gin and only being shown the one bottle?
Probably not because you most likely didn’t drink gin back then.
The rise in popularity of this once holiday-only spirit has been nothing short of phenomenal.
Even the smallest bars now boast vibrant gin lineups and you can’t flick through photos on social media without coming across a balloon glass garnished to the brim.
Great Britain is now home to 300+ gins distilleries, more than double the number that was operating five years ago – with 49 opening last year alone.
To stand out in an ever saturating market means to create something special and the team behind Burnley’s very own gin, Batch, has done just that.
Started in the head distiller’s basement three years ago, Batch, now distilled in a unit at Habergham Mill, Coal Clough Lane, has grown at an exponential rate and shows no sign of slowing down according to operations manager Claire Plowes.
“It’s really hard to pinpoint exactly why gin has gotten so big. I think it has become very fashionable. People enjoy drinking gin in a nice copa glass, it just looks lovely. And there’s a lot of different gins as well. Somebody might enjoy the more spiced profile, some more citrusy or floral flavours. There really is a gin for everybody.
“We’ve seen infographics that tell us the average age of consumers is mid 40s to mid 50s, but then on our social media we get more 20s and 30s. We’ve got a number of elderly customers as well that come in once a month maybe. We had a lady that came in the other day and bought a 200ml bottle of premium gin, just for the weekend. Everybody is enjoying gin.
“There’s no sign of it slowing down either. We’re only getting busier. It’s great but crazy. We’re hoping to export again soon because other countries are now cottoning on to this craze.
“And we’re really hoping the fact we were named Britain’s best craft gin stands us in good stead for this.”
Recognition as ‘Britain’s best craft gin’ came after 25,000 votes were submitted to the UK’s largest gin subscription service, Craft Gin Club, following a taste test of more that 4.7 million gin and tonics.
It’s certainly been a busy few months, with the firm, which boasts Booths as one of its customers, recently fulfilling its biggest order to date. Not bad for a tipple that up until the end of 2016 was still being produced in a basement.
“Our head distiller’s uncle Phil is the director of the company and it was one those late night in the pub sort of ‘let’s start a brewery’ conversations,” said Claire. “And they did. They made some great beers but the business didn’t grow. I don’t think it was the right time for the craft beers. This was about 2011. And then Phil really fell in love with gin while on holiday in Spain.
That was in around 2014. And so he decided he wanted to create his own gin.
“We are lucky because gin wasn’t really a big deal back then and so it meant he wasn’t in any rush. He spent a year working on the recipe, hence why we know we have a really great tasting gin. It’s been on sale for three years now and we’re proud of the recognition we’re getting.”
The original Batch Premium Gin was followed by Whinberry Gin before an organic vodka was added to the range last year. Now Batch Innovations, a monthly spirits subscription, which allows members to be among the first to try a new flavour of spirit each month, has been launched.
Buddha’s Hand, made with only Chinese ingredients, was January’s offering; Industrial Strength Gin – a nod to navy gin and the industrial heritage of Burnley – was February’s variation with a cherry cask rum on the cards for March.
“Experimentation is massively important for us,” said Claire. “We always aim to stand out from the crowd, be a little bit different and our head distiller is fantastic with flavours. He loves to experiment with new recipes and our new innovations range gives us a chance to showcase what we can produce.”
And head distiller Ollie Sanderson is relishing the challenge. “When Phil had conceived his recipe – he was based in Winchester – and had a full-time job so needed somebody to take on the role. So for the past two to three years I’ve been churning out Batch Premium Gin. Then we did the Whinberry and from there my role has massively changed.
“I now have to come up with a lot of new recipes, at least once a month. It’s very exciting until a deadline arrives and then it become a little bit stressful.
“For the Innovations this year I’ve been given certain guidelines. So for instance with the Buddha’s Hand, that was only using Chinese ingredients. Going forward there are going to be a few challenging ones.”
But does he miss working from the basement?
“Moving to the mill has been really good for the business but some mornings I do miss doing it from the cellar because it was only a matter of rolling down the stairs and starting it.
“Batch will carry on expanding. I can’t see an end to the bubble. There are always new distilleries cropping up and each distillery is adding more and more to their product range. Why?
Because it’s amazing. If it wasn’t so nice and it didn’t have it’s heritage with this county then it probably would have been a flash in the pan. But I really don’t see an end to it.”
No matter how big Batch grows, one thing’s for certain, it won’t be leaving Burnley.
“Our ethos now is to stay in Burnley,” said Claire. “We’ve been supported so much by Burnley Council, by the local people, by the local businesses that we have no reason to leave.
“Even as we grow we will stay in Burnley. There doesn’t seem to be an end to the boom but we’re aiming to diversify, offering new products all the time.
“We’re been working on the rum and we’re also working on a whisky. We’re hoping to stay ahead of the game and to keep offering something new and innovative for our customers.”
Batch Innovations has almost hit the 50 subscriber mark with the intention of doubling this number by the end of the year.
Find out more at www.batchbrew.co.uk/batch-innovations/ or visit the distillery during Batch’s Open Day on Saturday, March 10th, 11am-3pm.
Batch is also offering readers a special 10% discount until the end of March 2018 with the code SPRING10.