Bringing back a rich heritage of spirit making
We are delighted to now be stocking gins from Maidstone Distillery, a small batch craft producer from Kent. We caught up with Richard Cook to find out a bit more about them…
What are the origins of Maidstone Distillery?
We are the third incarnation of the Maidstone Distillery, with the very first founded back in 1785 by George Bishop. This first distillery, which was about 200m from where we are now in Maidstone’s town centre, was an eight-storey building that was distilling 5,000 gallons of gin a week! This was then sent out all over the UK and the continent as well, with Maidstone Gin being world famous – yet this fascinating distilling legacy has simply been forgotten. Our idea was to bring back this story and get the community (and then of course out much farher afield) engaged with George Bishop and his place in history, hence why we named our flagship gin after him!
Can you tell us a bit about your product range?
We have two gins and a liqueur currently, with some great ideas about expanding on this product range in the future. We want to create spirits that have a purpose and really promote something specific about the local area. George Bishop London Dry Gin in a complex and bold gin celebrating the founder of the first distillery and we feel embodies his character. Juniper led with sweet/bitter Mediterranean citrus is then balanced with a spicy finish of cinnamon and telicherry pepper making it well-rounded London Dry gin. Our Ranscombe Wild Small Batch Gin, created in partnership with the charity Plantlife, has been created to show the spontaneity of nature and uses some botanicals that we have foraged for locally at Plantlife’s Ranscombe Farm Reserve nearby. Using botanicals like poppy seed, wild marjoram, chestnut and beech leaves gives it a really herbaceous and zesty profile and showcases the amazing ingredients that we have in our local area. Our third spirit, Sharp’s Toffee Liqueur, moves us into something totally different again. Distilled to champion Edward Sharp’s ‘Kreemy Works’ factory, which at its height was the largest confectionary factory in the world right here in Maidstone. Famous for its toffee, we wanted to create something that would be as decadent and smooth as the product they made and we feel we’ve done it! A grown up toffee liqueur, vegan friendly and versatile enough to be used in cocktais, served neat over ice of even in hot drinks and baking.
What’s a typical day like at the distillery?
A typical day is a sight to behold! If you walked in it could be in the middle of a distillation run, bottling the spirits, packaging and labelling them to be sent out to our retail and trade customers or even (once allowed again) seeing one of our tours or gin-making experiences in full flow. The place is a buzz of activity and there is always something going on, which being a working distillery right in the middle of a busy town centre is not something that seems to be expected by those who pass by and pop their heads in! We really wanted to make the place a destination distillery and have the still at the heart of everything that we do, so we welcome anyone in to see us and chat with us about what we’re doing.
What makes Maidstone Distillery special?
We feel the fact that this distillery is so accessible and has such a rich story to tell makes it as special as it is. We love hearing the feedback from those that have visited us about how they didn’t know anything about Maidstone’s distilling past and how much it resonates with the community to have something like this on their doorstep. As well as having spirits that tell a story and aren’t just made for the sake of it, we really feel it adds to the experience of what the Maidstone Distillery stands for.
What’s the most important lesson you have learned so far?
There have been so many along the way, with it taking over two years from inception to opening, and its hard to say what the most important of those are with them all leading to where we are today (and no doubt more to come..!) But what we can be certain about is not underestimating how the support of the local community and their engagement in what you’re doing means to you as this has without doubt helped get us through what has been an incredibly difficult year for us all.
Why partner with Nippitaty Liquor Merchants?
When we came across Nippitaty, what struck us first was their passion for craft distillers and how they wanted to champion them and their individuality. From then meeting the team (albeit remotely as it stands…) it was clear that they held the same values that we did and it just made sense to forge a partnership. We’re really looking forward to seeing where it takes us all!
What will you be drinking later?
After a day that has disappeared, as there never seems to be enough time in the day, I’ll be treating myself to a Negroni made with George Bishop London Dry – as versatile as all the spirits are, for me what George adds to this classic drink just makes the difference and feels like a great way to honour the man himself!
Visit our shop to try Maidstone Distillery gins for yourself.