In The Spotlight: Whitby Gin
Foraged from Land & Sea. Celebrating the diverse natural landscape of Whitby.
Founded by Jess and Luke in a utility room no less, Whitby Gin is the result of a camping trip to the Outer Hebrides. Inspired by the islands’ artisan gin-makers, the pair returned from their trip with a souvenir in the form of a business plan. Little did they know back then, but they would soon be swapping their desks for days in the distillery and trading the daily commute for foraging in the open air.
It is undeniable that spirits and Whitby go hand in hand… it has always been a town of smugglers, adventurers and skilled craftspeople, held on one side by the wildness of the sea and by rugged, beautiful moorland to the other. Spirits have long been a part of this town’s story where whisky, rum and gin were often smuggled ashore during the 18th Century before being sweetened and flavoured by the locals. You might say that Jess and Luke are simply picking up with where they left off, with the same passion and spirit of adventure, but a little less law-breaking!
From the outset, it didn’t take long for Whitby Gin to establish their signature botanicals: heather foraged from the North York Moors, sugar kelp and local honey, each selected to champion one element of the North Yorkshire coastline. And, with their core ingredients finalised, Jess and Luke set about developing an extensive library of flavours. Family and friends (bravely) offered to help taste-test until, finally, they found the perfect combination and, thus, their Whitby Original Edition Gin was born. It went on to win 9 international accolades including Best British London Dry at the World Gin Awards 2019 within 10 months of launching.
On the nose this is a combination of floral and herbs, and a hint of sweetness. To taste this is beautiful balance of botanicals, never becoming to dry or to sweet, but remaining ever special in the glass. There’s a rich oily mouthfeel of juniper, with citrus peel, hints of honey and savoury coastal hints from the sugar kelp adding complexity. And if a superb liquid was not enough to gin-spire you, Whitby have housed all their sprits in a fabulous new bottle design. The bottle captures the movement of the sea, whilst the base incorporates an enchanting fossil design. Pair with Fever-Tree MediterraneanTonic and garnish with Pink Grapefruit & a sprig of Rosemary.
Every now and then a gin comes around that you completely fall in love with, and this is defiantly one of them. It’s a gin with local provenance, individuality, authentic craftmanship and creative vision. The human touch is evident at all stages of the process, and this translates across the Whitby Gin Range (read on). It’s also a firm favourite at the The Gin To My Tonic HQ, which is why we were delighted to feature this in our 2020 Gin Advent Calendar.
WHITBY WILD OLD TOM
Whitby Wild Old Tom is an interesting variation on their award-winning original and uses wild native botanicals to create a uniquely crafted gin with a slightly sweeter finish. Vanilla, and nutty notes from handpicked gorse, blend perfectly with the fruitiness of gooseberry. A touch of honey is added to bring out the sweet botanical notes. The use of gooseberry in particular is really rather genius, and the tartness and sharpness translates beautifully against the sweeter botanicals. For the perfect serve, opt for Fever-Tree Lemon Tonic and a garnish of mint.
WHITBY BRAMBLE & BAY
Whitby Bramble & Bay continues to use Whitby signature botanicals and complements them with sweet red fruits and earthy bay leaf. Inspired by the pure joy of finding a thicket bejewelled with blackberries as children (with the evidence of gorge smeared across their cheeks), they are now able to offer the same delight with this feast for the senses. On the nose it’s distinctly herbal and floral with a hint of sweetness. To taste blackberries and bay leaf offer a taste journey. This is rich in fruit, distinctively dry with a delightfully peppery finish. The perfect serve of Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic and a garnish of lime and basil also works wonders.
Biggest Achievement So Far?
“Winning the most contested category at the World Gin Awards 10 months after launching was incredible but if I was to choose a single moment it would probably be the production of alcohol hand rub which we created overnight (literally) for the Nightingale Hospital in London prior to opening. The pressure was intense and at times really stressful, but we did it because of how many people we knew we could help with our skills set. We are continuing to produce hand sanitiser to help with the national shortage until the larger producers have scaled up to fulfil demand.”
Biggest Challenge So Far?
“Commissioning our new still during a national pandemic. We embarked on the purchase of a one of a kind 300L copper still handcrafted in Frankfurt back in January 2020. The installation of the new piece of equipment fell during lockdown so working out logistics, fulfilling orders and health and safety was certainly challenging.”
What Do You Love About Distilling?
“We love the creative freedom we felt was lacking from our 9-5 jobs. We love discovering the forgotten flavours of the sea and coast and developing new flavours for our customers. We also love that we are able to promote causes which are close to our hearts through our products which include sustainability and ethical sourcing. We love meeting people from all different backgrounds all with an individual approach.”
Looking to the future, the Whitby team are thrilled to have acquired a historic farm building next to the iconic Whitby Abbey, which will soon be transformed into Whitby Distillery’s new home. Their dream location will be supported by renewable energy sources to house a new hand-beaten still, plus a tasting kitchen. There will also be an immersive event space, with the dramatic sounds of the North Sea as a backdrop and green roofs that will be planted with wild flowers to nurture the natural plants and wildlife. This new journey is guaranteed to be one of real creativity and exploration for Whitby Distillery.