Spirit of Adventure!
A continual fascination are the stories to be discovered behind local products and personal passions. The story behind Downton Distillery encompasses an alchemy of advenutre, history and travel. Certainly it was his spirit of adventure that inspired Hugh Anderson to set up his own business, and so it is quite fitting that that business also embodies a spirit of adventure: Explorer's Gin. Hugh explains...
"Having worked in the mobile technology sector for many years, I was keen to work for myself and set up my own business. The seed for that business was sown when I took my partner Meike to a gin distilling course for her birthday. The whole experience was fascinating: the history, the chemistry and the fact that I was able to create something unique, using various botanicals, and then drink it. As soon as the course finished, I ordered my first alembic still and started experimenting in our kitchen. After two years of testing, experimenting and learning about the process, I came up with a recipe we absolutely loved, which became Explorer’s Gin.
"Despite having lived in London for many years I always had a strong connection to Wiltshire and the New Forest as I grew up in the area. Eventually, in 2018, I set up Downton Distillery, after many a gin and tonic with friends in front of the fire. It is so called as the barn next to Downton manor house happened to be empty and provided us with the ideal location to start our distillery.
"The most fun aspect was to create the brand and convey the story of Explorer’s Gin. The history of Downton and the botanicals used in the gin gave us a clear direction – we wanted to marry the golden Age of Discovery with a modern sense of adventure. Rather than just creating a bottle of gin, we wanted to embody a lifestyle that goes with it. Being curious about the world is very important and translates into many aspects of our lives. Modern time explorers, that’s what we are!
"There are two things that we believe set us apart from our peers, firstly the distinctive taste of Explorer’s Gin due to our unique botanicals and secondly our back story. Having walked around the manor house garden, we were looking for something that would be unique, but also relevant to our story, and discovered Western Red Cedar. After doing some research, I tried to distil it and found it had a very interesting taste - piney and citrusy. It was the final piece of the jigsaw that made the story complete.
"Sir Walter Raleigh was given the manor house in 1583. A year later Queen Elizabeth I provided him with a warrant to explore the New World. Explorer's Gin celebrates the concept of adventure and exploration. Our bottle colour reflects the depths of the sea to the surface, with celestial and map navigation lines wrapping around the bottle. Our logo, the Rose of the Winds compass, was used by explorers in the Age of Discovery to help them navigate. Our unique botanical Western Red Cedar originated in North America, where it was called the Tree of Life by native Indians, as they used it for medicine, cooking, tea, clothing and to build their canoes. It grows in the distillery garden and is freshly cut before every distillation.
"We are authentic, attentive, proud and care deeply about the quality of our work. Each batch will macerate for up to 48hrs allowing the flavours to blend prior to distillation. We use the one shot method and our batches are all measured, bottled, labelled and numbered with only 100 bottles per run.
"As you finish your beautiful bottle of Explorer’s Gin, please do not throw it away. Keep it, recycle it, reuse and refill it. We are offering a bottle refill service at various refill points and offer sustainable Explorer’s refill packs. The pallets we receive our bottles on are all upcycled through a local carpenter, while our card and plastics are recycled through the local environmental business agency. We having our carbon footprint mapped in January and I am also going through our B Corp accreditation. I am always looking for new avenues to explore and happy to be contacted about initiatives.
"'Never stop exploring’ is the motto we live by, so we are keeping ourselves open to all possibilities in terms of the course chartered ahead."