Boris Johnson presented with bottle of Northumberland gin to mark Brexit

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was presented with a specially-made bottle of gin from a Northumberland distillery to mark Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 2:38 pm

The gift from Alnwick-based business, Pilgrim Spirit Company, was presented when the Prime Minister was in Sunderland for the historic Brexit day cabinet meeting at the end of January.

“It was an exceptionally positive meeting,” said founder and chief executive Andy Petherick.

“We were told we’d only get a minute with the Prime Minister but he ended up spending about 20 minutes with us. He was really interested in what we do.

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Pilgrim Spirit Company staff Andy Petherick, Mark Spoors and Ross McNealey with Jacob Rees-Mogg MP.

“I got the impression he might like the occasional drink, perhaps after a tough day at the office, so I told him he’d been working so hard delivering Brexit that he deserved a G&T!”

The laser-engraved 10 Downing Street bottle, marked 31-01-20, was specially made to mark the occasion.

“We wanted to do something quirky and something personal to the Prime Minister so that bottle was specially engraved,” said Andy. “It’s a one-off bottle and everything was done in-house to showcase what we do in delivering a high quality product at a competitive price.

“It went down so well that we were told the House of Commons are considering their own bespoke engraved gin range!”

Mark Spoors, Andy Petherick and Ross McNealey of the Pilgrim Spirit Company.

It was an example of the innovative bespoke engraving service that Pilgrim Spirit has recently developed.

By using specially designed laser and colouring technology, it is able to offer personalised and flexible bottle designs without the cost and volume issues that come with regular paper labelling.

“The labelling is something we’ve been working on with Sunderland University for the past 18 months,” Andy explained. “Doing something as a hobby and taking it to mass production are two very different things so they helped us write software and manufacturing programmes.”

The Prime Minister, who viewed a display of the other products produced by the award-winning company, was also keen to hear how legislation could be improved for businesses in the North East.

A special edition Brexit day bottle of gin produced by Pilgrim Spirit Company.

Andy, along with production manager Mark Spoors and marketing executive Ross McNealey, then got to discuss post-Brexit arrangements with other cabinet members at the National Glass Centre.

“We were one of a number of North East businesses there,” said Andy. “The ministers were appreciative of our time and wanted to find out how they could help companies access finance now we are out of Europe.

“We spoke to Jacob Rees-Mogg (Leader of the House of Commons) and he was keen to learn more about the business. He was interested to hear that I started the business in my garage and that he did the same, although his was investment banking!”

The business was only formed in 2017 but is growing steadily and now employs nine people across two distilleries in Alnwick and Morpeth, with an office base at Bondgate Without, Alnwick.

A special edition bottle of gin was presented to Prime Minister Boris Johnson by the Pilgrim Spirit Company.

Among its best-known brands are Hadrian’s Wall Gin, Hotspur Gin and Old Skool Gin.

It has also just produced a special edition Hadrian’s Wall pink gin with 10 per cent of the profits from every bottle going to the Australian bushfires fund.

“I just feel so sorry for what’s happened to the wildlife there,” said Andy. “It’s been devastating and we wanted to do something to help so we have created a special pink gin and put it in a very special limited edition, fully engraved bottle to help raise much needed funds to help the affected wildlife.”

The next goal is to tap into the potentially lucrative export markets of China and Russia – a move which Andy hopes will be made easier by Brexit.

“Personally, I think it’s good for the country,” he said. “I’ve travelled around the world a lot and look at countries like Norway which has the highest standard of living I have ever seen.

“If the money we were putting into Europe is correctly utilised by the Government it will improve the UK.

Andy Petherick, founder of the Pilgrim Spirit Company, presents Prime Minister Boris Johnson with a special edition bottle of gin to mark Brexit day. Picture by Pippa Fowles / No10 Downing Street

“It’s going to be a bumpy road and I think everyone in the UK has to take responsibility to help make it work.

“I think it’s been badly handled by some politicians, some of whom have been out for their personal interest, but it’s done now and I think, as a country, it needs to dust itself down and move on, Whether you wanted it or not, we have to set it up right for the future.”

While the European market has value for the business, Andy is excited about the opportunities for growth in the Far East and Russia and the possibility of creating more jobs in Northumberland.

“Exporting to non-EU countries has always been in our mind but it’s now become more of a priority for us,” said Andy. “We need to wait until the dust settles before we know exactly how it will work but countries aren’t going to stop buying from the UK.”

Closer to home, Pilgrim Spirit products are also proving popular.

“We’re doing very well in the North East,” said Andy. “We were invited to work with Fenwick in the run up to Christmas which was very exciting for us.

“Our sales are growing, we’re expanding and last year we won three international awards so that’s not too bad for a business which started up in a garage less than three years ago!”

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