Northumberland gin makers set their sights on Indian market in latest phase of export drive

Nature-inspired gins distilled in the Northumberland hills are proving the perfect tonic for drinkers across the world, thanks to help from a team of export experts.

Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 4:19 pm

Such has been the success of Hepple Spirits, based near Rothbury, it now exports 40% of its products overseas and hopes to grow that volume by 100% in the coming three years.

Created in 2014 by foraging chef Valentine Warner, bartender Nick Strangeway and Hepple Estate owner Walter Riddell, the business recently began exporting to India, following success in the US, French, German and Chinese markets.

The company - which pioneered a unique three-stage distillery process devised and overseen by master distiller Chris Garden, set out with the aim of taking gin production to the next level and capturing the true taste of juniper.

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Chris Garden, the master distiller at Hepple Spirits.

“Conventional distillation can destroy some flavours due to the high temperatures required in the process,” said Chris, who earned his stripes at the famous Sipsmith distillery in London.

“We wanted to go beyond conventional distillation and harness the benefits of vacuum distillation, allowing us to distil gin at lower temperatures and maintain the true flavour of the juniper and other botanicals we use in the process.

“When I left Sipsmith, I’d vowed never to make another gin, but once I’d travelled to Hepple and met with Valentine Warner and Nick Strangeway, who has trained nine of the ten best bartenders in the world, I was completely sold on the idea of creating this gin that represents a celebration of the juniper and harnesses the unique flavours of nature.”

Having established a toehold in export markets, Chris worked closely with the Department of International Trade to gain knowledge and contacts in Asian and Middle Eastern markets, attending a “Meet the Buyer” event for India.

Checking the Juniper berries.

“DIT has been helpful to us in so many ways,” added Chris. “It gave us the confidence that we were not going to waste time and money jumping into new markets, assisted us with paperwork and documentation and also made really important introductions that led to successful relationships.

“We have real faith in our gin and the best bartenders in the world love it. It is poured in bars such as the Dead Rabbit in New York, which has been voted the world’s best, and that filters down to other bars and also raises its popularity with individuals purchasing it.”

Hepple’s three-stage process starts with the traditional copper pot distilling of the spirit, then a glass vacuum secures the freshness of the botanicals and finally an extraction process captures “the absolute” – a depth of flavour few gins come close to.

Chris said: “I’m so proud that our gin is served all over the world, and with every sip I hope – whether that’s the English wheat, or the flora and fauna around Hepple.”

Victoria Gemmill, DIT Northern Powerhouse regional team and head of North East region, said: “Hepple Spirits has turned distilling gin into an art form. It is a fantastic North East success story and a business that has literally captured the very essence of our region.

“I’m delighted with their initial success in export markets and very much look forward to continuing to support the team as it explores other foreign markets.”

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