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Business & Economy

Nature-inspired gins championed by world-leading bartenders

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

Hepple Spirits’ gins are being championed by world-leading bartenders in the most exclusive bars in the world, with many mixologists making a pilgrimage to the Hepple Estate, deep in the Northumberland National Park, to take in its revolutionary three-stage distilling process.

Such has been the success of Hepple Spirits, 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 famous foraging chef Valentine Warner, legendary 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, to name just a few.

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,” – officially launched in the UK in 2015 and provided such a success in the UK, it was soon creating a stir overseas.

“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, before moving north with his young family. “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, which introduced Hepple to a number of international buyers.

“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, which Chris says creates the smooth tastes, secondly a glass vacuum secures the freshness of the botanicals in the spirit and finally an extraction process, created by the perfume industry, captures “the absolute” – a depth of flavour few gins come close to.

In the past the team has welcomed Norwegian bar owner Monica Berg, crowned “most influential industry figure” by Drinks International, to the Hepple Estate, where she had a tour of the juniper bushes and enjoyed a gin and tonic with a view of the rolling Northumberland hills.

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 at its Northumberland base. 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.”