Blue John Gin took a silver medal at the London Spirits Competition last month, just two points off the gold standard to the delight of distillery owners Mike Wilde and Jill Griffiths.
The couple set up the business during lockdown after Mike, 57, was laid off from his job at a Staffordshire distillery developing award-winning gins for a number of other brands.
Mike said: “For several years we thought there was potential for a distillery in the High Peak. We believed in the business and knew we had a fantastic product. When I was made redundant we decided now was the time.
“This medal should open new doors for us. It certainly makes people listen. The judges were experts from across the spirit world, who carry out blind tasting and award points based on the quality of the product, value for money, and branding. It gives us a lot of kudos to be recognised by the industry like this.”
Mike trained as a distiller at the Edinburgh Whisky Academy, and has applied those lessons to create gin as unique as any single malt, and with similar connections to its landscape.
He said: “We believe in bold flavour and at 42% ABV our gin is more of a premium strength. It’s very smooth with some spicy notes and a subtle floral hint at the end, using pine, heather and other botanicals foraged from around Castleton.
“When Blue John is mined it’s very fragile and porous, so in the 18th and 19th centuries they would soak it in boiling pine resin and then cool it to make the stone workable. Those pine needles give our gin a slightly earthy taste.”
He added: “Because we put all the flavour in the gin, it’s best served with a premium tonic, or served neat over ice like a good whisky.”
Mike is currently producing around 40-60 bottles a week in the micro-distillery, while Jill helps with administration, sales, deliveries and product development – no small feat given she has also spent the past few years establishing the multimillion-pound School of Digital Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University, and the couple have two teenage children to juggle.
The original Blue John gin and the company’s raspberry and rose pink gin are stocked at several bars across the High Peak, plus Goyt Wines in Whaley Bridge, Beer District in Buxton, Raise the Bar in Chapel, Portland Wines in Marple Bridge, the Bottle Store in Glossop, and House of Beers in Ashbourne.
Mike and Jill are on the lookout for new stockists as the business grows, and there are hushed plans to diversify into other spirits too..
Mike said: “Building a small-scale business is the current economic climate, the most challenging thing has been getting the product to market. There is lots of competition so you really have to stand out.
“Distillation is magical and it’s great fun to do, but we love the whole journey from foraging to seeing the product enjoyed by the public. It’s still a great thrill to see it on the shelf behind a bar.”
For more information, go to www.bluejohndistillery.co.uk.