That’s the spirit
Laura Cartledge raises a glass to the dream drinks team behind Brighton Gin.
What do you think would happen if you had the following five people in a room?
Kathy Caton, a former restaurateur; Dr. Easy (aka Ian Barry), a physicist turned distiller; Helen Chesshire, a spirits specialist and drinks PR; Jonathan Ray, drinks editor of the Spectator; and Nigel Lambe, the entrepreneur behind Small Batch Coffee and former owner of WJ King Brewery.
The answer is Brighton Gin.
“It started with a pub conversation between me and Kathy, my main business partner,” admits Helen.
“We both said ‘wouldn’t it be good if Brighton had its own gin’, in fact we couldn’t believe there was not one already.”
Work soon started to make the concept a reality, with Kathy and Helen doing all the ‘distilling and playing’, Jonathan writing the copy and recipes, Ian acting as the ‘mad scientist’ and project managing along with Nigel.
The result has been going down a storm and there is little doubt the drinks dream team have delivered.
“It’s been a real example of social media working well, especially Twitter. We got an amazing response right away,” Helen confesses.
“It was a lot of people saying ‘Brighton Gin? I need this in my life’.”
In fact Helen says the reaction has been the biggest surprise.
“We wanted people to want it of course,” she smiles. “My local wine merchant told me he’d never seen a reaction like it about a product that hadn’t even been launched yet.”
This meant when the spirit was ready back in December so was everyone else.
“At the beginning places were taking 12 bottles, then the next day they’d call for 12 more, sometimes it was two orders a day,” recalls Helen.
“Everyone has been really supportive.”
While the sales strategy was ‘very simple’, in that the plan was to be listed in all the local independent merchants, the distilling process took some ‘trial and error’.
“We could say ‘we want it to taste like this’ but you don’t know how those things are made – you have to make the recipe,” she explains.
“I was nominated taster because of my work in the industry. I thought black pepper would be amazing but it wasn’t.”
Despite their collective experience Helen admits this is ‘hugely different’.
“My job is PR and Kathy works in radio. Now we are faced with having lots of boxes and bottles and dealing with retailers,” she laughs.
“It’s a big change, but it is good fun.”
While their 35 litre copper still used to make the gin is famous in its own right – it is said to have starred in 51st State alongside Samuel L. Jackson – these five want something else to have the limelight…their city.
Other than the name this shows itself in the stylish label which was inspired by the old pier tickets.
“We did lots of ‘should it be.. red.. or green.. or blue.. like the sea.. but the sea is brown’,” Helen grins.
“Then we came to a colour that is very similar to the rails along the seafront, so I phoned and spoke to the council’s maintenance team who told me it was called ‘Brighton Seafront Blue’.
“I think it is more of a green but I went to Brewers and got a litre.
“We wanted everything to be homegrown as much as possible,” she says. “We have used a lovely Littlehampton company for the labels who have been brilliant.
“A highlight for me was picking up the labels and them being exactly what I’d hoped, it was on the evening before my birthday by complete coincidence.”
In the future Helen and the team admit they would like the bottles ‘to go up and around the country’ and expand the range, but say the most important thing, for now, is to be ‘known in Brighton and Hove and loved’.
Ultimately the proof is in the drinking and it seems Brighton Gin is hitting all the right notes there too.
“Finally we got something we are really happy about,” Helen enthuses, remembering the ‘eureka’ moment.
“It was me and Jonathan Ray and our tasting notes were really poncy. It was something like ‘sunlight on a hot pavement’ – it felt surreal to come to that.
“We now say, when you serve it, to add a slice of fresh orange as it brings out the botanicals,” she suggests. “It just tastes ace.”
To find out more about Brighton Gin, and where you can get hold of it, visit www.brightongin.com