Food & Drink

The gin craze: how a small town in Yorkshire is making waves in the gin market

It may be difficult to imagine now, but in the early noughties, gin was languishing in drinks cabinets across the country.

However, since 2010 gin has enjoyed a revival like never before.

It is so popular now, that it is included in the basket of goods that the ONS use to calculate inflation, and worldwide sales in 2022 reached almost one billion litres.

The town of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, is home to three premium gin brands: Harrogate Tipple, Slingsby, and the new Stuzzi gin.

MM spoke to all three to find out why gin has captured the imagination of drinkers across the UK?

Sally and Steven Green began making Harrogate Tipple on the Ripley Castle estate after spending over 15 years working in the TV industry.

Harrogate Tipple’s Ripley distillery

They have since expanded and now offer a vodka, rum, and during the pandemic started making their own hand sanitizer.

For Steven and the team, it seems that there is no sign of our thirst for gin is even close to being satisfied.

He said: “The last year was exhausting! We were so busy with new products and shows, the year passed us pretty quickly! 

“It was such a great year for business.

“We officially opened our new store on Stonegate in York which was formerly Little Bettys.

“We originally opened this as a pop-up store, however we soon realised business was great and that customers loved us being there.

“With the help of our good friends at Bettys we were able to establish a foothold in York and cement our lease and have not looked back! 

“We also released our new coffee vodka with Taylors Of Harrogate, Huila Spirit.

“This was Taylors first alcohol collaboration in their history and we one we are certainly proud of! 

“There are always gin fans and customers who drink all year.

“Obviously when the sun comes, out G&T’s certainly come out, so we do see a huge spike in sales in the spring and summer. 

“I feel we have another decade of gin, good gin that is.

“It will slow down without a doubt as the market is saturated, however I do feel if you have a honest and premium product like we have then the trend will always be there as drinkers will want to drink the best.

“The new brands coming through and ones that pretend to have a story will disappear unless they diversify which is also something we are constantly doing here at Tipple Towers. 

“Variety is what makes gin so popular.

“In our lifetime we have never had so many brands and newcomers come into this market. Gone are the days of a Gordons and Schweppes.

“Like us, producers have pushed the boundaries which in turn has allowed for fantastic innovation to keep this category fresh. 

“We are still making hand sanitizer!

“I still can’t believe what we achieved in a very difficult time in our lives.

“The demand for the product during lockdown was unbelievable.

“We had companies from all over the world trying to order from us.

“We were also featured on BBC and ITV as as well as been seen as far afield as Australia and Brazil! Crazy times.

“It is amazing to see that our loyal customers still want to purchase it. After all it does smell of gin!” 

Harrogate is also famous for its water, which was discovered by William Slingsby in 1571 and was known for its medicinal properties.

This was the inspiration for Slingsby Gin, who were established in 2015.

Spirit of Harrogate

In January their rhubard-flavoured gin won gold at the 2023 World Gin Awards, and they are also the official gin supplier to Royal Ascot racecourse.

Rebekha White, Marketing Manager for Spirit of Harrogate, is hoping for another good year:

“Winning gold at the World Gin Awards was a great way to kickstart 2023 and another fantastic accolade to add to our long list of awards for our range!

“Last year our Rhubarb Gin was also named ‘Britain’s Favourite’ in a blind taste test conducted against some of our key competitors.

“This year It’s a year of Royal celebration as we welcome a new King with the Coronation of King Charles III in May, so they’ll be lots of exciting activities taking place then.

“We’re also extremely proud to be going into our second year partnering with Ascot Racecourse, a true British establishment, and we’re busy planning for the key event of the year, Royal Ascot.

“We’re always keeping our eye on trends from the wonderful world of gin and testing out new development spirits, which you can find and sample at the Spirit of Harrogate, so you never know what might be around the corner for Slingsby.

“Our Rhubarb Gin began life as a development gin within our kilner jars at the Spirit of Harrogate store and experience.

“After receiving such positive feedback from visitors, we soon launched it as a limited-edition product before making it part of our core range shortly after.

“We like to take inspiration from our hometown and county and Yorkshire is well known for the famous Rhubarb Triangle which produces the very best Yorkshire Rhubarb – not only was that the inspiration behind the flavour but this is also exactly where we source our fruit from.

“Our premium range of gins are crafted with true quality, inspired by our spa town heritage, we use the very best ingredients with pure spring water and real fruits.

“Consumers are looking for quality ingredients without additives or nasties.

“We only use natural, locally sourced ingredients.

“Gin can be enjoyed all year round whether it’s a refreshing G&T in a beer garden on a lovely summer’s day or in an indulgent and warming cocktail throughout winter.

“Slingsby makes the perfect gift for gin lovers and each year we bring out limited edition products, merchandise and bundles to keep customers coming back.”

The booming gin market in Harrogate was recently joined by a newcomer with a twist.

Stuzzi is a much-loved Harrogate institution, and since 2014 have been serving Italian “stuzzichini,” small plates to be enjoyed with friends.

They launched their own gin which is made specifically for negroni cocktails in December 2022.

A negroni is equal measures gin, Campari and vermouth, and is an ideal aperitif.

Jim Bob, co-founder of Stuzzi, feels that their gin offers something different:

“Originally we didn’t want to make just another gin, we wanted it to be specifically for the negroni; to elevate a drink that was very much in the foundations of Stuzzi.

“The whole profile of the flavours and the ingredients that we chose, even down to the style of the bottle, it’s very Italian.

“It sums up what we do here: we’re not Italian, but we love Italy and we aim to share our experiences of the country with people.

“A negroni is three parts: one of them, Campari, is the iconic element which never changes.

“You couldn’t find anywhere who don’t use Campari.

“The vermouth is very much personal taste in terms of sweet or dry, but we found that the gin seemed to be any old gin.

“The standard among bartenders is a clean, crisp, London dry gin.

“We thought, why don’t we come up within gin with a flavour profile that takes the cocktail to the next level?

“I wouldn’t say that there is anything lacking in a London dry negroni, but we love negronis and we wanted to see whether we could improve them.

“It’s also a drink that really personifies Stuzzi and what we do here.

“Even down to the design of the bottle, we wanted to offer something that is definitively us.

Jim Bob, co-founder of Stuzzi

“We decided to use Sicilian candied oranges, and distil the gin with them instead of infusing it, so it still has that clean gin taste.

“A lot of spirits can feel slightly artificial when they’re flavoured, but distilling it into the gin keeps the complexity – you can taste all the different notes.

“The botanicals we use amplify the negroni.

“You always garnish a negroni with orange, and bergamot offers the perfumed element from vermouth

“The lavender helps with that, and then we also use some of the bitter elements that you would find in a vermouth.

“We tried to choose ingredients that would work with the flavours that are already in a negroni, rather than work against them.

“We think it’s awesome: It’s cool; it’s different; it’s independent.

“There are a thousand gins out there, but there’s only one made for the negroni.”

Stuzzi Harrogate

With a choice of three artisan gins typical of the best offerings in the booming gin market, there are far worse places to go than Harrogate for a great gin.

Photo credit: Daniel Harrison

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