Agriculture and Food

Boutique gin distillery bubbling away nicely – despite pandemic

Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 03 June 2020 8:21

A Gloucestershire gems of the world of distilling fine spirits had all the ducks lined up nicely for an expansion – and then came covid-19. 

Bottles of the juniper-berry-flavoured elixir that is The Boutique Distilleries gin were ready, the Mid-Counties Co-op had agreed to stock its wares, it was lined up to pitch to dragon investors. 

A deal had been agreed with the Julian Dunkerton-owned Cheltenham-based No. 131, and the spa town bar’s team had also put the gin-maker in touch with distributer Inn Express – a sought-after ticket for anyone in the sector. 

Fortunately, Jon Harper, the man who learned his art off an original old-time moonshiner in the hills of New Zealand, doesn’t seem like a man who lets too much knock him off course. 

The former boxer, until a spinal injury put paid to that, is not averse to a little footwork to outsmart his opponent, and boy – like everyone many, many others currently – he has had to dance like the proverbial butterfly. 

“We were going great guns, rolling along well,” he said, his native New Zealand accent not diluted by a decade in Kingsholm, Gloucester. 

“It (the pandemic) has forced me to look at what we do. We needed to move online and fast and it pushed me to sort the website out and look at other ways of promoting what we do.” 

With the Co-op deal on ice until until post-pandemic he suddenly had plenty of stock to shift.

An indication how Mr Harper, a one-time aerospace engineer, can duck and weave (we mean that in the nicest possible way), is in the free-bee he is able to offer those who buy his fine gin. 

The added extra is a bottle of hand sanitiser – an adaptation of the alcohol he produces for the gin. 

We say fine, because, in his own words, he “set out to make the best gin it is possible to make” - sourcing water from the Malverns (spring water works better, apparently). 

All distilled by the second love of his life, Ginavive – the distillery he built himself, had certified and ratified by SALSA (THE leading food safety certification Scheme for the UK's small food and drink producers) and which now works its magic at a secret location. ‘Somewhere in Gloucestershire’ was the best we could get out of him. 

We say “second love”, because he is married to Sandra, a driving instructor, with whose backing he launched the business. His own current day job pre-pandemic was as an award-winning wedding photographer. 

As you can imagine, even with the best social distancing possible, both careers are on hold at the moment. Which is why there is a big push.

“We are giving the hand sanitiser away with each purchase and making a donation of 10 per cent to the NHS and the Air Ambulance Trusts. 

We have given some early batches to nurses we know and some to the police as well. 

“I joked with them it was so strong that it could double as pepper spray,” added Mr Harper. 

Ginavive produces "exceedingly strong gin" in excess of 172 proof or 86 per cent abv. 

“It smells so incredibly gorgeous at this stage however requires tempering down to 45 per cent abv to make her tipple more balanced and most enjoyable.” 

Supply chains were in place pre-pandemic with the legendary Pelican Inn, near Gloucester Cathedral, currently close, but remain in place at the ever-popular Over Farm Market, Severn & Wye Smokery, Made in Stroud, Tivoli Wines, The Cotswold House Hotel & Spa, Chipping Campden, No. 131 - Gin & Juice, Berkeley Castle, Stroud Brewery, The Fountain Inn (Gloucester), The New Inn (Cirencester) and The Hive Cafe, Stowe on the Wold.

To find out more visit The Boutique Distillery website.