The Best Gin Distilleries In The North East

It's gin up north! Here's our rundown of the best gin distilleries in the north east...
North East Gin LARGE

Who doesn’t like a good gin? The variety you can get your hands on these days is incredible, and our region is home to a number of fabulous distilleries. Johnathan Ramsay takes us on a taste tour, speaking to some experts along the way…

From the understated but delicious notes of grapefruit and rhubarb to the over-the-top spectacle of ‘unicorn’ gin, there’s a botanical bottle of joy on the market for everyone. However, the classics are the classics for a reason and London Dry is still the go-to for many a tasty cocktail. Despite the virtually unrestricted access to a world of gin we have now, London still stands strong as the gin capital of the world.

But, there’s a new challenger to the crown. A spritely new face of the gin world that’s slowly but surely making a name for itself. I’m of course talking about the mighty North East of England. In recent years a handful of extremely ambitious distilleries have popped up across our region and turned the heads of gin-lovers across the nation – and beyond! We’re tracking down some of the best and brightest to see what they’re offering. The perfect excuse to enjoy a tipple or two – all in the name of research!

Hepple Spirits Co.

Location: Northumberland

Luxe recommends: ‘Sloe and Hawthorn Gin’ 

Beautifully dark red in colour, Hepple’s Sloe and Hawthorn gin was inspired by the berries that grow wild on the moorlands surrounding the Hepple distillery. This one is for those that enjoy a rich, spicy, complex tipple.

The story…

Located high in the remote Northumbrian Hills with one of the purest natural environments in Britain, Hepple Spirits are inspired by the wildness that surrounds them. Using hand-picked ingredients and natural flavours, their gins really give you a refreshing taste of the great north outdoors.

Behind the botanicals…

With Hepple Spirits Co’s Brand Executive, Anna Davison

In your eyes, what makes the perfect gin?

For us gin is a bright, fresh-tasting, uplifting drink, with juniper at the core. Hepple follows this notion by using two novel techniques – vacuum distilling and supercritical extraction to bring flavours that are brighter and richer than can be found when you just copper pot still alone. These techniques sit alongside our copper pot still, that provides a tremendously smooth core to all our spirits. The paradox for most gins is that you either want one that is punchy, distinctive and can still stand out when mixed with a tonic, or delicate and complex enough to stand alone in a martini – but not both. Hepple’s pioneering use of these different systems (that is unique in the industry) creates a gin that is capable of both – a tremendously unusual quality.

How much time and effort goes into making a bottle of your gin?

Simply put, making Hepple Gin in our distillery takes five times longer than it would take if it were a simple ‘single shot’ London Dry Gin. But that is just the inside work. Hepple’s system is built to draw on the fresh ingredients that grow abundantly in the pristine wilds around the distillery in what has been described as ‘the crown of the Northumberland National Park’.

Part of this involves harvesting green juniper berries – the fresh, bright green version of the berry that then matures later into a purple berry found in every other gin – and propagating seed for the seedling programme that we operate as part of our custodianship of this special place. At Hepple we are deep believers in ‘interconnectedness’ – an idea that seems ethereal and folksy from an air conditioned office block in a city, but takes on a rather more immediate meaning as we find ourselves working in and alongside what can be a fierce and unforgiving mother nature.

What makes your gin stand out from the rest?

First and foremost, it’s flavour. Hepple is not a shouty, hyper-distinctive gin. We are here for those who love a classic gin, but want to find flavours that are more subtle, have more persistence, and are closer to their living likenesses on the bush, tree or grass. Secondly, we were set up to provide a sustainable source of ingredients for the company that also benefits the wider ecology of Hepple. We have much more to do to meet our ambitions around being sustainable, but this ethic is, we think, unusual in its depth of application as well as its ambition.

How important is it that people support independent distilleries?

We love the energy and innovation that independent makers bring – across all industries, from clothes manufacturers to games makers. Some of us can remember how plain the food and drink landscape was in the North East two or three decades ago when big manufacturers dominated and choice was limited.

We also love something more complex than independence, and that is interdependence. It is quite different to independence, but is something that we do find in little producers; and that is that they work in a mesh of other small producers, closer to customers, tighter with their staff, more responsible in their dealings with suppliers and the natural world. That is the sort of company we wake up every morning wanting to ensure we are, and that we stay.

None of us can really do things by ourselves – in fact, we can’t even make a gin and tonic without a friendly (and high quality) tonic supplier, and a good greengrocer who cares about their suppliers and their association with the natural world. In the end, we are all linked.

North East Distillery

Location: Newcastle

North East Ponteland Gin

Luxe recommends: ‘Ponteland London Dry’

Clear, classic and smooth. This Geordie take on the timeless London Dry leads with bold juniper flavours and goes down silky smooth, bursting with citrus notes and a touch of sweet spice on the finish. Hand crafted and small batch, this one is a must have in the drinks cabinet.

The story…

North East Distillery was founded by Jordan Morris, a local lad with a passion for good spirits. He always had a thirst for premium craft tipples and decided he’d like to try his hand making his own small batch gin. After many trials, Jordan eventually made his Ponteland Gin – one raspberry and blackberry, the other London Dry. The raspberry and blackberry sold out not long after it went on sale, proving that Jordan had made something special with his start-up distillery.

WL Distillery

Location: Durham

North East WL Distillery

Luxe recommends: ‘1st Edition’

The first ever bottle of gin brought to the market by WL, this elegant and award-winning bottle was inspired by the garden of the distiller’s granddad. Boasting an aroma reminiscent of fresh fruit and the summer sunshine, this delightfully balanced tipple tantalises the tastebuds with notes of apple, pear, raspberries and blackberries.

The story…

Inspired by spending summers in his grandad’s garden eating fresh fruit, founder Scott Wilson-Laing created WL Gin to give people a taste of the natural beauty that can be found here in the North East. It’s all about the great British garden and the nostalgic flavours that we all know and love. All of their gin is small batch and handmade.

Newcastle Gin

Location: Newcastle

North East Newcastle Gin

Luxe recommends: ‘Rhubarb and Ginger’

A classic full strength gin with extraordinarily bold flavours of rhubarb and ginger, this sweet gin goes down a treat on each and every occasion.

The story…

Inspired by a passion for craft spirits, Harry Vaulkhard took the opportunity to create Newcastle Gin whilst refitting the Bealim House pub in the heart of Newcastle. Since then, the gins have won awards and have featured in bars and homes across the nation.

Behind the botanicals…

With Newcastle Gin Master Distiller, Harry Vaulkhard

What inspired the creation of your distillery?

I have always loved craft drinks, and in particular spirits and gin. When I had the opportunity to build a distillery into a pub we were refitting called Bealim House in Newcastle, it was really a no brainer. I wanted to bring a unique product and experience to the enthusiastic and knowledgeable customers of this great city – something which, at that point, was uncatered for.

In your eyes, what makes the perfect gin?

It’s like riding a unicycle… ‘it’s all about balance’. I’m a big believer that taste is hugely subjective and what one person loves, someone else may hate – but for me, a strong punch of juniper (or it’s not really gin!) should be followed up with some lean minerality and finished off with an elegant structure of florals and spices.

How much time and effort goes into making a bottle of your gin?

Each batch of our London Dry style gin takes 48 hours to produce. This is really the straight forward part, but there were many months, even years, that went into developing our World Gin Awards Gold Medal winning recipe. I was distilling awful gins for my own consumption for years before I went to Herriot Watt to learn how to do the job properly, so our current recipes are a combination of all that I’ve learned from then to now.

What makes your gin stand out from the rest?

I guess we have a cool but genuine story. We are the first and only commercial distillery in Newcastle in over 200 years, we use highly purified Newcastle city water to take our final product down to bottling strength and it’s all made by me just 200 yards from the original Newcastle Brewery site. But honestly, it’s the quality of the liquid.

How important is it that people support independent distilleries?

Really important, as per my previous comment. The cost and effort for us to distil and craft our liquids is huge. I’m a massive fan of people trying all locally produced products, but it’s also important to try and avoid the ‘re-branders’ that are trying to surf on the back of the wave of effort that the rest of us are putting in, you may as well support mass produced, internationally available products.

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