What a tonic! York gets its first ever gin distillery

The York Gin team in their distillery. L-R: Paul Crossman, Harry Cooke, Emma Godivala and Pete McNichol. Photograph: YorkMix
25 Jan 2018 @ 7.21 pm
| Business, Food & drink

York has clocked up many great achievements in its first 2,000 years but it always lacked one thing.

Its own gin.

Finally, however, that glaring omission has been rectified. Even now the city’s first distillery is firing up ready to produce the very first batch of official York Gin.

Within weeks the thirsty city will be able to sample this very special drink in city pubs and bars, in cocktails – and at home.

Spirited brainwave

The York Gin still in action
The York Gin Company



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The new drink is the creation of the York Gin Company.

This has been created by a quartet of enthusiasts all with links to the Bishopthorpe Road area of the city, including Paul Crossman who runs city pubs The Swan, The Slip Inn, The Volunteer Arms and the Woolpack.

The other three pioneers are Harry Cooke, Emma Godivala and Pete McNichol.

“I am a gin obsessive – and I love York,” said Emma. “So I thought, why hasn’t York got its own gin? Lots of other cities do – Edinburgh has its own gin.”

The family

So she decided to register the name ‘York Gin’ – only to find that someone else had beaten her to it. Meeting up with these like-minded people, the enterprise was born.

Sadly since then one of the founders – Jon Farrow, the popular York publican who was Paul’s business partner – has died. He will be the first person the group toasts when the first batch of gin is ready.

Perfecting the flavour

This recipe still was where the flavour testing took place

It has taken more than a year to go from the idea to the drink being ready.

In that time the team have found a venue for their distillery – in a nondescript industrial unit to the south of the city.

They’ve completed all the licensing required, and assembled a bespoke, electrically-powered 300 litre still, acquiring sections from Ohio in the US, the Highlands of Scotland, and Portugal.

Most important they have completed an exhaustive round of testing until they hit on the perfect flavour.

All gin must be flavoured with juniper. The rest of the flavour is added via a basket of botanicals during the distilling process.

The team have experimented with different flavour combinations via their smaller recipe still.

It’s tough work – but somehow they got through it!

And all four love the finished drink – which includes black pepper, cardamom and grains of paradise, as well as a combination of classic botanicals including angelica and orris root – the ground root of orchids.

YorkMix was fortunate to be given a taste. And it is a smooth, classic, drinkable gin – but with a depth you would never get from the mass-produced variety.

In other words, it is more than worthy of carrying our city’s name.

Cocktail hour

All ready for the first batch

Gin is having a moment.

Last year 47 million bottles were sold, making it the most popular spirit in the UK, with 29% of drinkers voting it their favourite.

“We have seen a massive upturn in gin sales in our pubs,” said Paul. “We have a big range in the Swan, it’s very successful.”

And craft distilleries have sprung up all over the place. Before now, the nearest to York was based at Sutton on the Forest.

Soon Paul will be able to sell York Gin in his pubs. Working at full tilt, the distillery is capable of producing 750 bottles a week.

“You can mix it how you want it,” said Emma. “Because it’s a high quality product you can drink it neat.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what cocktails York’s bartenders come up with using York Gin.”

The first batch of the 42.5% ABV spirit will be produced in 500 special edition 50cl bottles within four weeks.

And 70cl bottles are available to pre-order on the website.

There’s only one thing to say to that… mine’s a large one!