My name is Oli Stokes, I’m 24, and I’ve been distilling the world’s best gin for just over 12 months. It all started with a phone call from one local business to another in search of an extra pair of hands in the run up to Christmas. My Dad, being on the receiving end of […]
My name is Oli Stokes, I’m 24, and I’ve been distilling the world’s best gin for just over 12 months.
It all started with a phone call from one local business to another in search of an extra pair of hands in the run up to Christmas. My Dad, being on the receiving end of this phone call and the proprietor of Farndon Fields Farm Shop (a proud Warner Edwards stockist), offered my services.
I graduated from University with a 1st class Medical Sciences degree in 2013, but like many of my classmates, didn’t actually know what I wanted to do with it. This naturally led me back into the family business as an opportunity to do something while I figured out what my true calling was. Various roles and several months later I was thoroughly fed up and no closer to finding the answer. It was at this time that Sion presented the opportunity to get involved at Warner Edwards.
I started off corking, wax-sealing, hand labelling, and packaging bottles for hours on end just feet from the still while all the time gazing at it and scrutinizing the intricate pipework and genius German engineering. This was accompanied by a persistent flow of questions from me to Sion about every aspect of the beautiful copper machine and how it worked. I quickly gained a working knowledge of distilling, and coupled with a nerd-like enthusiasm, Sion entrusted me with the duty of crafting this magical juniper spirit.
Approximately 92 distillations, 37704 litres, and 53864 bottles later I’m starting to get to know Curiosity pretty well and have developed a healthy passion for my craft. What excites me the most is the almost endless possibilities of ingredients and flavour combinations that can go into what we call gin. This opens the door for crazy ideas and an ample source of flavour experiments to stimulate a naturally ingrained scientific curiosity…and you can drink the results! This unique combination of art and science really does make being a distiller a truly exciting challenge and I look forward to creating many more interesting and appealing interpretations of this classic spirit for the world to enjoy.
By Oli Stokes, Head Distiller
From a 200 year old converted barn on our farm in the quaint village of Harrington, Northamptonshire, Curiosity, our magnificent copper pot still works her magic. She takes our farms’ pure, natural spring water, grain spirit, 11 botanicals, including our home grown elderflower and transforms them into a fantastically smooth and aromatic dry gin.
Each batch is small, and every single bottle is carefully handcrafted by us, from the filling to the wax seal and label finishing. W.E. think it’s pretty special and best served with friends – let us know if you agree.
We first met at Harper Adams Agricultural College back in 1997, and as many of you know, the friends you make on the first few days of University often become friends for life. We had been talking about starting a business since we left Harper, and in 2009 we started to discuss ideas in earnest. The dream centered on using our family farms to the best of their abilities and working for ourselves.
We initially struck upon the idea of producing essential oils. The intention was to grow crops such as lavender and then extract the oil. To facilitate this process you need a still, and being practical lads we started to think of ways of using the still for the rest of the year which led us to alcohol... the rest, as they say, was history and Warner Edwards Distillery was born.
Initially we looked into distilling vodka from Sion's farm, Bryngwyn Mawr, in North Wales but through planning and research decided to distil gin from a converted old barn on Tom's family farm, Falls Farm in Harrington, Northamptonshire. This idea sat better on our palate. We are both avid gin consumers. It is a wonderful spirit that you can carefully craft to make your very own and as we found out, with the right ingredients and the right water you can make something really special.
The village of Harrington, is said to be 'built on rock and water', with natural springs in abundance across Falls Farm and its historically terraced fields. These fields were once the park and gardens of a medieval manor house. The water used in the distillation and cutting back of the gin is from a spring 300m from the distillery. We tasted all the springs and chose the sweetest, based on taste approach as opposed to a scientific one. Every bottle we sell contains 56% natural spring water from the farm, which makes it our most important ingredient.
We developed the recipe with the help of our very good friend Heather, a professional flavour development consultant, who brought her expertise to our rescue. Hundreds of samples were mixed up and drunk around the kitchen table with a very willing team of volunteers. Three of our key botanicals are juniper, coriander and cardamom. The aim was always to produce a balanced gin that was smooth enough to drink on its own, as a luxury spirit should be, but also capable of holding its own in a gin and tonic.
We distilled our first batch in Curiosity, our beautiful bespoke Arnold Holstein copper pot still, in November 2012 and on the 6th December 2012 the distillery opened and the first bottles were sold. The final spirit surpassed everyone’s expectations, a smooth taste with a warm flavour that fills the mouth but is not aggressive on the palate.
After years of hard work, Warner Edwards Harrington Dry Gin was a reality, the result of two friends with an ambition and vision of how a truly hand crafted artisan spirit should be produced and enjoyed.
“Saving the world from mediocre gin”
“Knowledge is power, but strength is family and friends – United in Spirit”
“Looking for quality retailers through my GINoculars”
“Ensuring gin lovers never go thirsty”
“To inGINity and beyond!”
“Behind every great man… is a woman that knows her gin”
“Forgive me father for I have ginned”
“A love of great gin + a love of accountancy = a fantastic job”
“Mastering the art of craft”
“Ginspiring bartenders across the UK”
Curiosity, our gorgeous copper pot still, was custom built for us in Germany by Arnold Holstein.
Arnold Holstein is a long established, family run, distilling equipment manufacturer based near Lake Constance in the heart of Germany’s fruit growing region.
The build quality, and craftsmanship of Arnold Holstein really stood out to us when we were hunting for the perfect still to make our gin. The thing that really grabbed us and sat very well with our ethos for quality in everything we do, was the patent that Arnold Holstein hold for the catalyser at the top of our column. The catalyser contains a huge number of densely packed copper sheets through which the vapour passes, greatly increasing the interaction of our spirit with the copper.
The copper, whilst also looking magnificent, is extremely important in the rectification of our spirit. The copper helps to remove the impurities from the base spirit and botanical recipe so that we end up with a much purer and cleaner spirit coming through the condenser at the end of the process. This is key to the smoothness and palatability of our gin.
In order to produce a world-class end product, using the best possible method, I.e. London Dry one-shot distillation, you need the best possible equipment. Although our still Curiosity is small by industrial standards, she has a 500 litre pot, which enables us to produce up to 700 bottles per distillation run.
Curiosity’s pot is heated through a water jacket to give a more even and gradual heat distribution giving us greater control over the distillation process and a more consistently delicious product batch-to-batch.
We love Curiosity as she really is the heart of our business and brand, she also happens to be the only source of heating in the distillery, we hope you love her too; you’ll certainly love what she produces!
For those of you who are wondering why our still is called Curiosity, well, there are a couple of reasons. The word curiosity originates from the Latin word curiosus, and can be defined as the process of learning and desire to acquire knowledge and skill. It can also be defined as a thirst for knowledge or a weird and wonderful object (which she definitely is).
Aside from that, the evening before she arrived from Germany we went in to the distillery to check that the newly laid floor was ready and dry. It was indeed dry and ready, however a curious cat had been in to check before us and left its paw prints in the floor. However there was no obvious exit route for the cat and the paw prints stopped very abruptly – Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.
We are immensely proud of this fantastically smooth gin, and we work tirelessly to maintain the quality from one batch to the next.
The complex, spicy flavour lends itself very well to a classic G&T, whilst its crisp and clean nature means than it works tremendously neat, or in short cocktails, such as a Dry Martini.
We use 11 botanicals; angelica root, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander seed, dried elderflower, ground nutmeg, juniper, lemon peel, orange peel and one secret ingredient.
The Harrington Dry Gin is intense, well rounded and complex; bursting with botanical flavour. Aromatic and spicy, with scents of delicate citrus, elderflower, ginger and cardamom flavours, with a sweet, moreish aftertaste.
After a 10 hour distillation period, the resulting gin is 89% abv. We let it sit for 14 days to allow the flavours to blend together, and then cut back to 44% with natural spring water from Falls Farm.
Inspired by Tom’s mother Adèle, this is a very special gin which only uses fresh, handpicked elderflower, and can therefore only be produced once a year. During peak elderflower season (late May to early June) we handpick elderflower from our farms in England and Wales. The petals are separated and added to batches of our Harrington Dry Gin.
This is a fabulous and subtle infusion which is good enough to drink neat, but also makes a wonderfully floral and delicate G&T. Perfect for a summer evening, sipped with friends and family.
We use our Harrington Dry Gin with 11 botanicals; angelica root, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander seed, dried elderflower, ground nutmeg, juniper, lemon peel, orange peel and one secret ingredient as the base for our Harrington Elderflower Gin.
The 89% abv pure gin is infused post-distillation for a week with fresh elderflower – then the petals are removed before adding a little sugar and some of our spring water to bring it down to 40% abv.
A slightly sweet gin on the front of the palate, a little less complex than the Harrington Dry Gin, gives way to a lovely subtle elderflower finish.
We take our award-winning Harrington Dry Gin from the still at 89% abv and in this we steep beautiful sloe berries for one month, before adding sugar and natural spring water from Falls Farm. The result is a spicy and rich liqueur, with a deep fruity flavour.
We use our Harrington Dry Gin with 11 botanicals; angelica root, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander seed, dried elderflower, ground nutmeg, juniper, lemon peel, orange peel and one secret ingredient as the base for our Harrington Sloe Gin.
The sloe berries are macerated in the gin for at least one month, before removing the fruit and adding sugar to taste, and our natural spring water to bring the gin to 30% abv.
We never let a good thing go to waste, our sloe berries are not discarded once removed from the liquid; we redistill them to extract the alcohol absorbed, and use the resulting clear, high-proof sloe gin to intensify to sloe flavour.
Wonderfully rich and deep in fruit flavour with a lovely underlying sweetness which come together to give a warm velvet cacophony of flavour on your palate.
Our most regal gin with real provenance, made using a crop of rhubarb that was originally grown in the kitchen gardens of Buckingham Palace during the reign of Queen Victoria, and has since had quite a journey. Half of the crop was sent to the Vice Regal Lodge in Dublin, which later became the President’s House. It has now made its way back to Crown Estate land in Lincolnshire, and is being organically grown by Fraser M Key. The remaining half left in the grounds of Buckingham Palace was destroyed during The War, which makes our rhubarb very special indeed.
We use our Harrington Dry Gin with 11 botanicals; angelica root, black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander seed, dried elderflower, ground nutmeg, juniper, lemon peel, orange peel and one secret ingredient as the base for our Victoria’s Rhubarb Gin.
The rhubarb is thick and fibrous, so we freeze it to break it down and once thawed, we squeeze it through a cider press. Sugar is added to balance the acidity of the rhubarb and it is then blended with the 89% abv Harrington Dry Gin to bring it to 40%.
A wonderful British spicy gin with a dominating and robust rhubarb taste.
You can buy our gins online here.
Alternatively, our gins are available at the following retailers: