Film lecturer switches focus to dream business

FORMER film lecturer and TV cameraman Daniel Beckett is completely rewriting the script for an exciting new sequel to his life story.

Daniel, from Kineton, is closing the door on the classroom after 11 years teaching Film and Television at Warwickshire College, to launch his new business – as a gin distiller.

Pinnock Gin

And Warwickshire drinkers are quickly acquiring a taste for his hand-crafted Pinnock Dry Gin which has already earned awards and is stocked in more than 35 outlets throughout the county – including a Michelin-starred restaurant.

But it’s been a meticulous route to reinvention for Daniel who admits the professional transition has been a long time coming.

“After university, it was always my ambition to write and direct an independent feature film. I also got into TV and worked on Hollyoaks in the camera department,” he said.

“I began teaching film at my old college, which was fulfilling for a long time, but with greater pressures across the teaching sector, it made me realise that now was as good a time as any to start thinking about doing something else, such as setting up a business.

“I wanted to do something creative as well as have more or less full autonomy over what goes on and how the whole business runs. With the many skills I’d gained from TV and teaching, I wanted to create something that I could realistically make a career out of. I love the fact that I’m seeing the whole process through from beginning to end.”

And, he recalls, it was his association with the TV industry that led him down this new path.’

“My wife is a producer in television and about five years ago she was talking to one of the actresses on the set of the BBC show Doctors about how she and I were trying to get into shape for our wedding. She was advised we should start drinking gin and slimline tonic as an alternative alcoholic drink. I quickly got a taste for G&Ts. Then over time we started to build more of an appreciation for the craft element of it as well. “

“I suppose the eureka moment came when I read an article in The Guardian in 2017 about small-batch distillers and the fact you could actually make gin on a small scale again now.

Pinnock Gin

For the next year the entrepreneur had been busy researching the industry he knew nothing about and, after successfully applying for all the necessary licences, today proudly produces 20cl and 50cl bottles of Pinnock Gin from a 40-litre copper still in his small cottage kitchen which has been transformed into a pint-sized distillery and bottling plant.

“It’s literally, a cottage industry!” he said.

Originally from Leamington and now living in Kineton, Daniel, 38, was keen to celebrate his Warwickshire roots by being able to demonstrate a strong local provenance for his product.

The 11 botanicals used in Pinnock Warwickshire Dry gin include Cotswold Lavender from Snowshill, near Broadway, quince from Alscot Park near Stratford and honey from Red Road Nursery pick your own farm in Little Kineton.

Daniel said: “Quince was an obvious choice as we are in such an historical part of the country. Quince was regarded as the fruit of love by William Shakespeare and in the Tudor period it was one of the main ingredients in a lot of the food. It also adds a unique fruitiness to the gin. The honey adds a hint of sweetness.”

“I was quite keen to keep things as traditional as possible and use a recipe from around that period. I found a recipe book that had been republished from 1636 – so based all my botanicals from that period as well.”

He added: “The history of the area plays a big part in the branding too. We are close to the scene of the first pitched battle of the Civil War in 1642 and when I was doing my research I discovered Charles I was actually the first monarch to bring in taxation on alcohol in the 1630s when many people were distilling in their kitchens.”

In a nod to those historical links, it’s fitting then that the first business to stock Pinnock was The Castle in Edgehill.

Daniel said: “It’s very much in line with our branding. They’re very proud of it there.”

Pinnock – which Daniel says is best described as a ‘smooth gin,’ has also earned pride of place on the drinks menu at, among others, The RSC Rooftop Restaurant in Stratford, Mallory Court Hotel in Leamington and the Michelin-Starred The Cross in Kenilworth.

Daniel Beckett, Pinnock Gin

And it’s already caught the attention of the connoisseurs, winning three awards – a Silver Medal in the ‘Contemporary Styles’ gin category and a Silver Medal in the ‘Gin & Double Dutch Tonic’ competition with the IWSC (International Wine and Spirits Competition) as well as a Great Taste award with The Guild of Fine Food.

Daniel said: “I knew it was a good product, but we are a tiny producer, only producing a few thousand bottles a year, so to be getting international award recognition in our first year is a great boost.”

But settling on those winning botanicals and flavour combinations was a process which could not be rushed. In fact it took six months to finesse.

“As a self-taught distiller, I’d made about 30 gins before I found the one I liked, including some pretty lousy ones! There were a couple of rules I set myself from the outset. As well as containing at least three-local botanicals, I wanted it to be a sippable gin, something you could drink neat. In my opinion if you can drink something and enjoy it on its own then it’s a good gin.”

Daniel Beckett, Pinnock Gin

Pinnock Distillery is now becoming a more familiar brand in the area and feedback from customers to his stall on festival days is so far positive. So does the entrepreneur yet dare to dream big?

“Soon I’ll be exploring wider export opportunities and potentially expanding operations into larger premises, as demand continues to grow.”

“Further down the line, I would eventually also like to offer the visitor experience which is becoming a popular thing to do.”

As for the short-term future, there’s hushed talk of a new product in the testing stages – “We’re looking at developing some fruit gins, which are very popular. I want to develop a new recipe with our local fruit suppliers, which we’ll be releasing very soon!”

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