AN award-winning gin distiller whose business started from his Kineton kitchen three years ago, is joining forces with the hotelier who became his first customer – for the launch of a new Warwickshire gin school.
A transformed formerly derelict 17th-century castle tower is the unique setting for The Castle Gin School, which opens on February 4th.
It marks an expansion for Pinnock Distillery’s Dan Beckett whose collaboration with The Castle at Edgehill, also celebrates the brands’ shared historical connections.
Dan, who now runs his distillery from the Grade II-listed tower on the border of four counties overlooking the battlefield, said: “This was our local and we’ve been coming here for about eight years. It is the first pub I got the gin into and a very special place to me.
“It couldn’t be a better fit. We’re going to be making the gin at a location where Charles 1st raised the standard at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642. He was the first ruler to tax alcohol in the 1630s when many people were distilling in their kitchens and regulated it all. The fact that the gin school will be overlooking the very spot where he stood at the top of the hill in the battle is unique.
“When I started out 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.”
Local provenance runs through the heart of Pinnock Gin. The 11 botanicals used in its original Warwickshire Dry gin include Cotswold Lavender from Snowshill, near Broadway, quince from Warwick and honey from Red Road Nursery pick your own farm in Little Kineton.
The distillery also sources local ingredients for its Rhubarb and Strawberry and Sloe, Damson and Honey blends and is soon to introduce a new rum recipe which gin schoolers will be among the first to try.
Visitors to The Castle can choose from a one-hour Pinnock Gin Taster Session or three-hour Gin School (for parties of up to 14 people) in which they’ll learn about the history and provenance of the product and location, before being guided by Dan through the gin-making process using a range of botanicals. As well as enjoying plenty of Gin samples along the way, they will get to take home a 70cl bottle of their own unique recipe, which can also be reordered at the distillery on a later date.
Dan said: “It offers the whole experience with the gin school, restaurant and rooms you can stay in so you don’t have to drive into the countryside somewhere and then worry about how you’re going to get back or that someone has to be the designated driver and can’t participate properly.”
The Castle Gin School, which was supported by a grant from Warwickshire County Council, is the latest offering from The Castle at Edgehill, which also boasts an award-winning restaurant, four-star accommodation and wedding licence.
The venue is one of four under the ownership of The Free Spirit Pub Company founded by Mark Higgs.
Mark said: “I’m over the moon we have managed to team up with Dan, a genuine Gin boff! I’m super excited about growing both the Castle and Pinnock brands and offering something truly unique and special to our wonderful guests.
“Pinnock Gin is a great product and we’re both on a journey where we can each bring different elements to the project. It’s great to be able to offer something more and add another aspect to the business and this certainly offers something a little bit different. I don’t know of any other pub that offers a nano distillery. This new project will allow us to continue to evolve and grow.”
It also marks a return to teaching for former Warwickshire College lecturer Daniel, who, two years ago, walked away from his career to pursue his dream of running a distillery.
“It’s a great opportunity to tap into my wider skillset share my passion for gin and gin-making with other people. But the main aim is for everyone to have fun and for people to walk away at the end with a bottle of gin that they’ll enjoy.
“Together, we knew we had the potential to create one of the most iconic and breath-taking micro gin distilleries and so, the Castle Gin School was born.”
The Gin School is initially available for Friday and Saturday afternoon sessions but group or corporate bookings outside these times can be requested.
- The Castle Experience costs £325 for two and includes Prosecco on arrival , a night’s stay, the Gin School Experience , three-course dinner, cooked breakfast.
- The Castle tower, also known as the ‘Radway’ or ‘Round tower’, was intended to replicate Guy’s tower at nearby Warwick Castle. The Castle first became a pub in 1822, when it was sold by Sanderson Miller and acquired by the Hook Norton Brewery in 1922, with Mark Higgs, the current tenant, taking over the lease in 2013.
- Other venues under the Free Spirit Pub ownership are: The Sun Inn, Hook Norton; The Seven Stars. Marsh Baldon and The Red Lion at Hellidon.
- The battle of Edge Hill was fought on Sunday, 23rd October 1642 and was the first major battle in the English Civil War between the Royalist forces of King Charles I and the Parliamentarian Army commanded by the Earl of Essex.
- The King’s army had to descend from the edge of the escarpment if they wished to engage the Parliamentarians in battle, because the escarpment was far too steep for Essex to consider an attack against the Royalist army while it was on the edge. At the time of the battle, there were far fewer trees. The battle was inconclusive, with both sides claiming victory. It would take several more years and many more battles before the Parliamentarians won the war.