Love story at the ‘heart’ of aristocratic couple’s expanding liqueur business

Love story at the ‘heart’ of aristocratic couple’s expanding liqueur business

AN enterprising aristocratic couple’s own love story is the inspiration behind their ‘blossoming’ Alcester business launched in lockdown – but now set for expansion.

Described as ‘a little drop of England’s heart,’ St Maur Elderflower Liqueur has already earned its proud producers three prestigious industry awards. Those producers are William and Kelsey Seymour, Earl and Countess of Yarmouth who count among their ancestors Henry VIII’s wife Jane Seymour.

William, 28, is the eldest son of the Marquess of Hertford, and grew up at Ragley Hall, his family’s seat since the 18th century. But St Maur signals an exciting new direction for the Earl who is driven by his vision to build not just a livelihood, but a ‘new legacy’ to be proud of.

Now, expansion plans and new premises at Alcester Park Farm mark the latest chapter for the couple whose own personal journey and entrepreneurial ethos underpins their product.

St Maur Elderflower Liqueur, Earl of Yarmouth, Alcester, Ragley Hall

William said: “St Maur originates in a drink we produced for our guests on our wedding day three years ago, to celebrate with us with a glass of something uniquely special. We wanted a drink that would capture the spirit of that lovely day, something quintessentially English.

“The brand is all about authenticity. It is an artisanal English product from the Heart of England. St Maur is delightful on its own, and it’s also very versatile. Our aim has been to inspire accessible easy-to-make drinks and sublime pre-dinner and brunch cocktails. This is where St Maur really excels.

“We first brought St Maur to market in May last year, and we had intended it to be a wedding drink, but with the pandemic and couples no longer having weddings, we changed tack to start building our business position in central England through farm shops, delis and independent merchants, which were thriving, as our route to market.”

Kelsey, 36, added: “We decided a drink was the way forward because you can use it for celebrations like anniversaries and christenings, events that are all about sharing and enjoying with those you love to be with. The smell and taste of wild elderflower are also very evocative, so it takes us back to a time that is very special to us. The whole concept of St Maur is it has a story to tell.

“As a final flourish, we gave St Maur the Provençal rosé colour – the colour of love. There is, of course, more than one meaning of the word love and the spirit of St Maur celebrates them all.”

St Maur Elderflower Liqueur, Earl of Yarmouth, Alcester, Ragley Hall
William Seymour picks elderflower from the grounds at Ragley Woodlands.

From the recipe, to the ideas on the label, and the name itself, St Maur brings together 1,000 years of heritage and family.

Indeed, provenance is core to the brand’s success. The map co-ordinates on the logo lead to Ladies Wood and an elder grove in the ancient Ragley Woodlands, now cared for by Earl of Yarmouth Estates. Here and in the hedgerows at Alcester Park Farm, in early summer, you’ll now find the elderflowers being feverishly harvested by friends and family members.

There’s also a red-legged partridge on the bottle, a bird successfully introduced to England in the 19th century by an ancestor Francis Seymour, the 5th Marquess, and now the brand’s mascot.

Kelsey said: “It was very important that everything associated with the product had to be authentic. You have to do justice to this fabulous heritage.”

But William added: “My family has an interesting history, in years gone by, and more recently, with characters some good and others less so. I want my sons though also to inherit a contemporary story that’s not based on the mores of the past, but which is much more forward looking. I want to pass on the values of tenacity, honesty, and hard work, and reinvigorate the spirit of our family motto ‘by faith and love’.”

St Maur Elderflower Liqueur, Earl of Yarmouth, Alcester, Ragley Hall
St Maur is available in 70cl and 20cl bottles.

St Maur already lays claim to a Great Taste Award 2 Star rating, International Spirits Challenge Silver Award, and Best English Floral in the World Liqueur Awards.

William said: “We’re very proud of these awards, especially as we spent the two years after our wedding refining and perfecting the drink.”

The business expansion comes at a time of increasing demand for the product which can now be found in an ever-growing number of retail outlets across the Heart of England region as well as restaurants and bars, including now, in London.

Kelsey added: “Moving to the farm is hugely exciting and completely transformative for us as a family and business. We now have space to dedicate to drink production after previously taking over my parents’ house!”

Continuing in the St Maur’s spirit of love, the couple have also been working with local charities which are both close to their hearts and aligned to the company’s ‘can do’ ethos, such as Warwickshire-based Riding For The Disabled.

They’re keen to give back to the environment too, including a commitment to pick no more than 30% of the wild elderflower blossom.

William said: “We aim to run a responsible sustainable business and to perform to the ‘triple bottom line’ of people, planet, profits, in that order. Our ethos is to make the most of what you have, when you have it, where you are. That must include the environment too.”

St Maur Elderflower Liqueur, Earl of Yarmouth, Alcester, Ragley Hall
Andrew Wells and Kelsey and William Seymour at the new farm premises.

Another St Maur Director – and Kelsey’s father – Andrew Wells said: “The pandemic slowed the business down at first but there was some benefit in that we were able to take time to gain a better understanding of our consumers and our product’s appeal.

“So far we have proof of concept that we have a cracking product and now moving to the farm means the business has space to expand. It is hugely exciting because we’re able to leave behind the limitations and uncertainty we had before and focus on growth whilst still maintaining the essential and authentic craft nature of St Maur.

“St Maur offers a little drop of England’s heart – but the world is our oyster.”

St Maur advocates responsible drinking, and the choice of better quality.

Visit St Maur here

Some St Maur cocktail recipes to try these
The map co-ordinates on the bottle lead to Ladies Wood and an elder grove in the ancient Ragley Woodlands.


Tasting Notes:

St Maur is for sipping or mixing, in long drinks and cocktails. Unmistakable from the pour, floral with citrus, and notes of red fruit, balanced on the palette, with a long, pleasing finish.

St Maur is a contemporary liqueur made to be versatile, built around the same four components you need to make a cocktail – a base spirit, a sweet and sour element, and flavour. It can be enjoyed with all kinds of cocktails, and long drinks, in a simple fizz with soda, tonic or ginger ale, ‘royale’ with champagne, on the rocks, or on its own.

Stir St Maur elderflower with freshly squeezed lime juice, Prosecco, mint leaves, and ice, and it makes probably the best Hugo cocktail in the world, the Hugo St Maur.  Truly one of the world’s great brunch cocktails.  Enjoy!

Midlands Air Festival to host RAF Red Arrows at Alcester

Midlands Air Festival to host RAF Red Arrows at Alcester

The RAF Red Arrows will make their UK debut performance for 2021 at the Midlands Air Festival.

The festival, which takes place at Ragley Hall on Friday 4th to Sunday 6th June, will host the RAF Red Arrows, RAF Typhoon Display Team, Battle of Britain Spitfire pair and RAF Falcons.

Midlands Air Festival, Red Arrows, Ragley Hall, Alcester
The Red Arrows in action.

Not only will this be the public’s first opportunity to see the new displays for the 2021 season, but this will also be the first Red Arrows full display in the UK since the pandemic, due to the inevitable cancellation of events up and down the country in 2020.

The RAF Red Arrows are one of the finest and most respected jet aerobatic teams in the world and the nation’s favourite wherever they display in the UK. Arriving in the sky over the historic Ragley Estate, they will showcase their new arrival formation for 2021 called ‘The Wall’. The team will then display a series of different formations with their wingtips just a few feet apart, before breaking into two sections for the dynamic part of their show, featuring nail-biting high-speed opposition passes and spectacular breaks.

The RAF will also bring three front line fighters to the show, the first being the incredible Typhoon FGR4 jet, capable of a maximum speed of 1,300mph. The Typhoon is the RAF’s current front-line fighter, protecting UK airspace 24/7 and on deployment around the globe. The others are the front-line fighters of the 1940’s, the Supermarine Spitfire.

Midlands Air Festival, Red Arrows, Ragley Hall, Alcester
A Typhoon jet of 29 Squadron, Royal Air Force.

Used in all theatres of WW2, the Spitfire played a pivotal role in winning the Battle of Britain. These aircraft are part of the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and are two of a number of WW2 aircraft that the RAF preserve in flying condition as a living memorial to the pilots, crews and builders of these iconic aircraft and to inspire future generations. Both aircraft will fly some unforgettable displays, featuring the unique capabilities that have made them so famous in their respective eras.

The final addition to this fantastic line up is the RAF Falcons Parachute Display Team. The Falcons are the UK’s premier military parachute display team. Celebrating their 60th anniversary the team will fly their new commemorative display at the Midlands Air Festival. The world’s most accomplished military skydivers will leap from their aircraft, trailing smoke to make them easier to spot. Once they deploy their canopies, they will carry out a series of manoeuvres and set pieces, including their famous non-contact canopy stacking and relative work.

The military additions complete the spectacular air display programme for the 2021 Midlands Air Festival which include formation aerobatics from Team Raven, Rich Goodwin in his high energy Muscle Biplane, the mighty Boeing B-17 4 engine bomber Sally B, acclaimed aerobatics pilot Chris Jesson in his classic Stampe Biplane, the nine tiger moths of the Tiger 9 Display Team, the Westland Wasp helicopter and many more.

There will also be a unique opportunity to see two powered airships and mass ascents of over 120 hot air balloons including Europe’s largest collection of special shape character balloons. In addition to this, breath taking giant kites will take to the skies and some of the UK’s largest historic radio-controlled models will conduct a stunning airfield attack.

The director of aviation for the event, Trevor Graham said, “We are delighted and honoured to have so many of the nation’s top military and civilian aviators to support us and fly for the people of the Midlands. What better way to blow away the lockdown blues than a stunning day out in the wide-open spaces of the historic Ragley Hall with the best of the best!”

Tickets to the Midlands Air Festival must be purchased in advance and are limited to allow for capacity restrictions and government regulations pertaining at the time of the event. Organisers are advising those wishing to attend to book their tickets early to avoid disappointment. Children under 14 can attend for free, when accompanied by an adult ticket holder.

Midlands Air Festival, Red Arrows, Ragley Hall, Alcester

MOD participation is subject to operational confirmations and PDAs.

To keep up to date with the latest news and information visit the Midlands Air Festival website or follow the event on Twitter @midlandsairfest, Instagram @midlandsairfestival and Facebook @midlandsairfestival.