Leamington’s first ever gin distillery is a step closer to opening after the start-up company behind the concept toasted strong levels of trade.
Dave Blick launched The Warwickshire Gin Company last year selling gin that is inspired by historical Warwickshire tales, with a view to eventually opening up a gin distillery of his own in the town.
Across the UK last year, more than 83 million bottles of gin sold worth around £2.6 billion, with gin sales almost doubling in value in just two years. And despite the ongoing lockdown, Brits still can’t get enough – reports show that gin has been the best-selling spirit for online shoppers since March, according to the Wine & Spirits Association.
The Warwickshire Gin Company’s most popular gin – called Leamington on Parade – is lightly spiced to commemorate the heritage of three of the town’s elephants, who were brought to the area from Sri Lanka by circus performer Sam Lockhart in the mid-1800s.
Other creations include the Kingmaker in honour of the 16th Earl of Warwick which uses forest fruits which were common in his time of power while the The Philosopher’s Daughter features ingredients from a knot garden at Kenilworth Castle during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Orders came pouring in throughout 2019 at various food and drink festivals – generating more than £60,000 in revenue – but then Dave and his team found themselves having to suddenly adapt when the Coronavirus pandemic struck.
Dave used the online marketing knowledge he gained from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce via the CW Business: Start, Grow and Scale Programme, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Warwickshire County Council and the district & borough councils to ramp up his online presence to maintain a strong level of trade.
The business fulfilled more than 1,000 online orders between March and July – alongside diversifying by using the alcohol used in their gin to make thousands of litres of hand sanitiser for frontline workers.
And after a strong period of trade – which has also seen the company rack up more than 6,000 Facebook and Instagram followers – The Warwickshire Gin Company is gearing up to open its distillery in September where the gin can be made on site at its Neilston Street premises.
New HMRC figures show the number of distilleries registered in 2019 shot up to at least 441 as the UK boosted its distillery numbers by at least 80 last year.
The record number of distillery openings saw an increase of 22 per cent, from 361 in 2018.
England now boasts 228 distilleries, adding at least another 62 to its total. Scotland has increased its number of distilleries by 26, taking their total up to 186 distilleries.
At The Warwickshire Gin Company, Dave Blick, who used to own a parcel-carrying franchise for 23 years before going solo, said: “I always used to dream about starting up my own gin distillery, but after receiving help from a distillery in Wales who helped me to research different gin recipes, I took the plunge.
“Even though we launched 18 months ago, with the help from my Business Advisor at the Chamber I’ve probably learned the most in the past four months because we have had to adapt the way we attract business.
“We were initially reliant on sales from attending events, then Covid-19 hit and we suddenly needed to find a way to get a lot of people to buy from us quickly via a different route. The Chamber helped us with marketing techniques, social media and adapting our website in order to capitalise on a scenario where everyone was indoors and using technology more than usual.
“In May alone we generated around £20,000 worth of sales from people either wanting to treat themselves or to send loved ones a gift to say that they were thinking of them.
“The last 18 months has taught us that even during the toughest of times, our business idea works as we can target both consumers directly, as well as local shops and bars, and we are really excited to take it to the next level with the opening of our distillery.”
Start-up businesses are able to gain free support from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce; covering all aspects of setting up a business including free workshops relating to business planning, finance and marketing, alongside personal mentoring and sourcing finance.
Keely Hancox, Operations Manager, from the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, added: “Dave has laced the flavours of his gin with fascinating local history to really make his products stand out in a crowded marketplace, which has undoubtedly helped with his marketing.
“You can have the best product in the world but if you aren’t reaching the right audience then it isn’t going to fulfil its potential. We have worked with Dave to help him to develop a multi-channel approach so that he is maximising sales from online platforms, as well as being ready when physical events get going again.”