I’m with Sara of Lytham Gin/SandGrown Spirits/Le Roti
I was born in St Annes War Memorial hospital 50 years ago. My mum was on the same ward and in the same bay as my Granny had been when she had my Dad there 25 years earlier. I am as Sandgrown as they come. In fact, I’ve just had my DNA analysed by Ancestry.com and I’m 86% northern! I am a proud Lancastrian.
Why on earth did you decide to make your own Gin?
I love science, particularly chemistry. Always have. As a little girl I loved finding out about the medicinal uses of plants and wanted to know what was in them that made them work. I am a bit of a geek. I studied Chemistry at university and specialised in organic chemistry.
And between Uni and now?
I worked for a short time in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry before training to be a teacher. I really wanted to share my passion for science with others. I taught Chemistry (and biology and physics) for 24 years, spending the last 10 of those years as an Assistant Head Teacher.
I had dreams of becoming a Headteacher but I became disillusioned and eventually unhappy and decided that I wanted to do something different.
So at 47 I handed my notice in and entered the world of Le Roti. I discovered that I loved being my own boss and running a business much more than I expected. But, I missed the science aspect. I did a bit of tutoring early last year which sort of satisfied me but by late autumn I was getting a bit restless and started thinking about how I could use my love of science and combine it with running a business and possibly enhancing what we do at Le Roti.
SO was Gin an obvious choice?
Well, yes! I’ve always loved gin, even before the current revival in its popularity. It was something I’d drink as an 18 year old (and younger when I could get away with it) and I have a huge collection of craft gins at home. I began reading about it and after speaking to most of the bar owners in Lytham, it turned out that there was probably a market for a gin made in Lytham so I decided to have a crack at making it myself.
Where did you start?
It is actually illegal to distil your own spirits without a licence from HMRC so that’s the first thing I applied for back in early February. It takes weeks to obtain one, and they don’t give them out to just anyone, so whilst I waited I used a method called cold-compounding to experiment with all sorts of botanicals (the herbs, fruits and spices that give gin its character) to get an idea of how they all taste and how and how blending them make up a gin’s character. I also drank a lot of gin! Different gins from small batch distillers all over the country. I wanted to make sure that my gin, when I made it, stood up to other commercially available gins and did Lytham proud.
Then. along with my friend Steph, a very talented graphic designer, looked at everything in Lytham, from the obvious to the minute details for inspiration to create the logo and eventually the bottle design. If you look closely at Lytham Windmill you’ll see the detail that has been used to create the S for Sandgrown Spirits on our label.
In mid March I filed Steph’s design with the Intellectual Property Office to obtain a trademark for my precious Lytham Gin and also Sandgrown Spirits, the name I had decided to give the company making the gin. Rather than pinning everything on gin, it allows me to diversify further down the line and make vodka or liqueurs or maybe even rum! But at the moment, it’s all about the gin!
(so glad she mentioned Vodka)
Eventually, my precious licence arrived and I was able to start making distilled gin to try out my recipes properly. All of the earlier experimentation paid off and after about a month of intense distilling, I ended up with something wonderful!
Massive confession but not being a Gin Drinker myself, sell it to me!
Gin can’t be called gin unless it contains juniper berries and my gin has an unmistakable flavour and smell of juniper. I’ve used 10 other botanicals to balance this flavour, and each plays an important part. Coriander gives a sweet lemon and floral note, angelica adds a little bitterness, fresh orange peel adds a light fruitiness and dried bitter orange gives a citrusy depth. Grains of paradise give it an almost peppery spice with a hint of vanilla, rowan berries provide a slight sweet fruitiness, kafir lime leaves add a bit of sharpness and liquorice adds a deep warmth. Orris, the powdered root of iris flowers bind all of these together and help to fix the flavour so it doesn’t disappear with time. Finally, marsh samphire, the local the local botanical I was keen to use doesn’t really add much to the flavour. What it does do, is give a wonderful silky smooth feel to the gin in your mouth, something that’s hard to find when drinking gin. It makes Lytham Gin that little bit different and also means it’s wonderful neat, over a little ice!
Is it available to buy yet?
I’ve not designed my final bottles yet. Steph and I are still working on that, but I wanted to share my wonderful gin with my fellow sandgrown’uns and sandblown’uns as soon as possible. I hope everyone loves it as much as I do.
It’s available at Le Roti and works wonderfully with Fevertree’s Aromatic tonic and a slice of Orange. In fact, I’m thinking of calling it a Queen Mary …. my fellow Maggots will understand
Plans for the future?
Flavoured gin? Gins inspired by local landmarks? Who knows. There’s plenty of ‘ginspiration’ out there!
You must have a great ‘support team’?
I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing support along the way. From my Mum and Dad who believed in me so much that the gave me the financial support I needed to get this crazy idea off the ground, my husband for helping me drink gin and design my website and just hug me and tell me ‘I can do it’, Peter Tankard- a friend and former colleague from school who has been taking some amazing photos, Michael from Attire who has helped with labels and my friend Jo Murray who has been an absolute star. I feel very blessed!
Huge thanks to A-Bar/Ambience particularly Tomas that has been SO helpful throughout the process and are the hosts for my first tastings, and to Helen & Tony of Spago, Java in Lytham and Fifty Four Restaurant in St Annes for being my first stockists.
Lytham Gin from Sandgrown Spirits. Born and made in Lytham by someone born and raised in Lytham!