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Published on April 6th, 2016 | by Alastair Gilmour

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Mothers’ ruin now business success

The gin industry in the UK is booming – last year saw more distilleries opening than ever before with record-breaking sales figures recorded in pubs, bars and restaurants. Figures from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association show that 49 new gin distilleries opened across the country in 2015, contributing to an incredible £500m worth of gin being sold.

Exports have risen by 37% in the past five years, with sales to 139 countries, worth £1.76bn. The North East hasn’t been slow to move, either, with gin – once known as Mothers’ Ruin – being distilled at Durham Distillery and the Number Twenty 2
pub in Darlington Poetic License, based in Sunderland, currently crafts two gins and a vodka, which are all individually bottled, wrapped and labelled by hand.

The business, which produces around 400 bottles per week, is the brainchild of North East entrepreneur Mark Hird who has more than 25 years’ experience in leisure and hospitality, including Sonnet 43 microbrewery, which he launched in Coxhoe, County Durham, in 2012.

“The recent revival in gin has been astounding,” says Mark.  “I noticed demand climbing and spotted a gap in the market for high quality, artisanal spirits that mixed traditional techniques with modern flavours and set about bringing my vision to life.”

Mark invested in a 500-litre pot still and installed it in the Poetic License bar at the Best Western Roker Hotel in Sunderland, then recruited a creative, full-time distiller.

“It was always important we got the right type of people in the Sonnet 43 brewery,” says Mark. “Luke Smith started in sales and he had a passion for real ale, so he asked if he could spend some time in the brewery. He did a shift every Friday, at first filling casks and cleaning out vessels, and it became apparent that his creativity was in brewing.

“Then he said he had been making gin on his mother’s cooker – he had a 20-litre gin still. I loved all the craft gins that were coming up and I’m the type of person who’s not happy doing a job until I know the whole process.

“It was the same with making gin. Luke and I did an Institute of Brewing and Distilling training course.”

Several months on, and Poetic License’s Northern Dry Gin, Old Tom Gin and Graceful Vodka are being stocked across the North East, including popular cocktail bars As You Like It and Floritas in Newcastle, as well as the four-star Wynyard Hall Hotel, County Durham.

Mark admits Poetic License Independent Small Batch Distillery is still at the start of its journey, although national distribution networks have now been set up and listings in major retailers such as North West giants Booths.

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Alastair Gilmour



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