Any pair of friends that decides to start a business together immediately find themselves with a plethora of crucial strategic questions to answer. For Tom Warner and Sion Edwards, the first was where to produce Warner Edwards Gin.
Although he hasn’t lived their for some time, Sion grew up in Wales near the mountains and the sea - a “particularly awesome part of Wales” according to Tom. A distillery at Sion’s home turf would have afforded the entrepreneurs what could have competed for the most picturesque distillery in the UK. On a clear day, distiller visitors could take a look from the top of a hill to see the spire of Liverpool Cathedral and all the way up the Western coast to Cumbria. On a very clear day, Tom and Sion’s guest could have sipped their gin, discerning the homegrown elderflower on their tongue while also discerning the outline of the Isle of Man with their eyes.
No matter how nice Sion’s Bryngwyn Mawr farm sounds, ultimately, the mates chose the more practical path, installing their still on Tom’s family farm in Northamptonshire outside of the village of Harrington near Kettering. Apart from now being a distillery, Falls Farm is a finishing farm, welcoming cows and sheep to graze on the grassy lands for the few months before they head to the abattoir. This is not to say that Tom’s Harrington home doesn’t have its own attractive qualities. Surrounded by green fields and tree-pocked hills, Falls Farm provides postcard-worthy images at the heart of England and proper British history to boot.
A SPRING AND A STILL
The land once hosted a manor dating back to Medieval times. After Henry the VIII dissolved the nation’s monasteries, the manor passed to private hands where its house was finally torn down in 1745. The remains of the manor including terraced gardens, monastic fish ponds and sunken gardens continue their interment on what has become an archaeological site. The same spring water that filled those ponds and irrigated those gardens so long ago now brings Harrington Dry Gin down to bottling strength after collection from the spring 400 metres from where the still sits today.
Tom and Sion invested in an Arnold Holstein still, a manufacturer in the German state of Baden-Wurttemburg near the Bodensee. Many UK craft distillers have turned to Germany for their stills due to their expertise in fabricating smaller stills for which their British colleagues have lost their touch. Warner Edwards was the first to choose a Holstein starting a trend. Tom says that now the manufacturer has had a dozen more orders from UK distillers.
The Warner Edwards pair also opted for what they considered a more solid construction and patented catalyzer that helps to make an especially smooth spirit. They had decided early on to make a gin that’s drinkable neat - something that they had trouble finding during their research. Their logic on making a sip-worthy gin? They thought of a chef who once said, “If the wine isn’t good enough to drink, then it’s not good enough to cook with.” With that in mind, the increased copper surface of the 500-litre Holstein suited them best.
As most distillers do, this distilling duo was charged with choosing a name for their copper baby and like any new parents, had trouble finding the right one. It came to them in a curious manner. The washroom of the 200-year old barn that sits on Falls Farm required a slight makeover for the arrival of the still, including a new floor. As the concrete settled a cat wandered in, indenting the floor with paw prints. As Tom and Sion racked their brains for a name, Tom’s brother-in-law let out “Curiosity” as in “curiosity killed the cat”. With the paw prints permanently pushed into the concrete, they had found the perfect name.
THE ROYAL TREATMENT
A primary aspect of Falls Farm’s practicality over Sion’s Welsh farm was its location close to London where the WE team could more easily arrive at trade shows and speak with the movers and shakers of the UK spirits industry. This proved rather fortuitous for the brand’s visibility. During a visit to London in the early months of production, the head of wine and spirits at Fortnum & Mason, which has supplied the Royal Family, took Tom and Sion into the high end store’s Crypt. Upon tasting their wares, the drinks professional decided then and there that the product was to populate F&Ms shelves, front and center on the spirits floor display. That’s when Tom and his Irish fiancée (now wife) decided that it might be best to postpone their wedding plans a while.
The location close to London also means more visitors for the distillery. The distillers will happily arrange to pick you up in Kettering if you decide to go up for a visit. Occasionally they even receive distinguished guests. In December 2014, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, stopped off to learn about the budding British craft distilling industry and to taste some of WE’s gin, including the Victoria Rhubarb inspired by his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.
As you drink your bottle of Warner Edwards Harrington Dry this February, you will also be glad to know that each bottle receives the royal treatment from its founders. All bottles are filled, labeled, corked, waxed and boxed by hand. They want you to know that “a lot of passion and care has gone into what you’re drinking.”