I visited Warner’s Distillery when I was back in the UK, during a week of wonderful summer weather. Tom Warner attended Junipalooza Melbourne in 2019 and he and his wife Tina, have joined me on my instagram live sessions (‘Gin Chat Tuesday’) a couple of times, I couldn’t turn down the chance to really delve into the story of Warner’s and the incredible ethos that powers this brand.
Like many distillery founders, Tom Warner and his business partner at the time, Sion Edwards, didn’t set out to make gin. They met at Agricultural college and were looking at ways to to diversify their families farming businesses, and were considering essential oil production.
Tom told me that they decided to pursue gin. This was back in 2009 when craft distilling was just emerging so he was almost put off by the launch of Chase and Sipsmith. He thought that there wouldn’t be room for more gin (ha, can you imagine?).
Fortunately, the team forged ahead, albeit with very little knowledge, researching everything they could. Tom’s mum introduced him to a flavour specialist she knew and recipe development began. It took them about 3 months to perfect the recipe for their London Dry gin.
The idea for their next product came from Tom’s mum. Locally foraged elderflowers were added to the gin post distillation to create a delightful English spirit. Such was the success that their Elderflower gin sold out in 8 weeks!
They’ve had to plant an elderflower orchard to cope with demand! The day I visited was peak harvest season and the team was busy pulling apart the flowers ready for drying.
Warner’s Rhubarb gin is Warner’s best known gin. It launched in 2016 and was one of the first flavoured gins, and in my opinion still one of the best naturally fruity gins. Not a whiff of artificial anything.
Tom met a rhubarb farmer at a local country fair who offered to sell him some fruit, but Tom wasn’t interested, until the farmer told him that it came from a crop belonging to Queen Victoria.
It took time to perfect the recipe, as the team tested whether distilling the fruit or steeping it in the gin would give the best flavour. In the end pressing the rhubarb into juice and adding it to the gin post distillation achieved the result they were after. A third of each bottle of Warner’s Rhubarb gin is fresh juice.
Warner’s deep connection with the countryside is evident in everything they do. Tom redeveloped his mum’s garden into the first botanical garden (BG1) at the distillery, adding plants with distilling in mind. Since then, they’ve added two other gardens with a range of plants used in their products.
Jonny Easter joined Warner’s as their full-time Conservation and Sustainability Manager five years ago and is driving an ambitious program of activities, including adding ponds and waterways on the farm to attract insects, amphibians and birds.
In addition, they’ve just launched Warner’s Nature Marque with their charity partner The Wildlife Trust BCN. This accreditation will be given to pubs that make their outdoor spaces welcoming for wildlife – like planting wildflowers, pollen-rich flowers, installing bird boxes, bug hotels, and hedgehog highways.
To support the launch, Warner’s produced the first wildlife documentary shot entirely in a pub garden, filmed by Emmy and BAFTA award-winning British documentary filmmaker and wildlife photographer, Doug Allen. You can view this beautiful film here.
You’ll be able to find out more about Warner’s from Tom and Tina and taste the Warner’s range at Junipalooza Melbourne in October, get your tickets here.
Warner’s gin is available in Australia in selected retailers.