Making gin is “all about the senses” for new producer Pant y Foel Welsh Gin, which in a matter of weeks has launched not one but two flavoured gins.
It is barely a month since Lesley Haythorne’s home-produced flavoured gin went from being a favourite present among friends and family to a business which secured its first orders before even going into production.
For the best part of 20 years, Lesley and husband Richard’s lucky social circle had enjoyed a variety of tipples, such as Sloe Gin and Damson Vodka. But it was when Lesley hit upon the idea of creating a gin with flavours evocative of childhood that things got serious, and with the encouragement of family and friends Pant y Foel Welsh Gin was born.
Using the iconic flavours of ‘retro’ sweets – bubblegum, candy floss, marshmallows, and Parma Violets – Lesley produced Sweet Shop Flavoured Gin, which was launched on Valentine’s Day.
“The response was tremendous,”
says Lesley, who is a part-time community dietician.
“We took samples to a number of restaurants and bars, and we sold it to them before we’d even produced it. They said ‘when you’re ready we’ll take it’!”
It has been an instant hit with the growing gin-appreciating public, with one North Wales bar going through four bottles on the first weekend of stocking it, and was straight on the phone asking for more.
Their second drink – Amber Gin – made its debut earlier this month at the Blas Lleol (Taste Local) event in Ruthin, and looks to be just as much in demand as its Sweet Shop ‘sibling’.
It is made with botanicals from the couple’s garden in Saron, including Lemon Verbena, and flavours and aromas from juniper berries, and pink peppercorns.
The result, says Lesley, is “a vibrant, crisp, citrus, aromatic and refreshing gin which has notes of orange, lemon, cranberries and cinnamon.”
As licenced alcohol compounders, as opposed to distillers, Denbighshire-based Panty y Foel buys in the base gin spirit, but it is Lesley’s ‘alchemy’ skills which transport the alcohol into the unique products which have attracted rave reviews.
But the gin’s flavour is not the only attraction – the branding and packaging are colourfully eye-catching, and the Sweet Shop gin bottles are adorned with red glass heart stoppers.
From the outset, Pant y Foel has been helped by Cywain – a Menter a Busnes delivered project that supports the development of growth orientated businesses in the food and drink sector in Wales.
“Without Cywain we would not be here today, the help we have had from them has been immense. It was their development manager, Llior Radford, who came up with the idea for our branding, which was inspired by the hares playing in behind our cottage and a brooch my Nan gave me when I was 21.”
The past few weeks may have been a whirlwind for the company, but there is no time to sit back and relax, with more public events and the opening of the couple’s restaurant in Ruthin.
With Mother’s Day and Easter fast approaching, Pant y Foel Welsh Gin will be holding tasting sessions at St Asaph’s Tweed Mill Shopping Outlet on March 30th where it is hoped their two gins will appeal to gift-shoppers looking for something different.
While next month sees Lesley and Richard open ‘Small Plates’, a sister eaterie to well-known restaurant ‘On the Hill’, which is run by friends of the couple, Rowan and Imogen Hodgson.
“At Small Plates we will have pizzas, wine, beer, cocktails, and of course gin!”
“Lesley and Richard have great drive,”
says Cywain Development Manager, Llior Radford,
“to achieve a gin launch in such a short space of time was fantastic. I’m now looking forward to their new restaurant opening and to see what’s next for them.”