Following on from our Q&A in 2017, All Things Business caught up with Tom Warner…
It’s been 2 years since we last caught up with you…what has happened in that time?
Over the past two years a lot of exciting things have happened. The first being our recent brand re-fresh from Warner Edwards to Warner’s. Over the last 12 months, Tina, the team and I have invested in defining who we are, our brand positioning and our core values. I’ve always said that we are a farm born, inventive and big-hearted team, so why not try to communicate that with all our customers and allow them to connect with our truly amazing brand story.
In addition to this, we have been working on adding exciting flavours to our award-winning group of craft gin products. In late 2017, we launched Honeybee Gin, which is our most complex recipe to date and every bottle contains a dollop of honey from our own beehives. It’s absolutely glorious.
This naturally sweet gin has been released in partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). We have a great partnership with them, which helps us drive our ongoing conservation and sustainability initiatives. We have been working hard the past few years to ensure we farm and distil our gin in the most sustainable way possible, which is an ongoing project and goal of ours. We even hired a Conversation and Sustainability Manager, who is also our beekeeper.
Overall, the past two years have seen our business go from strength to strength as a result of the teams’ continuous hard work. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved: last year we were awarded #1 Super Premium Flavoured Gin in the on and off trade and ranked 6th in The Sunday Times Fast Track 100 in 2018 – both achievements are testament to our continuous graft.
You’ve gone from being a national brand to international brand, how many countries are you selling to now and how have you found that process?
Over the past year or two, we have been working on our mission to save the world from mediocre gin. We started off with mainland Europe, where we’ve been working with distributors in countries like Germany. It’s really picking up, and we’ve now been spotted all over the world by friends, family, and gin fans – from Spain to South Africa to New Zealand. We’ve also just sent our first shipment out to Australia, where we’re due to launch in the coming months, which is very exciting.
It’s been a remarkable process so far, as there’s so much to learn, both from a legal and brand perspective, when you move into a new country. Some places are much more complex than others: the US is a market we’d love to tap into, but they have such different regulations that we need to change the way we do things before we can progress. It’ll be a long journey, but we’ve got great plans for our export this year, and we’re looking forward to giving gin fans all around the world the chance to taste Warner’s! For me personally, it makes me incredibly proud to know that all our gin is still be made here, on my family farm, and it’s being enjoyed in all corners of the globe. It’s epic.
How important has Northamptonshire been in your success so far?
Northamptonshire has been pivotal to the success of the business: the support we’ve had locally, from consumers and business, has given us a fantastic base to grow from, and it’s all in support of the fact that we still distil every bottle of our gin on my family farm, in the heart of the Northamptonshire countryside.
I’m determined to keep things local and, as custodians of the land, myself, Tina and the team will always harvest and develop our business with a respect for nature and the community. As I’ve mentioned before, we try to give back more than we take by growing our own natural ingredients and running a series of ongoing sustainability and conservation initiatives, which we’re aiming to really ramp up this year. Last year, we planted over 5 acres of wildflower meadows locally, supporting the pollinators near our home, and we’ve got plans to reach as much of the UK as we can. We put in a lot of graft to create our truly craft gin, often surrounded by the laughter of the team and their love of the land. In fact, a lot of our team are Northamptonshire born and bred!
There is an incredible 200-year old barn on the farm, which used to be the old tack room when I was a kid, where every bottle is distilled in small batches using our bespoke copper stills. On the farm we are lucky enough to have everything in one place: water from the farm’s natural spring, seasonal botanicals in our garden, and the fresh honey from our own beehives.
What flavours can we expect to see in the next 12 months?
Well… that would be telling! What I can say is that we have some really exciting things coming up. Tina and I are constantly experimenting with new flavours, inspired by, and often created using, the natural ingredients that are around us on the farm.
This March, we’ve launched a limited-edition Spring Blossom Gin with handpicked primrose and blackthorn, so if you get that chance to try it, and love it, then you’ll love what’s to come next!
Gin has become a real favourite in the last few years, do you envisage any other trends with gin in 2019?
Gin has definitely graduated to the mainstream in recent years, so I make it my priority for the team to ensure we are keeping the industry interesting for our gin fans and give them plenty of choice within the category. I get really excited about the different flavours we can make using freshly grown botanicals: it’s incredible the difference in flavour when you distil with fresh botanicals versus dry botanicals. This gives our gin fans more choice when ordering a G&T and attracts new customers to the category who might want to try a gin drink but aren’t a massive fan of a classic G&T.
We’ve also found that people are making more considered choices. People care what they buy and want their choice to reflect their values. Our recently refined recipe for our Lemon Balm Gin (previously Botanical Garden Melissa Gin – bit of a mouthful to say!) is a perfect example of these two trends.
Through Lemon Balm, we have been able to achieve something incredible, which we don’t think any other gin brand is doing: we’ve become self-sufficient in three core botanicals – lemon balm, lemon verbena and lemon thyme, growing them all in our Botanical Gardens on the farm. We’re hoping it will change the category, inspiring other distillers and educating consumers, all driven by this pioneering concept of distilling freshly-picked botanicals, which gives it such a unique, awesome flavour that you simply can’t achieve by distilling dry botanicals.
For more information visit www.warnersdistillery.com