New gin for pubs after three years in the making

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags London dry gin Gin

City of London Distillery was three years in the making
City of London Distillery was three years in the making
City of London Distillery founder Jonathan Clark will target pubs with his premium gin, after spending three years and thousands of pounds "perfecting" his offer, he told the Publican's Morning Advertiser.

Clark, who has worked in and owned pubs for decades, set up the City of London Distillery three years ago in a bid to make the East London-based site commercially viable, following threats of closure from the council.

The site, which Clark originally leased as a bar to another operator, was deemed an inappropriate operation by the local council, Clark said.

"More than three years ago I was called by the City of London and they were going to close the place down because it was a 'ladies' bar and that wasn't allowed," Clark explained.

"So, I flew to America and pinched this idea from New York and was the first in the UK to put a distillery in a cocktail bar and, since then, they have been popping up everywhere – but that's OK because I pinched the idea too."

It took months for Clark to gain planning permission from the City of London council to start making gin.

The two still-strong distillery produces a range of five gins, including City of London Dry Gin, Christopher Wren, Old Tom, Sloe Gin and Square Mile.

City of London Dry Gin

The five gins:

  1. City of London Dry
  2. Christopher Wren
  3. Old Tom
  4. Sloe
  5. Square Mile
  6. Will there be a lucky number six?

"Six is my lucky number though, so there will no doubt be a sixth at some point soon," Clark hinted.

The gins are currently stocked by a premium retailer, as well as Odd Bins, the operator Living Ventures and the City of London Distillery itself.

However, Clark is adamant he will boost his distribution from the current 22,000 bottles a year currently to much more by targeting the on-trade.

Pubs, he believes, are an ideal platform for his gin because the liquor works well across cocktails as well as in a simple gin and tonic, he added.

In fact, to help boost sales in the on-trade, the master distiller is pumping tens of thousands of pounds into building a third still, which he is hoping to name through a #StillNoName Twitter campaign once it is installed – within a month or two.

Although the business is currently Clark's main focus, gin wasn't a go-to drink for the 60-year-old until very recently, he conceded.

"I didn't drink gin until I was 50 because it was always an old man's drink, but I went to a friend's place in France and he brought out a bottle of Bombay Sapphire and I couldn't believe how I wasted 50 years of my life without gin."

His new-found passion for gin fed Clark's reluctance to launch his brand into the market properly until he had, as he put it, "perfected" the product.

Mistakes made

"I made many mistakes along the way, but learnt from them and I think that's why I'm really happy with the gin," he explained.

"Anyone can make gin and there are a lot of little producers like me out there are the moment, but not everyone has – I don't think – taken the proper time to get their gin right."

Yet, he views the continued rise of small-batch gin producers as being good for the whole sector and believes its contributing to the success of category.

"The big guys must be loving it [the smaller companies popping up] because it's helping them sell. I think it's very perpetual at the moment."

Some of the "big guys" had a hand in the making of City of London Distillery's final products, as Clark sought advice from other well-known masters in the sector. However, he doesn't wish to name them.

Meanwhile, watch Clark's operations manager Luke Shackleton make the perfect White Lady​ with City of London Dry Gin in this video masterclass.

City of London Distillery will be taking part in the Publican’s Morning Advertiser's Spirits Summit on 3 October.

Related topics Spirits & Cocktails

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