Friends opt for career change with new Backwell distillery

The Somerset Distillery started after four friends found their lives change dramatically during the pandemic.

The four friends who founded Somerset Distillery. (L-R) Dave Stanley, Allan Smith, Steve Downey, Simon Green. - Credit: Somerset Distillery

A new gin distillery has opened in Backwell after four friends decided to change careers during the pandemic.

The four friends said their lives 'changed dramatically' after Covid stifled work in their previous jobs.

Somerset Distillery was built by the group last summer and started selling gin in October this year.

Steve Downey, Simon Green, Dave Stanley and Allan Smith first reflected on the idea during free time made up in the first lockdown.

The group who previously worked in hospitality, IT and music wanted a challenge in spirit production so purchased land in Cheston Coombe, on the site of a former quarry where they are now distilling a London dry gin, the firm's signature spirit.

A spokesperson for the distillery said: "The Somerset Distillery London Dry Gin is left to mature for at least five weeks, allowing the oils in the botanicals to infuse and create the gin's uniquely refreshing flavour.

"We chose to base our business in Backwell for its rich history in cider production."

The London-style dry gin on sale at the distillery.

The London-style dry gin on sale at the distillery. - Credit: Somerset Distillery

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Steve, one of the founders, welcomed the support he received from local retailers.

He said: "I want to particularly thank Aimee's Winehouse in Stoke Bishop and Backwell, and Vintage and Vine in Clevedon for their continued support in helping us get to where we are today.

"There are many gins out there but the quality varies enormously, which is precisely what inspired us. 

"We felt from day one that we would be able to use our experience to create an exceptional range of Somerset spirits."

The gin has also attracted interest from big name restaurateurs including celebrity chef Mark Hix, who used the firm's spirits in some of his eateries across the South West.

Another founder, Simon, added: "Our unique selling point is 'less is more', not overdoing on the botanicals.

"We are all of the opinion that you can over-think and over-use botanicals in your recipes.

"Distilling is pure science and our goal is to be masterly in our recipe creations."

After the success of its first dry gin, the group is opting for its second, which will reflect the part of Somerset where it is made.

Its new gin, which they hope to sell next year will use Backwell Red, a local cider apple that has won accolades for its sharp and thin taste.