Set up in 2012 by drinks business newbies Tom and Tina Warner on their family-run cattle farm in Northamptonshire, the distillery housed in a 200-year-old barn has spearheaded the UK’s artisan gin revolution, triggered the pink gin craze and played a key role in the spirit’s overall renaissance.
This saw 83 million bottles worth £2.6 billion sold in the UK last year.
Warner’s was born out of the couple, both from farming stock, looking to diversify and using the natural bounty they had to best advantage for themselves, local people and the environment.
With no traditional drinks industry links, the inspired outsiders’ efforts have built a business with 53 rural jobs – around 50 per cent of its workforce is female – that turned over £10million last year and is recognised as a standard bearer for quality, authenticity and sustainability.
The founders of the company
The gin made by Warners
Many of the flagship botanicals, such as elderflower and lemon balm creating Warner’s array of beguiling flavours, are grown in its five acres of gardens.
Hundreds of thousands of bees in 20 hives pollinate the flora and the fresh honey produced makes one of Warner’s fabled flavours – its Honeybee Gin, while water comes from a home-sourced spring.
“We are both old guard and pioneering,” says Tom. “Warner’s is one of the few craft producers that has scaled and kept its roots. Our mission from the start was to create extraordinary products steeped in nature and provenance.
“Limited resources meant we had to be relentless and be at every show possible to get the listings.
“As one of the first small producers the category took some explaining at first. Now independent distillation is a norm.”
An indication of how seriously the business, which has planted 750 trees, takes sustainability can be seen in its appointment of Jonny Easter, the company’s dedicated conservation and sustainability manager.
Among Warner’s award-winning nine gins, produced by slow still and small batch methods to achieve maximum flavour, is the now legendary world first, its rose-tinted rhubarb – a third of it pure juice, along with an aromatic raspberry and a London dry classic.
Warner’s mission from the start was to create extraordinary products steeped in nature and provenance
Achieving an instant pedigree when stocked early on by luxury retailer Fortnum & Mason, Warner’s is now on the shelves of Waitrose and M&S as well as a host of independent shops and bars.
The gins are exported to 23 countries most recently Australia and a US wholesale deal is set for autumn.
However aware of the increasingly crowded UK gin market, the company was already looking at new avenues before COVID-19 struck.
“It has had a harsh effect on small producers because of their size. Our online retail sales are up but it does not compensate for the on-trade loss,” says Tom.
“Opening the bars and reducing social distancing to a metre will be a big help.”
But while that trade gradually returns, there is a chance to experience the wondrous natural surroundings of Falls Farm and the epic gins with Warner’s new virtual package Step Outside (£40) which has just made its debut offering tutored tastings with five spirit flavours and paired mixers plus a behind-the-scenes tour.
As well as a schedule of tours this summer there are also plans for exclusive personalised ones for horticulture, bee-keeping and special occasions.
“Our gardens are bursting with life right now and this gives people the chance to discover Warner’s,” explains Tina.
And the brand’s first adventure into non-alcoholic spirit drinks will be unveiled in a few weeks’ time.
“It was innovation that took us into the big time and go toe-to-toe with industry giants,” says Tom, “and that’s what will keep us there.”