New distillery opens in Maidstone

21st July, 2020 by Nicola Carruthers

A husband-and-wife team has opened a new distillery in the English town of Maidstone, which will produce gin, liqueurs and whisky.

The distillery has released its first product, George Bishop London Dry Gin

Couple Darren and Sam Graves from West Sussex opened the new Maidstone Distillery in Maidstone, Kent, earlier this month. It had been due to open in late March, however the plans were “plunged into uncertainty” when the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year.

“When the Covid pandemic broke we were bitterly disappointed that our plans to launch the distillery would be stalled, but not to be stopped we were delighted to re-role our expertise to help with shortages of hand sanitiser,” said Darren Graves. “It has been very rewarding to help and we hope our contribution has made a difference.”

During the nation’s lockdown, the couple turned to making hand sanitiser for schools, Network Rail, care homes, ambulances and charities.

At its peak, the original Maidstone Distillery produced more than 5,000 gallons a week of Maidstone Geneva during the late 1700s. However, the Maidstone Distillery was sold in 1818 and closed shortly afterwards. In mid-1850, a second distillery was opened in Maidstone, producing spirits such as Grants Morella Cherry Brandy, which was said to be consumed by Queen Victoria. The Maidstone Distillery stopped making spirits around 1982.

Darren Graves added: “Almost two years ago we decided we would daydream no longer and began our plans for building a distillery. We were astounded in our research to come across a document from the 1950’s lamenting a forgotten distilling industry right in centre of our county town.

“So important was Maidstone’s contribution to our national distilling story that it spanned almost 250 years, linked to two different but equally successful distilleries in Maidstone and some of the finest historical spirits that England had to offer. We felt compelled to resurrect this legacy and create something the town could be proud of once again.”

The distillery has released its first product – George Bishop London Dry Gin. The next gin will be Ranscombe Wild Dry Gin, which will be made with locally foraged botanicals from Ranscombe Farm in Kent.

The site will initially make two gins and a liqueur, with plans to make additional spirits including a whisky.

The distillery will open for tours from 28 August. The owners also plan to open a shop and a bar at the distillery.

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