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A drink with… Mike Carthy, Spirit of Harrogate

The co‐founder of Yorkshire’s Spirit of Harrogate talks about celebrating Slingsby Gin’s fifth anniversary, and the company’s ambition to make the brand a global player.

Mike Carthy, co-founder of Spirit of Harrogate
Mike Carthy, co-founder of Spirit of Harrogate

Slingsby celebrated its fifth birthday in August. How did you mark the occasion?

We had planned to host a big party to thank all our partners and those who have played a part in our story and supported us from the start. Like most, our plans went out the window.

We ran a local campaign in our hometown of Harrogate, and gave away 500 complimentary bottles of our ready‐to‐serve Slingsby Solo to members of the local community. Throughout August, gin lovers could redeem one of our pre‐mixed G&Ts from the Spirit of Harrogate store by showing a receipt of purchase of a Slingsby G&T in any bar or restaurant in Harrogate.

The idea was to encourage people to get back into the bars and also give our fans the opportunity to raise a toast to our birthday month.

What’s been the biggest achievement for the brand since it launched?

There have been far too many to mention. I still get an immense feeling of pride when I see Slingsby on shelves and back bars. As an ultra‐premium gin brand, we had set a target of where we wanted Slingsby to be listed. We achieved that and more. We also keep scooping prestigious awards.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the business?

It’s been a challenging start to the year, as it has been for everyone. If we look at our market that we operated in before Covid, we had retail, including our own store, on‐ trade, travel retail and export. All of these sectors have been affected and it has a long‐term impact on how we can invest in the brand. It is still unclear what the ‘new normal’ is going to be and we, just like a lot of businesses, have to take each day as it comes. We are not through this by any means, particularly due to the core markets we operate in.

We have been pushed to think differently, and digital certainly has more focus in the business now. We launched an interactive experience for gin lovers to enjoy from the comfort of their own homes.

Are there plans to release further products in the coming year?

We’re always innovating and creating exciting new gins behind the scenes. Some of these are available to try in our Harrogate store, where customers can vote for their favourite. This is where our Rhubarb, Gooseberry and most recent Marmalade Gins started out. We use the store as a test bed to gain feedback before we go to market. There are no plans to launch anything new as of yet but who knows what 2021 will bring.

Are there any spirits categories you’d like to move into?

We produce a gin range and a vodka. There is nothing in the pipeline at the moment, but we are always open to trying out new things.

What trends are you seeing in the gin category?

Consumers are always looking for new and exciting flavours; whether the excitement will last is another story. We think consumers will revert back to wanting a more classic gin or flavour. I would question whether some of the more ‘out there’ flavours have the longevity to stand the test of time.

What is in store for Spirit of Harrogate over the next year?

We are delighted to have the retail unit and one of our physical gin experiences back up and running. Although all of our events have been postponed this year, we are still in long‐term partnerships with Chestertons Polo in the Park and the PGA Championships at Wentworth, and we look forward to getting these off the ground next year.

We have an ambition to take Slingsby global, and last year appointed an export manager to help us to achieve this. We’d like to see Slingsby available on a global scale in five years’ time.

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