We caught up with Patrick and Sarah, the creators of Black Shuck Gin, to find out more about them and The Norfolk Sloe Company.
What inspired you to make your own gin?
The Norfolk Sloe Company began making Sloe Gin in 2011.
As the Sloe Gin gained popularity and achieved the prestigious accolade of becoming a Great Taste 3 star award winner we focused our attention on developing our own Norfolk inspired premium gin. In December 2015, after years of taste trials involving gin loving friends and family, our dream became a reality and the first 1000 bottles of Black Shuck Gin were sold within just four weeks. It always gives us a thrill to see our Gin on the shelves in any store, bar or restaurant or hearing customers rave about the taste.
What’s a typical day at the Norfolk Sloe Company like?
Firstly, there isn’t a ‘typical day’ for us as no two days are the same. However, they do all start early and finish late.
Online orders, overnight emails and the remains of yesterday’s to-do list are usually checked over breakfast, before Sarah heads off to work as a secondary school teacher of mathematics. Patrick’s itinerary can then include checking the progress of the liqueurs, filling and labeling bottles, taking orders, meeting with potential new customers, making deliveries, planning future promotions, maintaining a social media presence, updating accounts and other essential paperwork and the all important new product development. One of our favourite parts of the day is tea time when we all gather to eat together and share our news, including the latest sales figures.
What’s it like keeping a thriving business within the family?
Having a family business means that we have a wealth of expertise available. Each family member contributes by playing to their personal strength whether that is using their ICT skills to develop the website and social media presence or using their artistic skills to design advertising materials. Business meetings tend to be held over a big Sunday lunch with everyone contributing ideas and opinions. When it comes to bottling and labelling, it’s all hands on deck! With plenty of banter being exchanged, and with an eclectic mix of music playing, even the laborious tasks become enjoyable.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
Aside from meeting so many interesting people and enjoying the benefits of working for ourselves, one of the best things about what we do is showing our children that anything is possible.
Where do you see yourselves/Norfolk Sloe Company in a year?
Still having fun.
Black Shuck is a favourite at Gin Explorer; can you tell us about the gin in your own words?
Black Shuck Gin is strong and yet smooth, traditional and yet contemporary, complex and yet balanced. It has lightly floral notes from the Norfolk lavender followed by warm sweet fruity tones from the sea buckthorn and bitter orange peel. It is cut to a final bottling ABV of 43% with Norfolk bore water.
Inspired by Norfolk, its silky, character echoes the sweeping beaches, meandering inland waterways and easy-going lifestyle. Whilst it’s fresh lilac tones are reminiscent of the big skies the contrasting vibrant bursts of fiery orange reflect Norfolk’s timeless natural beauty.
The Black Shuck is quite a striking image, can you tell us about it and what attracted you to it?
The legend of Black Shuck is synonymous with the Norfolk coast and one, with which we have grown up. Consequently, using Black Shuck for our brand image, together with the strap-line “Black Shuck Gin, Norfolk’s Legendary Spirit,” seemed fitting. The Black Shuck image used on all of our products was designed by our daughter Leanne and we feel enormous pride every time someone comments on its striking appeal.
Dating back hundreds of years, Black Shuck is one of the oldest English legends. Not surprisingly, there are as many variations of the legend as there are varieties of Gin.
Whilst some recorded sightings claim that the ghostly spirit dog, with its huge red eyes, acts as a protector of lone women walking along the coast paths at night, others firmly believe that the legendary hound is a bad omen. We are happy to confirm that a glass of Black Shuck Gin or Liqueur will fill you with enough good spirit to keep any bad spirits at bay!
It is without doubt that the legend was popularised by smugglers who told elaborate stories to keep the fishermen at bay whilst they smuggled their contraband ashore.
Wherever we go someone has his or her own story or Black Shuck experience to share with us. It is always a good talking point whether you are familiar with the legend or discovering it for the first time.
G&T, cocktail or on the rocks?
All of the above – just not at the same time!
So, what’s the best way to drink your liqueurs?
Our liqueurs are made using traditional methods and real fruits. Whilst they can each be enjoyed simply on their own or over ice, they are all very versatile.
What follows are just a few ideas from an endless list. Damson Port is the perfect accompaniment to after dinner cheese and biscuits or for a longer drink it can be mixed with Fever Tree’s Lemon Tonic. The Plum Brandy is great mixed with ginger ale, yet on a cold winters day, it takes on a new character when gently warmed before serving. The Raspberry Vodka makes an excellent cocktail when mixed with a lemon and lime sours (we’ve affectionately named this a Shuckleberry Sours).
One train of thought is that the sweeter the drink ,the colder it should be served and our Blackcurrant Rum certainly works well served over crushed ice. For a longer, refreshing drink, known here as a Quaycider, try mixing one shot of Blackcurrant Liqueur with ½ pint of your favourite cider.
Our Sloe Gin is typically enjoyed neat, however, it is also gaining popularity as a celebration drink when added to Cava, Prosecco or Champagne to make a Shuck’s Fizz.
After a long, hard day at the distillery, what do you drink to help you unwind?
Our current favourite tipple at the end of a long day is a Negroni made with ½ a shot of Campari, 1 shot of sweet vermouth and 2 shots of Black Shuck Gin.
Aside from Black Shuck, what’s your favourite gin?
Tanqueray will always be hard to beat. Made with just four botanicals, its apparent simplicity belies its superior taste. After that, it is always exciting to try a new gin and thanks to Gin Explorer there has never been a better time to explore new arrivals on the gin scene.
Finally, what interested you in Gin Explorer?
Gin Explorer is an exciting concept which enables any gin enthusiast from the novice to the vastly experienced to become a Gin tasting expert. And receiving our own Gin Explorer parcel each month allows us to learn from and enjoy other gin creations.
When we heard that Gin Explorer was looking for a sponsor we were delighted to get involved. Offering samples of Black Shuck Gin to the myriad of gin lovers at Gin Festivals around the country seems an excellent way to put our gin to the test.
Thanks so much for your time, guys! It’ll be a pleasure to see you at Gin Festival Norwich.
If you can’t wait to try Black Shuck or want to know more about The Norfolk Sloe Company then head over to Gin Festival Norwich! A small number of tickets are still available here but they are very limited so you’ll have to move fast!
And don’t forget, you can pick up a bottle yourself from the Gin Festival website.