Passionate about supporting local producers and deciding to turn a passion for gin into a business, Nicola Lampkin is part of a quartet at the Otterbeck Distillery in Skipton, Yorkshire, which also counts her husband Dougie and their friends, Alexa and Chris Ives.
Luxurious Magazine’s Sabi Phagura caught up with entrepreneurs Nicola (above) and Dougie to discuss all things botanicals and how their Cotton Gin came into fruition.
Luxurious Magazine: Tell us how did your journey begin to launch Cotton Gin?
Nicola: The idea sprung after a gin-fuelled New Year’s Eve conversation in 2019. We were with our friends (Alexa and Chris Ives) having a great time with Martinis and G&Ts, and discussed how amazing it would be to launch our very own gin. We’re all very passionate about food, drink and the local producers in the area and are lucky enough to be surrounded by inspiring people.
We realised we had different skills to bring to the table – our friend Chris had experience in the drinks industry, Alexa is the maths genius, and I love design and all things creative.
We had the most amazing space for a distillery, and everything started to move from there. Passion and a love of gin made it all happen.
LM: With so many gins on the market, what sets Cotton Gin apart?
Dougie: Most gins are distilled by either placing botanicals in the still or suspended above it in a ‘flavour basket’.
We’re able to use both of these techniques to produce Cotton Gin thanks to our unique still (main image), which we’ve called ‘Eliza’ after the original mill owner’s wife.
It has an additional aroma chamber placed between the column and condenser. This allows us to create an incredibly smooth, clean spirit with botanical flavours embedded right into the gin.
The process of how we make the gin is such an integral part of what makes us different. Our location is incredibly important to us too. We’re in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, surrounded by beautiful countryside, and some of our botanicals are found right on our doorstep. We’ve also had the support of chef James Martin who is a great friend of ours. He was involved in guiding us and assisted in the final recipe.
Nicola: The right partnerships are important to us. We also partnered with industry stalwart and broadcaster Andy Clarke on a Martini recipe for Mother’s Day, which he made live on our Instagram page in early February. It’s a twist on a classic martini and involves tarragon and rosé vermouth.
LM: What would you say to those who think the gin industry is already saturated with so many brands?
Nicola: There’s always a place for new and exciting brands. As the market is evolving, it’s becoming fragmented into different subcategories; Dry Gin, Flavoured Gin, Pink Gin and Sweetened Gin, and more. Consumers in each subcategory are becoming increasingly aware of what constitutes a genuine ‘craft’ gin and are always looking to try something different, and the opportunity is huge for contender brands like ours.
The price points of London dry gins are so varied, and it feels as if the luxury gin category is the one to watch in 2021. As a small-batch, hand-crafted gin, we want to be known as a luxury product in this space, and this is reflected in our quality, production processes, design, and collaborations.
LM: We understand the current Otterbeck Distillery building is what used to be an 18th-century cotton and silk mill. How did you come to choose the building for production?
Dougie: Yes, that is right. This section of the renovated mill was undeveloped and empty. It was light and airy and perfect for our gin distillery dream. We have lovely high ceilings, with plenty of space and great access.
We offer distillery tours and gin tastings, and we can’t wait to welcome visitors back to experience the beauty of the area – and, of course, the gin. There’s nothing quite like waking up on a spring morning with the views of the Dales.
The name ‘Cotton’ derives from the magnificent five-story building, which was used as a cotton and silk mill on the banks of the Otterburn Beck, a tributary of the River Aire. A ‘Cotton Ginny’ was a machine used in cotton production at the mill.
LM: Otterbeck Distillery is committed to environmentally friendly production. Can you talk us through this, please?
Nicola: We made a conscious decision from the very start to make sure all materials used to package our gin would be recyclable and omit the use of plastics. The energy used comes from renewable sources, and we’re constantly reviewing our processes to identify ways of reducing our carbon footprint.
LM: Your gin won Gold at the Gin Masters Spirits Business 2020 awards. How did you feel when you were presented with the accolade?
Nicola: This was a fantastic moment, and the excitement in the office was unreal as we never imagined receiving such an award so early on, as we were only five months into our journey.
To have experts say our gin was gold standard was overwhelming! We’re blown away by how supportive the industry has been so far. Soon we hope to make our mark further by chatting to bars and restaurants about working with us.
We managed to secure listings with some very luxe accounts pre-lockdown. These include establishments, such as The Angel at Hetton in Skipton, Yorkshire, and the Coniston Hotel. Cotton Gin is the house gin at James Martin’s restaurant The Kitchen at Chewton Glen, as well as Paul Ainsworth’s at no. 6 in Padstow. We also have hopes of bringing Cotton to more people across the UK.
LM: There seems to be a gin of every flavour possible on supermarket shelves. What are your thoughts on flavoured gins?
Dougie: There are some incredibly flavoured gins on the market and some amazing distilleries pushing the boundaries. It is an exciting space to be in right now. But our focus is Cotton Gin right now. If we were to consider flavoured gin at some point, we’d want to do it well and keep it in line with our luxurious and premium theme.
LM: What’s next for Cotton Gin? Will you be launching any other gin-related products or branch out into other spirits?
Nicola: We are finalising a new product to launch in time for summer – excitingly, we’re working with a local producer who we’re so delighted to support. It’s been months and months of hard work, and to see it finally come to fruition is beyond exciting. It’s aimed to appeal to the foodies out there, and we will be updating all the news on our website.
We’re delighted to have booked a stand at the Yorkshire Dales Food Festival on the 24th and 25th July, and we hope that we can still go ahead with this in a safe way. Our gin is being served with the at-home meal kits from The Angel at Hetton, which we hear has proved so popular, it will continue for some time yet.
The Otterbeck Distillery & Cotton Gin – Where and How?
Cotton Gin (44% ABV) has an RRP of £37.95 for 70cl or £14.95 for 20cl. The Cotton Gin Gift Box is priced at £59.95 and can be purchased here.
For more information on the Otterbeck Distillery, visit https://otterbeckdistillery.co.uk.
Read more exclusive interviews by Sabi in our dedicated section here.