Holmes Farm near Chorley has been in the Singleton family since 1930, but Gerard and Cath were looking to diversify in 2016. Having noticed a few other farm-based gins popping up, they were intrigued.
Teaming up with their son-in-law Mark Long, who had a background in the food industry, the trio launched Brindle Distillery in 2017, with the business now home to the multi award-winning Cuckoo Gin, one of Lancashire’s finest.
“It’s been an interesting five years!” says Mark, 35, from Wheelton. “Anyone who starts and runs a business will tell you how full-on it is: you’re sweeping the floors, talking to customers, making and bottling gin, but seeing what we’ve created is amazing.
“When we started, the gin market was still in good growth, but it’s definitely oversaturated now,” adds Mark. “It’s actually in decline, which it probably needed so people can get back to quality rather than customers being thrown a new product from a new company every week.”
Distilled using fresh spring water from the aquifer on the farm, Cuckoo Gin is flavoured using ingredients either grown at Holmes Farm - which also has its own on-site bar named The Cuckoo’s Nest - or sourced sustainably and ethically from around the world.
“Our USP is our place in the community - people can come and see where the gin’s made and meet the family - and local provenance,” says Mark. “But, if you want people to buy your product, you have to give them a reason to do so by making sure they enjoy it.”
And there’s been success on that front: last year, the company’s Cuckoo Solace Gin was voted Craft Gin Club’s ‘Gin of the Year’.
“It was overwhelming,” says Mark. “We launched Solace to raise awareness and funding for a cervical cancer trust after my wife was diagnosed - she got the all-clear, but we wanted to make something good out of something bad.”
Community-based and committed to sustainability, the still at Brindle Distillery - which has six full-time employees and 20 part-time staff - is heated with renewable energy boilers, their bottles are recycled or reused as candle jars, and their spent grains are fed to Holmes Farm’s cattle.
Always adaptable, the company was also quick to pivot during Covid, too.
“The hospitality arm of the business was cut off straight away and pubs were shut so that went too,” says Mark. “But we could do online sales, so one of our employees Tom, who’s well-loved by the locals, put videos online of him making cocktails at home.
“The orders started to grow and the family dropped off cases of gins and tonics at people’s houses,” adds Mark. “The relief on people’s faces! It was little things like that which you remember.
“The next five years are about consolidating the brand nationally and internationally - it’s easy to sell someone one bottle, but getting them to buy a second is the key,” continues Mark. “There’s a big market to go after; to get a small share off the big boys would be a fantastic achievement.”