New chapter as Goosnargh Gin rises from the ashes

When fire engulfed their gin distillery it could have been the end of Rachel and Richard Trenchard’s business.

Wednesday, 14th October 2020, 7:00 am
Rachel and Richard Trenchard say they are preparing for the next chapter in their business Photo: Will Amlot

Instead they are regarding it as another chapter in the story of their enterprise.

The determined couple are not letting the setback daunt their ambitions for, and pride in, Goosnargh Gin.

Two years after they launched their successful mini distillery in October 2018 they had been tasting great success.

Winter warmer: the new hot chocolate packs by Goosnargh Gin comprise artisan crafted ceramic beakers, Goosnargh gin and spiced chocolate.

The duo had won international and national awards for their small batch gins, and were forging a name for their skill at gin creation at farmers' markets and independent outlets, as well as at select pubs and restaurants.

But on August 31 a catastrophic accident in the distillery by their home near Beacon Fell left Rachel with burns to her face and hands. A still exploded, sending burning alcohol across the room. Undaunted, and despite needing hospital care for many days, she has vowed to rebuild the business.

Rachel said: “I've got all my dressings off my hands now. They’ve done a small skin graft across the back of (one) hand...I’m doing well and feeling well.”

She says she looks as though she has been sunburnt and will need to wear sunblock for the next two summers but counts herself lucky to have escaped without further injury. She said: “With my colouring anyway I use a really high factor suncream. It’s not a problem in the scheme of things - small price.”

On Facebook the couple noted their determination to carry on. Rachel said: " Anyone who knows me well knows I have a warrior spirit when it comes to things I’m passionate about."

Writing the day after the accident she described what happened: "Some time in to the still heating up I heard a thumping and a hiss and on turning to look saw the lid explode off the still, which immediately sent burning alcohol around the room. Fortunately, I was able to get out of the open French doors on to the deck, but unfortunately was engulfed on the way out by flash flames of burning spirit. I have sustained extensive burns to my hands, face and the building is a burnt out shell."

With a background in education and also having run Forest School sessions locally she had first aid training. But looking back on the accident she acknowledged: "It was obviously a shock but everybody was, under the circumstances quite organised and calm.

“Obviously you’ve done first aid training and I’d done Forest School first aid, but but when it’s yourself in that situation you don’t necessarily know how you are going to respond. I had never envisaged having to respond to something like that."

She recalled: “It was early morning, Richard was getting ready to go to an event and the children were here as well."

She ensured she got water on her wounds and a neighbour helped her apply more wet towels. She had treatment at the hospital and was sent home: “For the first 24 -72 hours they are are watching how it develops."

It was then decided she would need hospital care - her stay in hospital coincided with the Covid-19 restrictions so she could not have visitors. She said: “We had Facetimes and the like and phone calls. Both hands were burnt, but the right there was an area they just felt was possibly a little bit deeper. The reason they’ve done a skin graft was to ensure I had movement in my wrist.”

Rachel is full of praise for the care received at Royal Preston Hospital and from emergency services and the support forthcoming from family, friends, neighbours and customers. She said: "I’ve had two lots of general anaesthetic in quite a short space of time. I’ve shown my mettle.

"They (hospital staff) were absolutely wonderful. Staff are kind of championing you to get well."

Rachel has kept herself busy as she recovers dealing with administration tasks and other behind the scenes work, but attended her first event recently.

She said: "I’m quite busy, In terms of recovery I've to listen (to my body). I feel myself completely but when I was in hospital you’re very much listening to your body, if I needed to sleep, I’d sleep. Richard kept saying 'Rachel has been absolutely amazing, incredible.' I just have that mindset. I wanted to get well and get home. Now I’m doing the physio I’ve been told to do because I want the best outcome.”

The family have been heartened by the support they have received, including an offer of distilling space at another local distillery, Wild Fox of Inglewhite.

Rachel said: “Within hours of it happening we had the offer of support from another distillery – being able to use their facilities which was really generous, really lovely. They use a similar sized still so we managed to retain consistency in terms of what’s been distilled.

" We had hundreds of messages and emails, people not knowing necessarily what they could offer, but if they could help. There were flowers galore, gifts came through and cards from well wishers. It was just really, really lovely. It was really uplifting – that support has meant a lot to us. That’s been a real positive for us that people in whatever way they could offered support or words of kindness, which were just so greatly appreciated. “

They kept their supporters updated with postings on Facebook and then the hopeful announcement that they were back and Richard was attending their first Farmers’ Market since the accident.

Before the accident they had been planning to sell a special hot chocolate and gin gift pack and this is now on sale. They teamed up with master potter Dylan Cross from Poulton who has made beakers decorated inside with their Goosnargh Gin deer emblem. A specially created spiced chocolate bar from Choc Amor at Cedar Farm, Mawdesley, plus their Dark Skies gin, to add to the hot chocolate, or enjoy alongside, completes the pack.

Rachel said: “It’s (packed) in a jute bag and is all sustainable and reusable. We work with other artisan craft producers we really admire."

When lockdown started they had created cocktail packs, which have proved popular with groups of friends having cocktail tastings at home.

There is much to look forward to. Their gins are named as Chapters and Chapter Six was being planned when the accident happened.

Rachel said: "We already know what Chapter Six our next gin is going to be; obviously that’s gone on hold for a little while. That’s exciting. We’d done the recipe development for that.

"We’re currently in the process of planning the refurbishment of the distillery and choosing our new stills and things.

“We’ve got to pick ourselves up. We have done. We are moving forward. I could have said that’s it now. But we worked too hard over the last three years getting everything in place and the branding and getting something we’re proud of. We’ve worked too hard to walk away from it."

As Rachel told their Facebook followers: "This is our dream, this is our story and we will continue it chapter by chapter."

*As well as gaining international and national awards Goosnargh Gin was the Taste Lancashire producer of the year last year.