Local couple launch gin and vodka produced by their new Richmondshire distillery

Sarah and Tony Brotherton in their Colburn distillery.

Tony Brotherton’s family have been gin-lovers for generations.

He tells a heart-warming story of when his grandparents were poor. His grandfather would pour his grandmother a stiff G&T and then pour himself a drink – but leave out the gin and just have the tonic to save money. His grandmother never knew.

“He was a real gentleman,” Tony adds.

Today, the retiring Army officer, who has served 18 years with the Royal Artillery including tours of Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo, is the one pouring the drinks – but into bottles mainly.

He and wife Sarah have launched Yorkshire Dales Distillery in a former wine merchants’ unit in Colburn. The artisan spirits company will produce fine vodka as well as gin, which to start with will be available in local shops, pubs and hotels, as well as on-line.

The distillery will launch Smokey Ram Yorkshire Vodka next week.
The distillery will launch Smokey Ram Yorkshire Vodka next week.

The company’s first spirits – Purple Ram London Dry Gin and Smokey Ram Yorkshire Vodka – will be launched at an event at the distillery next week.

The couple, who live in nearby Tunstall and have four children, are doing many of the processes themselves and are using local products wherever possible – including natural mineral water from the Swale Valley – to give their products real Yorkshire and Richmondshire provenance.

They aim one day to produce their own alcohol and are already using locally sourced secret botanicals they hope will give their spirits a unique taste that is popular with customers.

gin chocolate
Gin chocolates made with Mocha Chocolate Shop in Richmond.

As well as the drinks, the couple are working with Mocha Chocolate Shop in Richmond to produce a range of chocolates using the spirits and plan a selection of miniatures for use as wedding favours.

Tony, who retires from the Army in March but will continue to work part-time at the Garrison headquarters, is studying for a masters degree in brewing and distilling at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh.

He has received support from the Army to retrain as well help from his father who is a chemical engineer and worked throughout his career in the food and beverage industry.

Tony said the couple had always wanted to run a business together and were thrilled to have launched a distillery.

“Yes we want to be a successful business but we also want to give something back, and when it comes to taking on staff we will be looking at ex-offenders, ex-servicemen and young people from the area.

“We’re proud to be part of Yorkshire and proud to be part of Richmondshire and we want Richmondshire and Yorkshire to be proud of us.”

Sarah, who trained as an accountant and opened Frydayz Fish Bar, in Catterick Garrison, before selling the business, said the distillery would be known as the Home of the Ram – with a friend’s ram being used for the branding. A competition to name the sheep will take place shortly.

She said they had big ideas, adding: “We are delighted to have established our family business in the heart of Richmondshire and we’re working hard to produce products that Yorkshire can be proud of.”

The couple hope Tony’s grandparents would have approved.

The distilling machine at Yorkshire Dales Distillery.
The distilling machine at Yorkshire Dales Distillery.