Rishi Sunak has praised a small Dales business for making a big impact during the pandemic.
The MP visited Spirit of Swaledale distillery in upper Swaledale to see how business founder Ian Purves had fared with his new enterprise – which was established just four months before the arrival of Covid-19.
Prof Purves and business partner Chris Stanley produce a range of gins and rums in a stone barn between Keld and Muker using local springwater and, in their two gins, taking botanical inspiration from the plants of the upper dale.
During the early stages of the pandemic they switched to producing hand sanitiser for local distribution and grew their online sales business through internet marketing as restrictions closed hospitality venues and non-essential retailers.
Now sales are growing through pubs, farm shops and other independent and specialist retailers as the economy opens up.
Earlier this year, the distillery’s Moorland Gin and Old Gang Spiced Rum won silver medals in the London Spirits Competition up against distilleries worldwide to add to a Great Taste Award and recognition in the International Spirit and Wine Competition in 2020.
Mr Sunak said it was vital for him to see how small start-up businesses like Spirit of Swaledale were doing and how best to assist them to grow.
He said: “It is inspiring to see a business like Spirit of Swaledale become established in really challenging times, adapting quickly to rapidly changing circumstances and achieving growth and success.
“Ian and Chris have established a strong brand, rooted in Swaledale, and have exciting plans to develop their products and their market as the economy recovers.”
Prof Purves said he was pleased Mr Sunak had come to upper Swaledale to see the enterprise and for the opportunity to explain to him their business ethos and plans.
He said they were looking to extend the number of retail outlets for their range and had recently invested in a new Spirit of Swaledale-branded van to deliver stock to pubs, shops and retailers in Yorkshire and further afield.
Prof Purves added: “The last year and a half have been a rollercoaster but we feel we are now set fair. We are seeing sales growth through our existing retail outlets and local pubs and are confident that will continue.”