NOT many people kept up their spirits as Covid-19 plunged the country into lockdown 18 months ago.
But a Saddleworth couple had to gin and bear it to prevent their recently launched distilling business running dry.
Happily, for Strinesdale based Chris and Amanda Moat, directors of Kin Spirits Ltd, they can still raise a glass to the success of the venture, inspired by post-meal, sweet treats in an Italian restaurant.
And every bottle tells a story where the duo’s products are concerned.
Visitors to Greenfield Cricket Club sip Maiden Gin, drinkers at Saddleworth Rangers enjoy a measure or two of Spirit of 1973 while there’s a Rushcart gin to remind locals of the annual tradition hopefully revived in 2022.
Other personalised bottles are produced to commemorate special occasions, the base spirit infused with flavours of locally sourced products.
It’s a far cry from Chris’s previous working existence in financial services but a change of direction he doesn’t regret despite the uncertainty created by coronavirus.
“We got into this business quite late and there are loads of different craft gin providers,” explained Chris, who is originally from Newcastle, educated in Scotland and a ‘local’ for the last 15 years.
“We were never interested in producing for the mass market.
“The original idea was to create gins and then brand them specifically for bars, or restaurants or clubs in the locality.
“And we would produce a story to fit in with the particular establishment. In the case of Saddleworth Rangers, 1973 is regarded as the most successful year in its history (the Shall Hall Bank road outfit completed a historic treble of trophies), hence the Spirit of 73.
“But as we went into lockdown all bars and restaurants shut so we needed to do something else.
“We initially started developing a range of spirits and a simplified way of making cocktails.
“So, we mixed all various flavours into a gin so people only had to add a mixer and out the other end came a Pornstar Martini, an Espresso Martini or whatever.
“It saved on buying obscure ingredients, buy once to stick in the cocktail cabinet and never use again.
“We then started virtual cocktail parties on Zoom during lockdown and they went down really well.
“Over that period we received enquiries from people liking the idea of personalised labels on the spirit; effectively saying ‘happy birthday’ or whatever written on the label of bottle of gin or vodka.
“We liked idea of trying to develop a range of flavours with things that grow in the Saddleworth area. Obviously, that narrowed it down a bit with botanicals,” laughed Chris.
“So, we have five or six products now, all of which have got a story about the locality. The core skill is ability to take a particular ingredient and then understand what other botanicals you ought to mix with that in order to accentuate the flavour or create the right balance in the spirit.”
A honey flavoured gin is a future creation thanks to beekeeper Amanda and her insects.
It was while enjoying the taste of 97 percent proof alcohol-soaked sugar lumps (zuccherini alcolici), infused with various flavours, on an Italian holiday the idea for their business originated.
Several bottles of spirit were bought but duly stuck in the back of a cupboard and forgot about it.”
However, it was to the couple’s surprise, during a gin making tour of the Three Rivers distillery in Cheetham Hill, they discovered the same spirit was used in the process.
“We thought, ‘can we do this,’ had a little play and found we had an aptitude for it.
“We have always had a strong interest in food and flavour; we have just taken it onto a different level.”
• For more information about the business visit www.calentillo-spirits.com