From hedgerow to happiness: turning friendship and foraging into a flourishing business.
Updated: Nov 16
In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift towards supporting artisans and independent producers when it comes to choosing one's preferred spirit. The surge in popularity of family-owned and small producers of fruit infused spirits reflects a growing desire for authenticity and locally crafted products.
The UK's gin market is experiencing continuous expansion, with consumers no longer limited to the familiar household names dominating store shelves. Independents are making a mark, standing tall against industry giants, largely due to the unique narratives that accompany their products.
A prime example is Wild Spirits of Kent, a spirit producer with a decade-long history rooted in the friendship of two women, Louise and Gill. Their journey began during leisurely walks along the Pilgrim’s Way in Kent, where they noticed an abundance of seasonal hedgerow berries going to waste. This observation sparked their foraging expeditions for damsons, sloes, and other hedgerow treasures, giving birth to their business.
Gill recalls, "The venture was small at first. We started infusing gins with seasonal hedgerow flavours and selling them through local markets and fairs. Our success at the markets encouraged us to expand to fairs and other events. During busy periods like Christmas, we even hired other mums to help us."
The unique infusions draw inspiration from a book of ancient Medieval recipes originally intended for medicinal use. Popular flavours include damson, raspberry, sloe, and even beech leaf. Gill notes, "All have their qualities, but our raspberry and damson gins and blackberry whisky are the most popular."
One of the most appealing aspects of the brand is its dedication to the seasonal hedgerow bounties. While staying true to their Kent-based ethos, the team now sources many fresh ingredients from local farms. Gill emphasises, "We still focus on the seasons. Buying locally has allowed us to extend our production season beyond what the hedgerows alone provide."
Change is on the horizon as Louise’s sister Natalie takes over the reins and introduces new plans. Natalie has joined the Kent and Medway Accelerator Programme, produces gin infusions in her cellar, and is planning some new products for 2024 with vodka on the horizon too.
"The Accelerator Programme," says Natalie, "is so much more than a four-month course. I am finding new ways of testing shelf life and nutritional values. It also gives me an outlet to have everything I make tried and tested before going to market. It has been a game-changer."
Looking to the future, Natalie and her team aim to reduce sugar content, make the product more recyclable and introduce alternative ways to reuse the fruit by-products. "Eco-friendly is high up on my list," says Natalie. "I am just so excited to see what 2024 brings, so watch this space!"
So why consider adding Wild Spirits of Kent to your shopping list for 2024?
"You can’t beat Granny’s old sloe gin" beams Gill. "The older recipes stand the test of time and being a small business, we can be slaves to quality and taste. We don’t use any nasty additives; our average alcohol content is 22% and our gins have the same shelf life as the bigger players. Not only that but we support the local Kent community, and in return, it supports us. We like to think we touch every age group and requirement: miniatures as wedding favours, new hip and trendy alternatives to gin like our rose sambuca, and a hearty 25% sloe gin for the traditionalist."
To purchase any of their rather delicious spirits visit their website at, www.wildspiritsofkent.co.uk or catch them at one of Kent’s many local fairs or markets. And don't forget, every order is hand-delivered within Kent!