5th June 2023
In this series about the region’s food producers and farmers, Kate Griffin raises a glass with Holly Algar from Thrings at her Gin Palace
‘All teachers are driven to gin eventually,” jokes Kate Griffin, who swapped secondary school English for a new career creating unique flavoured spirits.
After making the life-changing decision while on maternity leave with her second child, Kate started flavouring gin in the annexe of her grandfather’s home.
“I thought I’d give it a go for a year and maybe return to teaching,” she says. “That was six years ago – and I can’t go back now!”
Wessex Spirits launched with just one product before moving to a small premises in Andover. A big leap forward came in 2021 when Kate teamed up with local brewer Tim Abrams of Andover Tap to restore the former Lamb Inn in Winchester Road.
The 17th Century inn, which had closed and was being used as offices, now has Tim’s real ale pub on one side and Kate’s beautifully decorated Gin Palace on the other.
She says it is an ideal match: “Groups of customers come and split at the door, but it doesn’t always work out the way you think – sometimes I get the guys and Tim gets the girls.”
Kate’s specialism is creating bespoke flavoured gins in small batches for local shops, businesses and individuals. The base spirit is steeped in natural flavours such as herbs and spices before it is bottled and labelled to create a truly unique product.
She is proud of a spirit created for The British Library inspired by the oldest gin recipe it had on record. “We didn’t stick to the original completely, as it had frog bone ashes in it – so we just put the yummy bits in,” says Kate. “Having done it for six years now, I know what works and what doesn’t!”
Working to a mantra of ‘naturally flavoured, no sugar, and no nasties’, Kate has created Hot Cross Bun and Christmas Pudding flavours and is concocting a secret recipe for a Coronation Gin which she plans to send to The King.
Kate has a small team of ‘gin pixies’ who help when the bar is open to the public on Friday and Saturday nights, and when the venue or its upstairs tasting rooms are hired for celebrations, tastings and corporate events.
She says the building ‘feels happy again’ and comes alive during events, when the gin flows and cocktails are served in teacups.
“People get so excited – it’s quite homely here, so it’s like having a party but they don’t have to clear it up afterwards,” she says. “I just love to know people are enjoying themselves.”