The first time I drank gin I was 16, in a pub with a guy on our second date. I asked for the first drink that came into my head. I have no idea why I asked for gin, my parents drank whisky then. I suppose it sounded sophisticated. The way I drank it wasn’t. I slugged it back like a drunk on a Saturday night. The poor bloke must have been horrified. He was only 18 and probably didn’t have much cash, but he’d lumbered himself with a girl who looked like she could give Oliver Reed a run for his money.
The next time I drank gin was when I was pregnant (don’t judge, it wasn’t bought by the same bloke, I’d only had one and it was before I knew I was up the duff, though my hormones were hinting heavily. After just one I felt like I’d drank four larges ones). It was at a Christmas party at Southrop near Lechlade. A good friend can remember me take ‘the most direct route to the loos’, which involved zig zagging three sides of the room, disappearing through the front door, sobering up fast as the cold weather hit me, before heading back to sit heavily on the loo for around ten minutes before re-emerging.
So I’d pretty much given gin drinking a miss for years, until I discovered a fabulous gin served at The King’s Head, Cirencester where we sometimes go for mid-week cocktails. It’s either Mexican or Brazilian, has a hint of orange in, and is fabulous. And the devil in me loves asking the barman for a ‘large Brazilian please’, even if it’s Mexican. It’s a lot less funny asking for a large Mexican.
Then I discovered delicious the triple distilled Sibling Gin, and the Elliott-Berrys who make it. These three siblings (Felix, Clarice and Cicely), are all under 25 and probably came up with their recipe at the same age as I was indiscriminately slugging Gordon’s.
Felix, Clarice and Cicely distil Sibling Gin in Cheltenham, using a new sort of distillery (the first of its kind in Europe) made out of glass and stainless steel. There is a younger brother, Digby, but he’s not yet 18 so isn’t involved, yet. The recipe was arrived at after a lot of research and development, blind tastings and finessing. The result is a delicious light gin filled with subtle botanic flavours and juniper berries that is both fantastic with tonic, and brilliant as a base for cocktails.
Sibling Gin (sold in a gloriously beautiful bottles decorated with pure gold), is now selling across the UK and exporting abroad. It’s also one of our Rock the Cotswolds Rockers.
I interviewed Clarice and Cicily at a Cotswold business conference recently in front of over 100 successful women. Clarice is 22 and Cicily is 20. Cicely came into the business straight from school, and Clarice, who’d worked at another Rock the Cotswolds’ rocker, Superdry’s head office as a part time model, left when the siblings had decided that producing gin was what they wanted to do. Felix was working at a brand agency in Cheltenham.
This amazing trio haven’t come into this world as total ingénues, their parents own the very successful Battledown micro brewery. But Clarice says that they weren’t given a free ride. “We had to write a business plan and present it to our parents. It had to stack up and yes they did lend us the money but we’re paying it back, and they’ve told us they’re not lending any more. It’s up to us.”
Most siblings can’t wait to see the back of each other but this is a tight team who get on well and have each found a role for themselves within the business. Felix does marketing, design and focuses on the exporting, Clarice prefers the administration and finance side of the business, Cicely takes responsibility for the PR. They all make and bottle the gin together and their offices are the kitchen table.
Talk to them and you’re talking to experienced business people, even though they only launched the gin in 2014. They understand the value of their brand, the opportunities – both at home and overseas. Sibling Gin is stocked in some of the smarter retailers across the UK, and they’ve even sent their gin abroad though it costs many times the cost of a bottle of gin (£34) to export it and pay the duty. “We did try and dissuade our overseas customer from buying our gin, but they were determined,” says Cicely.
Why work with your siblings? “Why not,” chorus Clarice and Cicely. “We trust each other, we like each other and we’ve all really got the best interests of the business at heart.”
Luckily The Cotswolds isn’t just home to one amazing gin, check out another of our Rockers: The Cotswolds Distillery, at Shipston on Stour. A wonderful reason to spend the festive season comparing and contrasting the Cotswolds’ two home-grown gins.
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