British gin distillers The Big Hill Distillery has joined forces with legendary luxury retailer Fortnum and Mason to launch a very special bottling of its signature gin ‘The Spirit of George’.
Launching as Fortnum and Mason’s ‘Spirit of the month’ for April, the brand that hails from a small village in Cheshire is inspired by the incredible story of a local adventurer, who also happened to be the greatest British climber of his generation. In 2017, distillery founders Ben Kaberry and David Clayton entered the highly competitive gin market with a product that not only had a high quality look and taste, but also an outstanding backstory. The creation story begins in a pub in Mobberley, Cheshire, where the founders with a passion for gin decided to turn their hand to creating their own. Small and unassuming, the village was once home to British climbing pioneer – George Mallory. In the 1920’s the British Geographical Society sponsored Mallory to summit Mount Everest, a feat that, if successful, would make him the first person to do so.
On June 8th 1924, Mallory was seen advancing towards the top of the mountain and he was visible just 800 feet from the summit of Everest. It was a further 75 years before Mallory was found, however there is compelling evidence that he, along with his climbing partner Andrew Irvine, did reach the summit. To this day the Mallory story is soaked in mystery and intrigue.
To honour the story behind Spirit of George, David & Ben embarked on a mission to ensure that the botanical composition complimented and was relevant to the story behind the liquid. Spirit of George is unique in its inclusion of Nepalese botanical ingredients, with the founders working alongside Fairtrade farmers in Nepal to source special ingredients from the Himalayas which combine to create a super smooth gin. Soft, dusky spice on the nose with a little citrus orange and earthy sweetness make way for notes of cardamom, cumin, and ginger to follow, later developing into sweeter notes of cassia and cinnamon that continue onto the finish. A subtle Himalayan tea component provides an extra dimension and contributes to the overall smoothness of the gin.
This month, iconic luxury British retailers Fortnum and Mason will be releasing a special edition bottle of The Spirit of George. This collaboration honours a unique link between the brands. Fortnum and Mason was the last shop that Mallory visited ahead of his trip to Everest, with the climber dropping by to purchase some clothing and rope for his expedition, as well as other essential expedition provisions including chocolate, foie gras and champagne! The connection between Mallory and Fortnum’s is especially poignant with the 100th anniversary of the climb approaching in 2024.
The Spirit of George is made at the Big Hill Distillery in Mobberley where the end-to-end distillation process is controlled – from botanical sourcing through to waxing, labelling and delivery of bottles. Distilled as a London Dry Gin, Spirit of George uses a high-quality wheat grain neutral spirit which is steeped with the botanical blend before being distilled in a copper-headed alembic still. A combined approach is used to introduce flavour to the gin, whereby some botanicals are vapour infused during distillation. Once the distillation process is complete the distillate is mixed with water to bring the product down to bottling strength of 40%. Creating the product from start to finish, Big Hill ensures a truly hand-crafted product where the owners / distillers handle and quality assure every bottle that leaves the distillery.
The packaging of the bottles is as beautifully thought out as the liquid inside, with the creators incorporating subtle and quirky details that nod to the brand’s story. On the final ascent there is a section on Everest called the “3 steps”, which is visible on the label with the image of a climber positioned at the 3rd step where George Mallory was last seen. The label also depicts famous landmarks that climbers would pass when on the basecamp trail and within the vegetation depicted on the label artwork, are images of ginger, clove, cardamom, cinnamon and tea all woven into the landscape to represent the botanicals from the Himalaya.
The Spirit of George blend that has been created for Fortnum & Mason also incorporates Fortnum’s own chocolate to link to provisions that Mallory took with him to the Himalaya’s. The chocolate creates a special smoothness that results in a luxurious finish. In addition, Big Hill Distillery have included peppers and chilli in recognition of ingredients that were introduced to Mallory during his expedition.
Since its release, Spirit of George has won some very notable awards including: SIP Awards Double Gold 2018 and 2019 (including Consumer Choice Award 2019), IWSC Gold 2019, IWSC (Hong Kong) Silver 2019, San Francisco World Spirits Competition Gold 2021.
Whether sipped neat or taken down the G&T route when mixed with a neutral tonic and accompanied by a slice of orange, Spirit of George creates a most pleasing drink. We are sure you’ll enjoy a gin made with care, craft and a level of dedication and endeavour of which George himself would be proud. So please, raise a glass with a slice of orange to our fearless explorer.