In a narrow street just around the corner from Booths, a part-time actor by the name of Andrew Arnold Bennett has been quietly distilling small batches of exceedingly good gin in the market town of Ulverston. With branding reminiscent of an old apothecary and a time in which Britain went gin-mad as famously depicted by Hogarth’s Gin Lane, former Shakespearean actor Andrew is just three months into his new boozy venture. Unlike the often lethal concoctions made prior to The Gin Act of 1736, passed in an attempt to stave off the criminality and general drunken debauchery of the times, Andrew’s small batch gins are so pure they could almost be considered wholesome. In fact he’s convinced me that a hangover is unlikely (that is unless I were to drink a whole bottle of course…).
It seems quite apt and almost poetic that Mr Arnold-Bennett has temporarily parked a career that saw him treading the boards worldwide with theatres companies such as The Globe and Northern Broadside to invest in the very spirit that was abused by many in the century following the lifetime of the famous Bard.
It is quite fitting therefore that Andrew has named one of his two inaugural gins as ‘Cuckold’s Revenge’, paying hommage to his role as Master Ford in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Exotically fired with the taste of green cardamoms, nutmeg and orange and lemon zests, Cuckold’s Revenge is certainly one way to drown any lurking emotions of jealousy and spite… The second flavour ‘Giggle in the Ginnel’ was named after his 50th birthday celebrations which took place last summer in the narrow passageway running alongside the terraced house he shares with his wife Zoe. Inviting friends and neighbours to share a toast in the so-called ‘Ginnel’ would forever be remembered as an earthy gin replete with soft fruits and the zingy flavours of angelica, star anise and elderberry.
Running a gin distillery the size of well, a small shed, brings with it certain complications, particularly when the gin tastes as good as Shed 1; like how to fulfil the ever-increasing orders and still retain the purity and honesty of its provenance? Andrew currently produces just thirty-six 500ml bottles out of a single run. The process is labour-intensive and so the price of £31 upwards for half a litre is justified. Selling directly via his website at www.shed1distillery.com and through a list of steadily growing stockists such as The Porterage at Greenodd, Chestnut House at Pooley Bridge and Love The Lakes in Keswick to name just a few, Andrew will soon be looking to expand his distillery process to keep up with demand.
Whatever he decides, one thing is sure – Shed 1 Gin will always be distilled in Cumbria under the meticulous eye of actor-cum distiller, Andrew Arnold-Bennett whose passion for prose has now been fired instead by the composition of his fabulous gin.