Food Scene Column: Gin, rum and hand sanitiser

Hazel Roberts catches up with Wharf Distellery to hear about life under lockdown, new products and how they repurposed ethanol.

As with so many local small businesses, lockdown had a huge impact on Wharf Distillery but, fortunately for this artisanal producer, not all of it has been bad.

I caught up with Laurence Conisbee to find out about both the highs and lows of lockdown.

With the hospitality industry forced to close its doors and events being cancelled, a large portion of Wharf Distillery’s regular income suddenly dried up back in March.

However, they quickly realised that their ethanol stocks could be repurposed for hand sanitiser.

As panic buying emptied the supermarket shelves and healthcare institutions struggled to get supplies, this local distillery stepped into production.

To support this, they launched a GoFundMe to raise money enabling them to supply sanitiser for free to
charities such as food banks and Willen Hospice.

Laurence was pleased by the public response to this, allowing them to get sanitiser supplies to the most vulnerable.

On the regular business side of things, they worked alongside local breweries such as Hornes Brewery and Roman Way to sell each other’s products, offering free home delivery and collection points at various locations around the area.

The home delivery service has been well received and they experienced an increase in online sales.

As the hospitality industry emerges from lockdown, sales to this sector are still slow, however, Laurence is pleased to see a greater interest in locally made products.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is an increased interest in wanting to start own brand gin, rum and vodka, particularly from vineyards and breweries looking to diversify.

New and existing customers will be delighted to learn that Wharf Distillery will soon be exporting a new gin to Hong Kong that will also be available to the UK market.

They have developed two new gins and released a charity Gorilla Honey Rum. And just in time for Christmas they will have three new flavours of vodka available and the second release of their whisky.

Flexibility, creativity, and the support of the local community has allowed this small business to survive and thrive during this difficult time.

Here’s to a healthy future… cheers!

This feature was published in the October 2020 issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Read the full magazine above or by clicking on this link.

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