The York Gin story: History, people and brand
York Gin History
The first bottles of York Gin London Dry appeared in 2018 after a group of friends (including one of York’s most well-known pub landlords) decided it was time for the city to have its own gin.
Conversations in The Swan, one of York’s most famous and award-winning independent pubs, centred around making a gin that would make the city proud.
From the outset, the founders were clear they didn’t want to create just another gin. They also wanted York Gin to capture some of the city’s incredible 2,000 years of history. Hence the company motto, ‘History in the Tasting’.
The founders were also clear that the company would be as sustainable as possible – having as light an impact on the planet as possible.
Since the launch of the first gin, three founding directors now work full-time for York Gin, so it must a great place to work!
The company employs another nine full-time staff, running the distillery, attending events and taking care of the online side of the business. The company’s shop in the historic centre of York also has a team of part-time staff.
So from the outset, the guiding principles of the York Gin Company have always been:
- only to create gins of the highest quality
- to treat the planet, our people, our business partners and our customers with the utmost care and respect
- to be inspired by our city’s and gin’s long and incredible histories - hence our motto ‘History in the Tasting’
- to make York proud of us
- to have as much fun as possible
In the intervening three years we have:
- won numerous silver and gold medals at the world’s biggest spirits competitions
- been described by experts as making some of the world’s best gin
- become 100% powered by Green Energy, become plastic free, become a Living Wage employer
- opened a beautiful award-winning shop that is now a fixture of York’s ancient town centre
- appeared in the world’s media including BBC World Service, most of the UK’s national newspapers as well as the Australian, American and even African press
- launched a popular range of gifts, personalised engraved bottles and accessories
- raised and donated thousands of pounds to local charities
- enjoyed (almost) every minute
York Gin's People
Peter McNichol - Commercial Director
Pete is responsible for all things commercial and contractual as well as running our sales and distribution operation. Pete has extensive experience in the licensed trade (running one of York’s best pubs for many years). He is also the creator of our Double Gold medal-winning York Gin Outlaw.
Pete initially established the York Gin Company. He also found and negotiated the contracts on our beautiful Tudor York Gin home in the city centre and our distillery - just a couple of minutes’ drive past the Archbishop of York’s Palace. Originally trained as a chartered surveyor, Pete has spent his whole adult life in the hospitality industry. A true people person!
Emma Godivala - Marketing Director
Emma spent two decades working in corporate marketing and branding while spending her leisure hours researching gins from around the world. She built the York Gin brand from scratch, including drawing our famous cat and castle logo. Emma runs all the York Gin social media accounts with their 30,000+ followers. She manages the website (including our online shop) and all our marketing, advertising and PR. (Our ‘ban’ on cheesy Christmas songs in 2019 made headlines around the world, and even featured on the BBC World Service!)
Emma develops our non-gin related products. She also ensures that the beautiful York Gin shop is running smoothly (it won Shop of the Year at the Visit York Tourism Awards 2020) and gets brilliant online reviews.
Harry Cooke - Operations Director
Harry runs the York Gin distillery (the only distillery in the city). He also develops our new products and ensures we are as sustainable a business as we possibly can be. Originally trained in computer science with a degree from Newcastle University, Harry spent over a decade running IT teams by day and indulging his passion for distilling and brewing at night.
Harry designed and kitted out the York Gin distillery from scratch. Harry is responsible for making all our products and packaging plastic-free and that we run on 100% green electricity. He’s also working hard on some other major sustainability projects that are due to launch very soon. The international gold medals our gins keep winning prove Harry is doing a grand job.
Paul Crossman - People Director
Paul is the current landlord of three of York’s favourite pubs, The Swan, The Slip and the Volunteer Arms. Paul is co-chair of the Campaign for Pubs, which is fighting for the future of the independent pub as a vital part of communities up and down the land. This hasn’t stopped him from looking after our staff – helping us to become an accredited Living Wage employer, and ensuring our people are treated like the family we consider them to be. Paul’s experience of running his pubs has been invaluable for York Gin in its first years and will continue to be vital as we face the challenges and opportunities of the coming years.
The York Gin Team - Sales, Events, Distillery & Marketing
Adam Cook - Sales
Hannah Fish - Events
Evie Jackson - Events
Natalie Hall - Projects
Simon Henry - PR and Marketing
Becky Antrobus - Distillery
Leo Ballantyne - Distillery
The York Gin Shop team
The York Gin brand
York is famous for its ancient walls (reaching back to the Romans), its castle (the 13th Century Clifford’s Tower) and its ‘bars’ (the four gates into and out of the city). The castle and walls are symbols of York’s incredible history – a history that amazingly remains intact.
The cat is one of York’s symbols - visitors can follow a ‘Cat Trail’ of statues attached to many city centre buildings. And the cat is synonymous with gin – surviving gin bottles from the 19th Century have drawings of cats on them. And a type of gin is called Old Tom.
So the logo is a homage to both York’s and gin’s history.
The York Gin cat is inspired by a cat that appeared in a 17th century woodcut of the Bottesford Witches, with their familiar, a cat named 'Rutterkin' meaning 'a swaggering gallant'. Little Rutterkin sits proudly on the city walls on every York Gin bottle.
Meanwhile, the distinctive font we use on our bottles is a revival of 17th Century ‘Fell Fonts’ - widely used in print at the time of the 18th Century ‘Gin Craze’.
History in the Tasting
York was almost certainly home to many illegal distilleries over the centuries.
So-called Bathtub Gin will have been made in the city - as it was in many other cities – in private, unlicensed houses since the 18th century.
York Gin’s claim is therefore to be the city’s first legal distillery. It is also York’s only distillery today.
The inspiration for our gins comes from York’s two millennia and gin’s three centuries of history.
Thus our motto, ‘History in the Tasting’.
Some of our inspiration comes from:
- The Romans, who settled in the city 2,000 years ago
- York’s outlaws, including highwayman Dick Turpin, ‘Yorkshire Witch’ Mary Bateman (both executed in York), and the city’s most famous son, Gunpowder Plotter, Guy Fawkes, old boy of St Peter’s School
- One of the city’s ghosts, the Grey Lady, said to haunt the Theatre Royal – York claims to be Europe’s most haunted city
- York’s chocolate history – specifically, the Terry’s Chocolate Orange, invented in York in 1932 and made in the city for decades
We love the fact that so much of York’s history survives to the present day. Our brand had to reflect this history. Our motto ‘History in the Tasting’ guides everything we do
– right down to the traditional centuries-old vapour-infusion method of distilling.
We’ve even given our Roman Fruit gin its own Latin motto: ‘Veni, Vidi, Bibi’ – ‘I came, I saw, I drank’. We double-checked our Latin with the country’s most famous Roman scholar, Professor Dame Mary Beard of Cambridge University. Incidentally, the professor loves a York Gin Roman Fruit Negroni.