The York Gin Story

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’. Many gold medals later, we can safely say we are a gin brand to be reckoned with!

The founders were also clear that the company would be as sustainable as possible – having as light an impact on the planet as possible.

(York Gin won Environmental Hero award at the York Mix Hero Awards at the end of 2022. Driving electric vehicles, using 100% green energy and buying locally wherever possible are just some of ways we minimise our impact.)

The company has a team running the distillery, a sales team, and a small digital team. The York Gin shops have a team of part-time staff.

So from the outset, the guiding principles of the York Gin Company have always been to:

  • create gins of the highest quality
  • treat the planet, our people, our business partners and our customers with the utmost care and respect
  • be a sustainable, responsible and efficient company
  • create a positive, supportive, happy, fun and safe working environment
  • be inspired by our city’s and gin’s long and incredible histories - hence our motto ‘History in the Tasting’
  • make York proud of us

Since our launch on 1 March 2018, we have:

  • won multiple 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 renewable energy, become plastic free, become a Living Wage employer
  • opened two beautiful shops
  • 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

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.

Sign up to Newsletter

Sign up to our newsletter and receive exclusive discounts and offers.