Yorkshire is rightly proud of its heritage and for being home for many food and drink brands, but thanks to Cathy and Karl Mason it now has a handful of locally produced gin producers, but the Masons were the first with their own Masons Dry Yorkshire Dry Gin which uses locally sourced ingredients and botanicals to give it a point of difference even in the crowded gin market.
Karl and Cathy Mason on how they have proudly made Yorkshire’s first gin brand using locally sourced ingredients.
Most drinks brands create Facebook groups to help promote what they have already created. Not Karl and Cathy Mason who took their passion for gin by creating first a “G&T Friday” community page on Facebook for fellow gin fans to swap and share what gins they were drinking, where and how. The page grew to some 10,00 followers and they soon realised there was a gap even in the over supplied gin market for one made from the heart of Yorkshire.
Seven months later and they were the first drinks producer to set up a gin distillery in the county and very soon they had their own Masons Yorkshire Gin made from Harrogate spring water and a unique recipe. They are now producing 200 litre batches of gin at a time, each with a hand written batch and bottle number. For Christmas they were producing 2,000 bottles a week to keep up with demand.
Here Cathy Mason shares their story:
It was quite a leap of faith to go from a Facebook following to creating your own gin?
To be honest it all happened so fast. I think, because gin has become such a trend and consumers are really looking for that unique, artisan twist, Masons seems to fill that gap. If you’re passionate about something, then it makes it easy. We did everything step by step, from distilling to choosing the botanicals. We were careful with how we did things; we stuck with our guns and ran with it.
What sort of taste profile were you looking for?
We were looking for depth of flavour and smoothness. A good test is whether you can have your gin neat. We wanted to create something that was a bit different from other gins. Masons is a smooth spirit with malty, grain notes. We wanted it to reminisce one that is made with a white whisky base. We also ensure that the ingredients for our lavender and tea editions are locally sourced.
Why did you choose to work with Cambridgeshire based English Spirit Company to launch your gin – it’s not in Yorkshire?
To be honest, it was simply because we felt that by working with their smaller distillery would result in them listening to our desires and help us create the product we envisioned. Which they have! The unit did take quite a while for us to get used to though. Our team our really great, the majority of our employees are local, which is lovely and really helps keep Masons true to its roots. We are also working with former Gordon’s & Tanqueray distiller, Gerard MacKluskey. His knowledge is just great. He is a pure artisan distiller, a person who is just able to use is nose – he really does know his trade like the back of his hand.
(The Masons now have two purpose built 300 litre stills at the site called Steve – possibly after the artist Steve Stills and Leftie – because it stands to the left of Steve).
Isn’t there enough gin being made in the north and across the UK?
I guess with gin being such a trend, there are quite a lot of UK gins. However, we are really proud to be the first one to be created in Yorkshire, as now there are six.
What advice would you give to someone else wanting to start an artisan spirit?
Talk to lots of people. Exhibiting at shows has been a fantastic way of marketing Masons. Trade shows come at such a low cost but you get some really great feedback and get your product out there nationally.
What method of distilling are you using?
We use the traditional method as it’s what we know, it’s proven and we don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel. Our gin tastes fantastic as it is, we may use other distilling techniques in the future but only if the recipe calls for it. We only distil once to ensure that we get the ideal product slowly and carefully.
You still have a very active social media following and is clearly a key part of your strategy?
We have a great team who work across our social channels that really seem to get what the consumer wants to see and read. I think it’s all about reacting and creating your own trends.
Did you make the gin with bartenders/mixologists in mind?
We originally made it with just ourselves in mind as gin and tonic drinkers, but due to interest from the hospitality industry we are now looking to create an edition specifically for bartenders and mixologists.
What are your ambitions for the brand?
We’d love to have a bigger distillery and create a visitor centre so people get to know our brand. We bought our exporting licence last year, and currently export to Italy and Switzerland. That is exciting.
Any new editions to the range?
We launched both the Tea and Lavender editions last year. I guess it was latching on to a trend, particularly for tea style gins. However we liked the idea that they are full of unusual flavours, which allowed us to use local ingredients. We like to a use a mixture of botanicals in our gins. Coriander seed, cardamom, bay leaf, pepper and a citrus mix of lemon, lime and orange are all used within our products. We feel this is a great mix and gives a perfect balance of flavours.
Do you use local Yorkshire produce where possible?
We do yes. Our lavender is sourced from Yorkshire’s own Lavender farm and our tea is Yorkshire’s finest! There are a tremendous amount of smaller companies who make great products and work so hard, it’s amazing to be surrounded by some of them.
How do you like to drink your gin?
Lots of ice, premium tonic water with a slice of orange peel.
Any recommendations of where to eat and drink in Yorkshire?
Sun Catchers café in Masham North Yorkshire (renamed Johnny Baghdad’s Cafe); The Wensleydale Heiffer in West Witton; The Black Bull in Paradise, a bar attached to the Theakston’s brewery in Masham which is great, and finally Lewis & Coopers in Northallerton. It was founded in 1899, and their deli and wine store is such an Aladdin’s cave which is full of fabulous produce!
Masons Dry Yorkshire Gin – 42%
Nose: Light fennel (aniseed) and some maltiness on the nose with soft
juniper, lime and orange rind.
Palate: Specifically fennel now, getting towards liquorice, fresh feel
with bold citrus, especially the orange rind, pine and juniper.
Finish: Juniper, green apple and lingering lemon zest. A lovely long,
RRP: £39.99 for a 70cl bottle. Available from Harvey Nichols and