They say it takes a village to raise a child. But really, they should be saying it takes a village to make a bloody good bottle of gin. Ruddy Fine Gin has been two years in the making, but now they’ve perfected their recipe, and they’re ready to launch in Ruddington and beyond. We chat to the co-owners, husband and wife duo Cheryl and Rory Stretton, to find out all about it…
When the couple picks up the phone for this interview, they’re rushed off their feet – they’ve had a busy day ferrying orders in their van, but they still have masses of energy, and their excitement about their business bubbles over in conversation like tonic over ice. Ruddy Fine Gin has been their baby for two years, and during lockdown they reached a point where they could share it with the world. While some relationships can drive you to drink in a bad way, Cheryl and Rory’s did this in the best way, as it introduced him to the wonderful world of gin.
Rory tells me, smiling: “I was never really a big fan of gin until I started going out with Cheryl. As time wore on, we progressed to buying our own little copper stick still from a place in Portugal and having a little go at making our own.” This tinkering and dabbling went on for a while, and they realised that they’d stumbled on doing something they enjoyed and that could work well as a business too – the emergence of craft gins have created a ‘ginaissance’ in the UK in recent years, with it overtaking whiskey as the nation’s favourite spirit.
While they have worked on the recipe for two years – experimenting with different botanicals and going through over forty different recipes before settling on their flagship Lockdown London Dry’s – it has been their free time in lockdown that has allowed them to settle on the best batch and build a brand, with the help of their friends, family and local businesses in Ruddington. Rory says: “When we were allowed to we invited one of our friends for social-distanced tasting when we'd literally got it down to three final recipes. Every single one of them came out with the latest version as their preferred one, and said they felt that it was a step above any other gins they’d tried.” He continues, “It's very refreshing, it's very zesting, it's quite deep, and all the botanicals and flavours just fit together really well.”
Despite the fairly recent launch, they’ve already got it stocked in Ruddington locals The Red Lion, The Frame Breakers and The White Horse, as well as various stores on the village high street. The couple really credits the community for helping them launch the gin – not just in terms of stocking it, but in terms of sharing it on social media, giving advice to them, and lining up at the village fair to buy a bottle, where they sold 110 bottles in just one day. “People really couldn't have been more generous and supportive, and we really would love to say a massive thank you to all of them.”
With the village being so supportive of their launch, they wanted to give back – and realised they had the facilities and ingredients to do just that by producing hand sanitiser. “Mark who helps run the village market also helps at the food bank on a Saturday, and he took about 100 bottles down there to help the volunteers,” Cheryl says. “Ruddington had around 350 volunteers that were helping deliver prescriptions in the area, so we gave them a bottle as well and then some of them went out with the prescriptions too.”
As lockdown eases and we’re all in dire need of a tasty tipple, Rory and Cheryl are raring to go, with new flavours already in the works; their summer berries pink gin has just come out and they’re working on a bottle infused with honey from their garden, and they’re even crafting a Navy strength one that’s a corking 57% ABV. Rory finishes our call by saying: “It's been great fun so far, and the reason we wanted to do it was that, and it's something that we're very passionate about.” Nab yourself a bottle, some tonic, a sprig of rosemary or a slice of orange and get propped up in your garden – we all definitely deserve it.
A proper good slice of cake can always help put the world to rights, and Sam Rose of Betty Rose Bakes knows how to do just that, and more. Her sweet treats are made with beautiful local ingredients, as she has a keen focus on them being environmentally-friendly. We chat to her about the makings of her business and how she’s been keeping calm and baking on during lockdown…