Five minutes talking gin with Nick Radclyffe
Owner of Foxdenton estate and its associated gin-making business
What is the history of Foxdenton estate?
The estate is based in Lancashire and was acquired by my family through marriage in 1367. Our branch of the family lived at Foxdenton Hall until the late 18th century when they moved down to Dorset; since then we have ended up in Buckinghamshire. The land was kept and was developed as part of the industrialisation of the towns around Manchester. We continue to own a very small amount of land in Lancashire but the hall and grounds were leased to the local council in 1926 and the hall was eventually sold to the council in 1960.
What sets Foxdenton estate gin apart from other brands?
We not only make a fabulous London dry gin — Foxdenton 48 — but we have specialised in making fruit gins for longer than we have made London dry gin. We supply many estates and country houses around the UK with their own special labelled fruit gins. We make all the fruit gins here in Buckingham and the London dry gin we distill in London.
What’s your favourite tipple?
I personally love our damson gin and while I mostly drink wine in the evenings no dinner is complete without a small glass of our damson, plum or apricot gin liqueurs.
What does your typical working week involve?
Like anyone involved with a natural product we are often at the mercy of the seasons. During the fruit harvest time I am mostly out driving to farms to collect fruit and coming back to put it under gin or taking it to our local cold store for use later in the year. Mostly the weeks start with fulfilling all the internet orders from the weekend and planning the bottling and labelling for the week ahead. After checking on stock levels in the warehouse, we then check the vats to see which will be racked off, fi ltered and bottled that week. Most days also involve calculating the duty we owe to HM Revenue & Customs. As a bonded warehouse we pay them every time we make goods and move them out of bond into our duty-paid warehouse. Helping customers design their own labels or the images they wish to have engraved on our bottles takes up a lot of time, as special gifts need special care. The weekend is often spent at shows and during the summer we might be out on the road for three weekends out of four during the show season. This is tiring, but it is a great way to meet our customers.
What is next for the business?
In 2017 we will expand our production once again now that we have bought the industrial unit next door, giving us the chance to finally have enough stock on hand so that we do not run out during the Christmas season. We are already exporting to three countries in Europe and we hope to expand this during 2017 as well.
Did you find shooting or did shooting find you?
My father was a very keen Shot and when I was eight he would take me along as his picker-up and general factotum. From the age of 11 I started shooting. It was all roughshooting to begin with, often down in Cornwall, shooting snipe and plover, so when I first went driven shooting I could not believe how big the pheasants were. That did not stop me missing them though.
Where is your favourite shooting destination?
Wherever I am shooting with friends or family. The place is not as important as the people.
What is your greatest shooting experience?
Shooting in France with a group of immaculately charming French anglophiles. One day was spent shooting pheasants and the second shooting wild boar. The mixture of the English-style pheasant shooting and the French food and drink, as well as the excitement of the wild boar running through the line, made for a wonderful experience.
What do you do to switch off from work?
I can spend hours looking through auction catalogues online as I love the thrill of the chase when it comes to buying pictures at auction. I am only looking at the small provincial auction houses and hope, like everyone else, that one day I will stumble on a hidden old master. It has yet to happen though.
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