If Demijohn is Neverland, our staff are the lost boys, Angus is (of course) Peter Pan and then our producers can be nothing else but fairy-dust! The substance that makes it all happen, makes the story unfold and the dream a reality.
In August this year, I called in on the wonderful Colin and Phyllis Hingston; the producers of such Demijohn superstars as Seville Orange Gin, Sloe Gin, Lime Vodka, Black cherry Liqueur, Blackcurrant Gin and the new Wild Bullace Liqueur; for a coffee and a cake. I of course ended up with a full tour of the gin fuelled, vodka kicker lifestyle of the Hingston's. Something I thought I would share!
Knowing the area reasonably well, having grown up locally myself just down the road in rural Worcestershire, I thought I knew exactly where I was heading. I had got instructions from Colin, but towards the latter part of my nonsensical scrawl, I realised I had run up and down the same road twelve times looking for a sign for Colin and Phyllis's house. I decided to pull up outside another farm and call as I knew I should be close:
"Colin, apologies, I seem to be going around in circles! I'm by Brenning Farm?"
"Ah yes" came the reply "you are currently opposite a hole in the hedge"
"Drive through, see you soon"
So feeling what I believe Alice to have felt as she was falling through the rabbit hole, and wishing my van was more of an all-terrain four by four, I dived through the small opening, onto a unmarked road and down a long, steep drive.
On arriving, greeted with smiles, handshakes, hugs and the afore mentioned coffee, the chin wagging commenced and I don't believe it stopped for some hours. This quaint and beautiful retreat in the middle of rural Worcestershire gives a fourth dimension to the product that we sell. There were orchards and wild flowers, in fact, if it had not have been for the mild hum of the generator, the power lines over the field and the 3 cars out the front, I would have thought myself in a Jane Austin Novel.
We were then taken to the heart of the production a few miles from the Hingston's house, for a sneak peek into the making of these gorgeous liqueurs... and we were not disappointed! A fruity slap on the face greets you as you walk through the door. Barrels of liqueur stand to attention waiting to be drained. Others lay on bunk beds, as liqueurs like our Sloe Gin and Black Cherry Liqueur sometimes take up to a year to fully steep and there were a few barrels on racks from last years picking.
We helped stir up some of the fruit in the gin and I was amazed to see the amount of fruit actually used in the process! Mitch (Colin and Phyllis's Daughter) must have seen the look on my face; which obviously expressed the desire to jump into the barrel head first and treat the gin soaked fruit like a Labrador over a dropped plate; and dipped the paddle into the gin, scooping out the booziest, best tasting cherries I have ever seen. Lovely!
I was then told for tax reasons, these cherries cannot be sold (as they would cost too much) so are given to the sheep. (I suppose this explains the singing, raucous and philosophically debating farm animals you see so much of these days in the countryside!) At my obvious dismay of this wonderful, boozy fruit being offered to farm animals, I was handed a cheeky 100 weight of boozy cherries... Tastebud delight! I keep meaning to make a desert with them, put them in ice cream or in an eaton mess, but by the time they had defrosted I had 'accidentally' dropped them down my throat and then am too drunk to make anything... and so the cycle continues!
Selling something made in such away, and with such quality, for me is an honour. Where in today's society can you say you were so close to what you are selling. There are people's names attached the product, and it is not made by a factory but, in this case, by three individuals: Colin, Phyllis, and their daughter, Mitch.