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West Berkshire distillery's gin named best in England

Hawkridge – based in Compton – netted four titles in the World Gin Awards

Hawkridge founders (from left to right): James Gurney, Philip Howarth and Robin Horrex.
Hawkridge founders (from left to right): James Gurney, Philip Howarth and Robin Horrex.

A distillery based in the village of Compton has netted a flurry of awards in an international competition, with one of its products named best London Dry Gin in England.

Hawkridge Distillery was only founded two years ago by local businessmen Philip Howarth, James Gurney and Robin Horrex, yet it has nabbed no less than four honours in the 2021 edition of the World Gin Awards.

The awards are presented annually by TheDrinksReport.com, an industry website for alcohol manufacturers.

They aim to highlight the work of producers globally, champion the finest gins and are considered among the most coveted awards in the industry.

Hawkridge's Blowing Stone product was named England's No 1 London Dry Gin.

The drink is steeped in local history, being named after a stone that the future King Alfred blew into to summon his troops to the Battle of Ashdown in 871 AD. Compton is believed to be the site of this clash.

The gin is crafted with West Berkshire botanical ingredients and comes in three distinct flavours, with a fourth launching later next month.

Judges summed up The Blowing Stone as: "A great traditional-style gin with a zing of juniper alongside meadow flowers, herbs, citrus peel, cumin and gingery spices.

"Good and complex.

"Some woody notes and some warmth, before a complex, rounded finish."

Magpie Hill and the West Berkshire Brewery edition of Dragon Hill – also produced by Hawkridge – came in for silver awards in the Best English London Dry category.

Meanwhile, a special navy strength Magpie Hill, aptly called Lockdown Strength, netted the national silver award in the Best Navy Gin category.

Philip Howarth, managing director at Hawkridge, said they were particularly proud of the navy-strength blend: "It's been in development for over a year and was an incredibly smooth gin with a long taste.

"It was great to have this confirmed by some of the industry's best gin aficionados."

Hawkridge has a strong presence in the West Berkshire area.

It has produced gins for The Woodspeen, West Berkshire Brewery and The Vineyard, among other hotels, restaurants and breweries.

The firm also makes gin for the British Army.

Over the first UK lockdown period, its management turned their attentions to the hand sanitiser market.

In the face of a national shortage, the firm produced and shipped more than 10,000 litres of sanitiser.

Recipients included both national bodies – such as the NHS, MOD and the military – as well as many local good causes.

This initiative has boosted Hawkridge's profile in the district.

Mr Howarth said: "There's been a really good reception to the gin, I think partly because of the work we did with local volunteer groups in the villages over those lockdown months.

"A lot of those villagers are coming and buying our gin now.

"They're very pleased with the focus of the Blowing Stone gin on local heritage.

"We've had a great reception, with lots of repeat customers – particularly locally – for Blowing Stone."

Bethany Whymark, editor of Gin Magazine, said: "Now is a wonderful time to be working in the world of gin, and we are proud to be able to celebrate the industry's best through our awards – which were presented in a virtual format for the first time ever in 2021.

"Those in the gin industry have demonstrated an incredible resilience and a great deal of compassion over the past year, helping not only their own businesses but those of others to survive and flourish in challenging circumstances.

"Their efforts should be commended.

"Congratulations to all our Icons of Gin and World Gin Awards winners, and our new Hall of Fame inductees, and we look forward to celebrating with you all in person soon."

Anita Ujszaszi, awards director at the World Gin Awards, said: "Despite the challenges of the past 12 months for our gin producers, the World Gin Awards have had a fantastic response.

"We received a record-breaking number of entries, with more than 800 gins submitted, and the quality has been outstanding across the board. Thank you to all the producers who entered and delighted us with their gins.

"A sincere thanks must also go to our global judging panel, who have been incredibly supportive and professional in the face of an unusual time for the World Gin Awards."

To learn more about Hawkridge and its full range of products, visit its website.

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