How the Goosnargh Gin distillery bounced back from adversity
- Credit: Kirsty Thompson
In times of adversity, a gin and tonic can hit the spot. Rachel and Richard Trenchard have had their fair share of both but are now raising a glass to the future with the reopening of their Forest of Bowland distillery
Rachel and Richard Trenchard are all smiles. As they prepare to reopen their distillery in the Forest of Bowland, nothing could break their spirit. You might assume it has been closed because of you know what. But it was an explosion that razed the distillery, beside their home in Whitechapel, to the ground that forced its shut down.
Rachel was distilling gin early in the morning the explosion happened, last September.
‘The day has started like so many, with an early morning distillation,’ says Rachel. ‘Something didn’t sound right, as things started to heat up, there was a thumping noise and a hiss and I saw the lid explode off the still, sending burning alcohol around the room.
‘I dashed for the French doors near me and was able to get out but I was engulfed by flash flames of burning spirit. It sounds funny but I describe it as being cooked like a Christmas pudding.
‘I was burned badly on my hands and face but I had wonderful friends and family who helped me. I was pouring water all over my face until the ambulance got there. I was so lucky; it could have been much worse.’
It has taken months of recovery with numerous hospital trips, skin graft operations and taking time to heal but whether it is Rachel’s indeterminable spirit, or just good old Lancashire grit, the pair have kept calm and carried on and are focussed only on the future.
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‘They were taking Rachel to the hospital in the ambulance and she was shouting, “we’re still going to be distilling gin, you know”,’ Richard smiles. ‘She has been a complete warrior and has been determined to get open again as soon as possible. She never stops thinking about Goosnargh Gin, never settles for anything other than excellence and never stops driving forward. Not even a fire can stop her.
‘We were back selling at markets a few days later with Rachel directing us all from her bed. But that’s how we do things. We don’t want to look back and wonder what could have been.’
They are people who clearly have the right mindset to thrive. And they have also had a little help from some gin pals. Nearby Wild Fox Distillery, were quick to offer Rachel and Richard their own space so production of Goosnargh Gin didn’t have to stop.
‘Their offer of help came within hours of the accident,’ says Rachel. ‘The offer to use their still, Ivy, came with no strings and we are so grateful for them. Without their support it would have meant a longer break for us. They helped us to continue our story, they were incredible.’
Just a few weeks ago their new still, Bea, was delivered - a specially commissioned piece of kit weighing 220kg from Canada. It’s named after their first still Beatrice. And they have now been able to welcome gin fans back into the distillery for their atelier experiences – a series of events organised with other local craftspeople and businesses.
Their Chapter 1 and 2 gins are back in production at Goosnargh Gin HQ as well as their hugely successful seasonal tipples including their Hay Time, the result of a collaboration with the Forest of Bowland Area of Natural Beauty team and Peter Blackwell, who farms at Bell Sykes in Slaidburn. They use freshly cut botanicals from Peter’s meadows in the gin. And their Floral Notes, inspired by Rachel and Richard’s own garden in full bloom, is made with the most fragrant of pretty peonies, that are vapour infused to create a delicate gin.
The couple, who produce a gin for two Michelin star restaurant Moor Hall in Aughton, have also been able to expand their team, making it possible to attend more food events. They are also on the cusp of releasing a new gin, originally planned for release last year to coincide with 50 years of the Forest of Bowland’s Area of Natural Beauty.
‘It will be our Chapter 6 and we’re excited to release it, after we had to put it on hold due to the pandemic,’ says Rachel. ‘It’s another way to show people what we do and that connection with the county and the land.’
Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. As well as being a Lancashire Life Food and Drink Award winner, their gins have received a raft of accolades in the prestigious International Wine and Spirits Competition. They are also about to appear in a new BBC series, Hairy Bikers Go North.
‘It was the best experience having Dave and Si spend the day with us,’ says Rachel. ‘It was a really hot day and they just loved where we were – Si even went for some peace and a sleep in our garden.
‘They were so encouraging and loved what we did. They wanted to come back and film some more, but in between their visits, the fire had happened. We have very happy memories of their time with us, though.
‘We have so much to be grateful for and we are looking forward and embracing it all. I could look back and focus on what happened but I choose not to. I am still here and I consider myself very lucky. I want to make the most of every moment. We were never going to give up. This is our dream; it is our story and we will continue to embrace each different chapter.’