Meet the former microbiology student behind Manchester Gin
- Credit: Archant
How Aaron Darke has gone from brewing ‘bootleg’ booze in Northern Moor to setting up a bona fide high-end drinks brand with the quirky name Zymurgorium.
While many impoverished students are forced by necessity to brew their own alcoholic concoctions, few go on to turn them into a career - Aaron Darke the man behind The Manchester Gin brand is an exception.
The creator of the Zymurgorium drinks brand was at university studying microbiology and zoology six years ago brewing drink for his friends and wondering what to do for a career.
‘We were technically bootleggers,’ laughs Aaron, who decided to combine his love for all things botanical and scientific and go legit.
‘I fell in love with the distilling aspect and decided I wanted to turn it into a career, so I phoned up HMRC and asked them what I needed to do to make it legitimate, then I started the business off in my mother’s shed in Northern Moor.
Never having had any experience of working for a brewery his journey in the business was quite convoluted but he found backing through a scheme called Test Town in which young entrepreneurs from across the UK were invited to submit their business ideas. Six local heats took place around the UK over the course of the summer, culminating in a Grand Final in October 2014.
‘It was difficult to find suppliers and it was hard at first. I really struggled until I entered a competition called Test Town back in 2014. People had to set up little pop up shops and I won. I was really lucky as the winners got a £10,000 grant and that was really where things started off for me.’
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Aaron’s use of foraged ingredients such as damsons, sloes, elderflower and woodruff were another aspect that made his products different.
‘I think what helped is that people were able to taste the difference. The gin is rather unique, not the same old same old and the fact you can flavour it with different botanicals allows you to create different varieties,’ he explains.
As well as Manchester Gin and Manchester Gin liqueurs, the brand also embraces everything from craft beers and cider to mead. They sell special edition brews like honey cider, marmalade mead English hedge rose gin liqueur and toffee vodka.
His products can now be found online and at Bottle in Stockport and Heaton Moor, Hammond, Knutsford, Cheshire Smokehouse, Epicerie Ludos, Chorlton, and restaurants like Mish Mash in Chorlton and the Church Green at Lymm.
‘I am inspired by nature and my love of culture, variation and science,’ says Aaron.
‘The Zymurgorium name comes from an amalgamation of the word zymurgy and also emporium. Zymurgy is the study of scientific brewing and an emporium is a shop that sells various items and trinkets.
‘The Zymurgorium is a source of adventure and diversity; from fruit and vegetable beers to old and new techniques in the sacred art of distillation, to ancient lost ciders and honey wines and an almost endless supply of brewing and distilling styles. ‘
Like many of the newer breeds of alcohol manufacturers, Aaron is something of a maverick, waging a battle against the ‘overwhelming blandness’ and sameness of established brews.
‘Rebelling against the status quo, bringing our true quality and the flavour from our ingredients is what drove me to start to experimenting all those years ago,’ he says. ‘And it is what keeps us ahead now in innovation and just plain awesomeness!’
Visit zymurgorium.com for further details.