Michael Vaughan on living in Alderley Edge and launching Declaration Gin
- Credit: Julian Kronfli
Cricketing legend Michael Vaughan is happily settled into Cheshire life and about to launch his latest business venture
We're in the part of Michael Vaughan's - tasteful, not ostentatious, fairly recently rebuilt farmhouse not far from Alderley Edge - we shall call the Party Room. With its wooden bar, rustic lighting and industrial chic furnishing it has all the aesthetic of some cool, gritty city cocktail joint. He is at the aforementioned bar, sipping on a goblet of G&T. It is 11am on a Monday morning.
Fear not. Cricket's legend, captain of that glorious 2005 Ashes-winning team, hasn't strayed down a dark path. 'This room is almost exclusively my teenage daughter's nowadays,' he grumbles. 'We barely get a look in.'
The gin is his - or at least partly his - latest business venture. (And the sipping is mainly staged for the photos.)
Declaration Gin, which will soon be available online and in high-end retailers such as Selfridges, was the result of those late-night, dinner party 'Why don't we?' moments. Only when you're Michael Vaughan those moments don't get thrown away into the recycling the next morning with last night's empty wine - or indeed, gin - bottles. They actually become reality.
'I know it's been done before,' he says of the seemingly exponentially flourishing gin market. 'But we thought we could do something great - and that it'd be fun.'
The 'we' is his wife Nichola - a former accountant - and friends Michael and Rachael Hunter, who've both had high-flying careers in sales and marketing respectively. A crack team then. 'I'm good at ideas, I'm good at vision and innovation,' says Michael. (He's already considering the next drink in what they hope will be a Declaration stable; a rum or tequila perhaps.) He's also the famous one.
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And so the name (declaration is a cricketing term and his autobiography is Time to Declare) and story behind the gin is his; infused with ingredients that originate from his three favourite cricketing countries. There's Australian ginger, Darjeeling tea from India 'and then a few things from England but primarily liquorice'. It has been distilled in North Wales.
'There's not a huge amount of science to making gin,' he admits. 'But it's about the quality of the ingredients. We use an organic ethanol from Italy. That's what makes it so smooth.'
Nichola, who potters in and out of the kitchen, looking like she's doing a dozen things at once as Michael and I chat at the kitchen table, adds: 'We were told that if you can create a gin that tastes good in the worst possible circumstances - when you're drinking it in a terrible bar at the end of the night with no ice - then you're on to a winner.'
Even in the brief time you witness them together you can see why the Vaughan partnership works. Nichola takes care of 'the details'. As we speak they are in the very final stages of getting everything signed off and she's currently in contact with HMRC about securing some sort of legal okay. 'The boring stuff, the stuff I'm not good at,' says Michael.
The pair knew each other from school in Sheffield - although never teenage sweethearts they met again on a night out when they were 22. Sixteen years of marriage and three children - two girls and a boy, aged 15, nine and 13 respectively - later, and you could probably say things are going okay.
Michael is Manchester-born, Sheffield-raised; his parents moving across the Pennines when he was nine. He and Nichola moved to Cheshire from Derbyshire a few years ago when they started looking for secondary schools for the children. 'We just couldn't find what we wanted close by and I didn't want the kids boarding, I'm away enough as it is,' he says. Nichola had family in Cheshire and all the easy transport links made sense for Michael who travels both nationally and internationally with work. 'Of course we miss friends in Sheffield but generally it's been great. Amazingly, the kids haven't been bothered at all, they love it here.'
Beyond the gin, Michael has various business interests; there's his gym brand, Fitism, with branches in Wilmslow and Bakewell, the kind of boutique place where cash-rich professionals workout. He's an investor - and ambassador for - MHR Clinic, which specialises in male hair restoration (his locks are looking suitably luscious). Then there's something that my Luddite tendencies will struggle to explain but it's to do with robots that can draw advertising on sports pitches.
By the time you read this he'll be flying Down Under to recommence his role as an expert commentator for the Australian Test Summer on Fox Sports Australia.
It means Christmas will be spent out there; Nichola and the kids and his father-in-law will fly out when school holidays and teen social lives allow.
It's great, he says, to still have cricket as a part of his life - something he can dip in and out of. He bristles at the notion it should be more, that his success as England Captain should automatically lead into coaching…
'I find it disrespectful [to coaches] when people say to me I should be England coach,' he says. 'Like I could just turn up and start doing a better job than those guys who are totally involved turning up day after day, who are dedicated to that same group of people 24/7. I couldn't do that. I get bored too easily'.
In fact leaving full-time cricket was never a struggle for him. He didn't miss it? Not at all, he insists. 'People think I'd miss the dressing room. I never missed the dressing room. So much of it is fake. It's full of personalities you'd never get along with in real life. They're just colleagues at the end of the day.'
Does that mean he and Freddie Flintoff, that other Cheshire-based Ashes hero, aren't best mates then?
'Me and Freddie get on just fine,' he laughs. 'Our kids have played sport against each other actually. I never see him though.'
He admits, however, that the first year or so after playing full time was 'weird'.
'The hardest thing about being a sportsperson is finding your identity afterwards. But it's only one part of your life - 10 or 12 years if you're lucky. And yet people will define you by that 20%. But my biggest advice to young sportspeople is that it'll start and it'll finish. You have to accept it will finish.'
He says all of this and yet his snooker room - just down the hall from the party room - is adorned with all his achievements; his bats, his trophies, dozens of pictures of him - playing, winning - letters from the Queen and Tony Blair congratulating him on that Ashes victory.
'The kids did all of that,' he says. Still, it must be good for the ego, knowing you've accomplished all that?
'It gives me pride,' he says. 'The older you get the more you realise how special it is. You look down the list of people who have been England Captain and there aren't many. But it's not something you can live off. It's not all I want to be remembered for.'
Surely, it's pretty great to have that even as part, if not all of you; to be held in such affection. He smiles: 'People still call me Skipper,' he says. 'When I go to Lords everyone from the players to the ground staff to the spectators; they all call me Skipper. That's nice.'