Recent winners of three Great Taste Awards, one for each of their three gins, Cheshire Botanicals, based in Nantwich, is a gin producer going from strength to strength

Cheshire Botanicals is a family-owned, small batch gin business in Nantwich that, while only launching their first gin in November 2020, and their third last year, have won a Great Taste Award for each one, not to mention a passionate fanbase of repeat buyers and praise-singers.

Great British Life: Deb, Holly and Paul ChallinorDeb, Holly and Paul Challinor

The family behind the brand consists of parents Deb and Paul Challinor, and their daughter, Holly. Deb is a time-served (over 40 years of time) matron with the NHS, Paul works in vertical farming and hydroponics and Holly has a Masters degree in Professional Writing. So what made this clearly very close-knit family decide to do something completely, mind-blowingly, different?

“We’d talked about making our own gin since 2014,” Holly says. “We were fascinated by the ‘gin boom’ happening around that time, and gin was always our favourite choice of drink, and we had our own views on what makes a great gin. At the end of 2019 we had a bit of a ‘now or never’ moment, and I started investigating how to go about it and making plans. Then lockdown happened and while the world went a bit crazy, we found peace in honing our recipe for our perfect gin, although it did of course slow our plans a little.’

In an effort to overcome this unanticipated delay, Cheshire Botanicals launched a crowdfunding campaign, raising £3,500 to help the family launch their gin in time for the all-important Christmas gifting period, helping towards production, sustainable packaging and delivery costs.

There are many gins on the market, so what drew people to support this one?

Great British Life: Nantwich GinNantwich Gin

“I think maybe our dedication to locality. Nantwich was home to been the home of some of the leading names in science, horticulture and botany and our first gin, Nantwich Gin, a London dry gin, was developed in honour of one of the town’s most famous sons, John Gerard. Gerard was superintendent of the gardens of William Cecil, Lord Burghley and curator of the Physic Garden at the College of Physicians, and had his own private garden, where among many other exciting plants, he grew the first potato in England. In 1597 he wrote his own Herball, or guide to plants, which became the most famous of all English herbals well into the 17th Century. Many of the botanicals included in the Nantwich Gin recipe were grown by Gerard in his garden.

‘It was also a period of lockdown, of course, with no pubs or bars open, and people were looking for new and interesting options, and shopping local was very important.’

The bottle labels were designed locally, and reflect the classic Tudor buildings the town is known for – and there’s the Nantwich Gin cat, too, of course, who you can find making his presence felt across the range.

Nantwich Gin is a London Dry, with the classic trio of juniper berries, coriander seeds and angelica root, combined with delicate florals such as rose and lavender. Lemon thyme brings a citrus twist, complemented by punchy cardamom and a warming finish from pink peppercorns. The gin won the coveted double star at the 2023 Great Taste Awards, which goes to fewer than than 10% of entries in the Awards.

Great British Life: Matron's Strength, and that cat againMatron's Strength, and that cat again

The family’s second gin, Matron’s Strength, also won two stars at the 2023 Great Taste Awards, and is their nod to the more traditionally named Navy Strength gin, but so named in homage to Deb’s 40-plus years in the NHS.

By definition, a Navy Strength gin has to have an ABV of at least 57%, which is notably higher than most ‘normal’ gins you might buy. The Nantwich Gin Matron’s Strength is a less diluted form of their classic London Dry (the ABV of the grain spirit that goes into the still for distillation is 96%, coming out after distillation usually around 65% ABV - still too strong at that point to drink (for most!) - so water is always added to get it to the flavour profile and ABV the distiller thinks best). However, the higher alcohol content means the greater amount of flavour is captured, and, when done well, imparted in the finished gin.

“Navy Strengths are known not only for their increased alcohol content, but also for a deeper flavour profile, with more of a hit from the botanicals. They also have a creamier mouthfeel, and a lot of people like to drink them just over ice, like a whisky,” Holly says. “Ours has an almost syrupy texture, coating the palate and bringing out the angelica root and coriander alongside strengthened florals, while the pink peppercorns get knocked back, making it a sweeter experience. It’s brilliant as a gin for cocktails, as it doesn’t get lost in amongst the other ingredients.”

Great British Life: Sweet Briar GinSweet Briar Gin

In 2022 the family launched their Sweet Briar Pink gin, with a fruity flavour profile from the infusion of blackberries and rosehip. The gin, a one-star winner, is another nod to a famous Nantwich resident, chemist Joseph Priestley, who lived in Nantwich’s Sweet Briar Hall, who not only discovered oxygen (in a scientific fashion, not just by breathing), but also the carbonisation process – without Priestley we’d have no bubbles in our tonic. Shudder.

“We have an exciting new launch this month, too,” Holly adds. “It's another nod to Nantwich, but this time it's to Nantwich locals, or 'Dabbers’. Barrel-aged in virgin oak barrels, for 12 months, the new, limited edition, gin has a slightly higher ABV than our classic London Dry and I think will be a big hit. The flavour profile is enhanced with toasted vanilla notes from the barrel-aging, and there’s an intriguing hint of apple, perfect for autumnal tipples. We love it, and I am sure our customers will too.”

While initially the gins were retailed wholly online, they soon gained space in the bricks-and-mortar retailers, too, not to mention being carried by bars throughout the area. It seems everything is going the right way for this busy, hardworking family, which is just the way we like it.