Gin-gle bells! Brighton Gin founder on Christmas sales and the future

Founder of Brighton Gin, Kathy Caton (Photograph: Liz Finlayson/Vervate)
Founder of Brighton Gin, Kathy Caton (Photograph: Liz Finlayson/Vervate)

The small team at Brighton Gin took a break from distilling in the busy run-up to Christmas to celebrate three years on the shelves with the mayor of Brighton and Hove.

Mayor Mo Marsh popped in to the Portslade distillery on Monday, to toast the award-winning business at the end of a successful year.

The Brighton Gin team with Mayor Mo Marsh (Photograph: Liz Finlayson/Vervate)

The Brighton Gin team with Mayor Mo Marsh (Photograph: Liz Finlayson/Vervate)

With Christmas sales of the spirit of Brighton already up by 38 per cent compared to the same period last year, the 12-strong team at Brighton Gin’s distillery have been working round the clock to fulfil orders of stocking filler 50ml minis, present-sized half bottles, and classic 700ml bottles.

We caught managing director and distiller Kathy Caton for a quick chat.

Why is this landmark so important?
It’s our third birthday in terms of bottles being on shelves. We’re producing 500 bottles a week. It is probably the most we can do at the moment. That just seems amazing. I remember celebrating when we got to 500 bottles a month.

What are your proudest achievements since starting up Brighton Gin?
One of the things I’m really proud of is that we have got fantastic, diverse workforce, from people in their twenties to seventies, and that we work flexibly as well.
There are 12 of us on the team, two of us are full time. One of the things we want to encourage is it does not have to be nine-to-five. In Brighton lots of people are juggling commitments. The hope and idea is that people will stick with us. We are on this fantastic adventure together. At the very least we drink gin!

Why gin?
I have always drunk gin. At university I was completely laughed at for it. They used to say ‘that’s my nan’s drink’. It had an old-fashioned, old lady reputation, but I always loved it.
Then, after a night dancing around a kitchen table, I went for a run the next day, and it occurred to me that gin is the only drink you can drink and get away with it the next morning.
I thought, ‘Brighton needs to get away with it on a frequent basis’, and then thought, ‘Brighton needs its own gin’.

So how did you get started?
I learned to make gin. I used to run pubs in London and a restaurant on the seafront, but I am not a chemist. I got stuck in, making tons of mistakes. That is how you learn, by making lots of really undrinkable things!
We wanted to make a gin that was smooth enough to drink neat, but also makes a cracking gin and tonic.

Why is Brighton Gin so special?
Everything is done by hand. We are not the cheapest bottle on the shelf by a long way, but the gin is handmade, each bottle is hand filled and finished, and that costs money to do. But it means that every single thing that is made, people have taken real pride in.

Why has gin made a comeback?
We have really followed what has happened with craft beer, and the amount of knowledge and passion people have, it is amazing.
I have been working on Brighton Gin for five years or so. Five years ago I thought ‘gin is going to have a moment in the sun’.
The younger generation drink much less, but much better quality. They want to know the story behind it.

Is Brighton a good place to start up a new business?
One of the things I absolutely love about Brighton is you can go into any pub in town and hear people having brilliant ideas. And if you have brilliant ideas you can make them happen here.
There’s also a lot of collaboration in that ‘if you give me a hand with this, I’ll give you a hand with that’, and it makes stuff happen.

Has Brexit impacted on the business?
It has had an effect so far in the uncertainty of it and the fact that costs have gone up. Our corks come from Portugal, and transport costs have gone up.
There is quite a lot of ‘we’re just going to wait and see’ and people making small orders as they do not want to really commit themselves. I think it is affecting everyone in all sorts of ways.

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Talk to people, go to things like the Brighton Chamber, they are really brilliant and helpful.
Whenever I have asked ‘can I buy you a coffee and have a chat’, no-one has ever said no to that.
Also make sure you’re making enough time to see your friends and eating enough vegetables!

And what’s next for Brighton Gin?
We have got some big plans for 2018 and beyond.
Looking ahead to the next year, we are looking to grow our exports, but you also want to do that in a way that is sustainable and really true to our roots. We want to build a fun, interesting Brighton thing, through the medium of gin! And really getting the Brighton Gin name out there as much as possible.
We’re looking to grow the team, grow production, but do it in that Brighton authentic way.
Just going for it and seeing what happens. And if it all goes pear-shaped, we can drink all the gin and have a heck of a party.

To find out more about Brighton Gin, visit: