New Denbighshire gin “just the tonic” for Ruthin food networking event

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An exciting new gin producer whose lovingly made tipples are already on the menus of some of North Wales’ finest restaurants has chosen Denbighshire’s flagship food connections event to unveil her latest creation.

Lesley Haythorne, who launched Pant y Foel Gin this year following 20 years’ of personal research in developing the “perfect gin and tonic”, will be launching ‘Amber Gin’ at this year’s Ruthin Blas Lleol – Meet The Producer to an audience of restaurateurs, publicans, hotels and cafes.

The annual event is being held on Tuesday, March 12, at Ruthin Castle and is organised by the Clwydian Range Food and Drink Group and Llangollen & Dee Valley Good Grub Club in collaboration with Denbighshire County Council, further details on the Denbighshire County Council website.

It will showcase the best North East Wales has to offer in locally produced food and drink, connecting new and established producers with hospitality businesses to encourage new contracts and local growth.

It could not have come at a better time for part-time hospital worker Lesley whose inaugural tipple, Sweet Shop Flavoured Gin, is already attracting rave reviews from gin lovers across Denbighshire’s fine dining establishments.

The retro flavoured drink, reminiscent of Parma Violets, candy floss, marshmallows and bubble gum, hit the shelves of Vale of Clwyd restaurants On the Hill in Ruthin, Denbigh’s Guildhall Tavern, Mason’s Arms and Te yn y Grug deli, and St Asaph’s Tweedmill, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

As the gin boom continues, Lesley, 53, is hoping her second concoction, a heady combination of botanicals including her home-grown lemon verbena leaves, as well as juniper berries, cardamom, pink peppercorns, orange zest, cranberries and cinnamon, creating a warm “amber” colour, will be another winning formula.

“I’m really looking forward to Ruthin Blas Lleol and giving people a chance to try it,” said the community dietician, who lives in Saron, near Denbigh, and works at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Bodelwyddan.

“It’s very rewarding when people give you positive feedback. That’s really what drives me. I’ve developed an idea and the aim, of course, is for people to enjoy that unique flavour.

“Gin is incredibly popular – it’s the drink of the moment. We are excited about the future but I’m producing small batches from my home kitchen at this stage and taking my time.

“Networking is really important. The big plus point for us is getting valuable feedback to make sure people like it and Blas Lleol will give us that exposure.”

The event, which is funded by Denbighshire County Council and Flintshire County Council and is now in its fourth year, creates new business relationships and opportunities to source local rather than at the wholesalers.

Jane Clough, joint organiser of the Clwydian Range Food and Drink Group, said: “In the normal run of things, local producers would need to approach each individual business. This is an opportunity to sell to a whole range of businesses in one place and very efficiently.

“Last year, we did some follow up research and all the businesses we spoke to had actually gained new orders and new customers.

“Offering local produce is a good selling point. From a customer’s point of view when they see a menu that is predominantly locally sourced it gives the impression that the restaurant or pub really cares and makes the effort to support their local producers.

“People are increasingly concerned about where their food has come from and how it has been processed. It gives reassurance of quality.

“For tourists in the area it gives them a flavour of this part of the world and if they can have a dish with local beef or lamb it adds to the whole visitor experience.”

Despite its infancy, Pant y Foel Gin is already winning over local food connoisseurs with a growing list of stockists which also includes The Guildhall Tavern in Denbigh.

It’s a dream come true for former nursing home cook Lesley, who originally only wanted to satisfy her own taste buds with the perfect blend of gin.

“I enjoy gin and when I did treat myself to the odd drink I always felt disappointed with the gin out there,” she said.

“I’d already been making sloe gin, blackberry gin, my own rhubarb gin and elderberry gin for years. I enjoy something a bit different so I went picking in the hedgerow down the lane.

“It’s a passion of mine to experiment with recipes and find new flavours. We were chatting to friends one day who said I should seriously give it a go and so I did.”

Lesley, who is married to Richard, said she has spent much of the last year trialling recipes and completing the necessary paperwork to apply for her compounding licence.

“We get our spirit made for us and soak our own botanicals to flavour the gin,” she said.

“Becoming a distiller is much more complex and so I am a compound producer. I compound the ingredients in a demijohn in my kitchen. We’re obviously at a very early stage of the business and testing the response we get. We may have to opt for bigger containers in the future but we’re starting off on a very small scale.”

The compounding process takes 48 hours before Lesley is able to filter the gin. Many of the ingredients are grown in her own polytunnel.

“Good ingredients are important. I’m very passionate about food and drink and I’m really enjoying this new experience. To be honest, it’s more of a hobby,” she said.

“Amber gin was made after trialling 12 different recipes. I tweaked it with varying levels of orange zest, cranberry and cinnamon until I’d got it just right. It’s a lovely gin. My friends and family love it and we’ve had really positive reactions to it.

“I just want people to like what I produce and enjoy it and have fun with it. That’s my main motivation at the moment.

“Richard and I are very excited at launching these new gins at our new restaurant, Small Plates in Upper Clwyd Street in Ruthin, where we have teamed up with our friends Rowan and Imogen Hodgson of On The Hill in Ruthin.”

The Blas Lleol – Meet The Producer event at Ruthin Castle on Tuesday, March 12, from 9am to 1pm, is part of Denbighshire County Council’s March For Business campaign of events, for more information go to https://www.denbighshire.gov.uk/en/resident/leisure/events/march-2019/march-for-business-blas-lleol-meet-the-producer.asp

Caption: 21-02-2019 Gin-1: Amber nectar – Pant y Foel Gin’s Lesley Haythorne, left, and Jane Clough, of the Clwydian Range Food and Drink Group at Ruthin Castle, venue for the Blas Lleol, Taste Local event.