Cheers and booze for Harrogate Tipple’s Steve Green as he talks Downton Abbey gin

Harrogate Tipple’s Steve Green on creating upmarket gin for Downton Abbey.

Steve, you’re the co-founder – and chief tipple tester – at Harrogate Tipple. If I understand correctly, though, you have a background in television… Tell me a little bit about that.
Yes, that’s correct! I worked in TV and Film for over 17 years, spending this time in London. I worked on many entertainment shows such as Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway and Blind Date to name but a few. I was a Cameraman, Producer and Director. I also had my own TV facilities company, providing TV Crews for all sorts.

Steve Green, Harrogate Tipple
Interesting! And today, you have a love affair with gin! My father could say much the same, but in your case it’s a vocation… So how did you come to be running a distillery in the estate of a castle?

Sally – my wife – and I both wanted to get out of London as it was becoming a stressful life there with three children. Purely by fluke, we found Harrogate on a camping trip. We moved here and – since I always wanted to start a Brewery – started thinking about it. Someone had already started Harrogate Beer, though, and I wanted to have Harrogate in the name for sure.

Okay. Why was that important, out of interest?
I’d been making a wonderful film with drinks giant Bacardi where I spent a year with them visiting places like Mexico and the US, meeting all these wonderful experts – and in particular some of their Grand Master Distillers. The history and love that went into making these famous drinks was majestic, and I got a real buzz from this. Cut to me in a hotel bar in Moscow, on another film assignment…

“Cut to”! You can take people out of the film industry, but you can’t take the film industry out of people!
I do say that quite a lot! But anyway, I got served Harrogate Spring Water! That was the lightbulb moment for me. Sally grew up in Brazil, surrounded by gin & tonics and thought this was the way to go as long as we could use the famous water of Harrogate. The rest they say is history…

Steve Green, Harrogate Tipple
So do you exclusively make gin?

No; we also produce Rum and Whisky – with other drinks in the pipeline.

Excellent! Now, you came onto the Brands Untapped radar because of your association with Downton Abbey. What makes Downton Abbey the right brand for your first licensed range?
Two main things: location, and the passion we have for our products.

Yes. Our distillery is situated here in the beautiful village of Ripley, just north of Harrogate. It’s what you’d call the fictional area where Downton Abbey is actually set!

Steve Green, Harrogate Tipple
Ah! I see. And how did it come about?

I was on holiday in India, and getting a little tired of keep seeing new gin brands coming out everyday. I also wanted to tap back into the TV world where I came from… For some reason, I woke up at four in the morning with Downton Abbey in my head. The next day, I’d set up a meeting on my return from India with NBC.

Steve Green, Harrogate Tipple
Wow! As fast as that? And what was the development process from there?

For Downton Abbey we actually went back to the era when Downton is set in part; the 1920s. We looked at recipes of that time and found that limes and ginger root were used a lot.

Is that right? It started out with an authentic flavour?
Right. Then, Sally and I both wanted to have English Rose Water included. We thought it would be such a great ingredient to add! It’s decadent and nostalgic. Fortunately, Tom – our Master Distiller – agreed… And it worked!

Great! I love that it starts authentically, then has a twist. So let me ask you this: if you were looking to do other licensed product, what criteria would you be looking for? What other licences might you look at in future?
Story. Does it have a relevance to our story? Since the success of our Downton Abbey drinks, we’ve had so many wonderful companies come to us but they have to be right. Alcohol’s not like any license; it takes a lot of time to develop and build so you really have to be careful. We’re always looking for the next Downton; something that fits, so watch this space!

Steve Green, Harrogate Tipple
We absolutely will! Finally, then, what’s the one question I should’ve asked you that I didn’t?

What’s your favourite tipple?

Now that you mention it, that really should’ve been on the list!And what’s the answer?

Perfect! Whisky is the answer; I’m writing that down without an E. What’s the difference? I don’t know the difference! Is the E optional? I’ll look it up… Steve, best of luck with your next products; please keep us posted and thank you for your time.

Steve Green, Harrogate Tipple

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