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Gin school’s lofty ambitions

An award-winning gin distiller, whose business started in his kitchen three years ago, is joining forces with the hotelier who became his first customer; together they are planning to launch a new gin school that will open its door on 4 February 2022.

The Castle Gin School will be based in what was a derelict 17th century castle tower at The Castle, a restaurant and country pub in Edgehill near Banbury, which also has four en suite letting rooms.

The new gin school is a much anticipated collaboration between Dan Beckett, who runs Pinnock Distillery and Mark Higgs, who own The Castle along with his wife.

Commenting on the joint venture, Dan, who runs his distillery from the grade II listed tower on the border of four counties overlooking the battlefield, said: “The Castle was our local and we’ve been coming here for about eight years. It is the first pub I got the gin into and a very special place to me.

“It couldn’t be a better fit. We’re going to be making the gin at a location where Charles I raised the standard at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642. He was the first ruler to tax alcohol in the 1630s when many people were distilling in their kitchens and regulated it all.

“The fact that the gin school will be overlooking the very spot where he stood at the top of the hill in the battle is unique. When I started out I was quite keen to keep things as traditional as possible and use a recipe from around that period. I found a recipe book that had been republished from 1636, so based all my botanicals from that period.”

The Castle is one of four venues under the ownership of The Free Spirit Pub Company founded by Mark Higgs, who is also looking forward to the new venture: “I’m over the moon we have managed to team up with Dan, a genuine gin boff! I’m super excited about growing both The Castle and Pinnock brands, and offering something truly unique and special to our wonderful guests.

“Pinnock Gin is a great product and we’re both on a journey where we can each bring different elements to the project. It’s great to be able to offer something more and add another aspect to the business and this certainly offers something a little bit different. I don’t know of any other pub that offers a nano distillery. This new project will allow us to continue to evolve and grow.”

The Gin School will initially run afternoon sessions on Fridays and Saturdays, but group or corporate bookings will be able to arrange their events at times to suit.

The Castle Experience costs £325 for two and includes Prossecco on arrival, one night’s accommodation, the Gin School Experience, three-course dinner and a cooked breakfast.

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