Poetic License Gin

Founded in 2014 by hotelier and gin enthusiast Mark Hird at The Roker Hotel in Sunderland, Poetic License Distillery has quickly established itself as one of England’s most interesting and progressive micro-distilleries.

Mark has been working in bars and restaurants for over twenty years, originally training as a chef and starting a thriving hotel business with his partners. Always interested in local products, in 2012 Mark established the Sonnet 43 brewery in Coxhoe, County Durham, named in honour of famous local poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning who was born just down the road from the brewery.

After the success of Sonnet 43 and inspired by a visit to a number of distilleries on a trip to South Africa, Mark decided to establish a micro-distillery of his own to create locally crafted spirits. Mark named it the Poetic License Distillery in a nod to his Sonnet 43 brewery and the spirit of adventure that had led him to craft distilling.

He enlisted the help of a promising young man named Luke Smith who had started work at the Sonnet 43 brewery in 2013 and together they started experimental distilling in the Roker Hotel with a 5 litre copper pot still.

From the first trial batches distilled in January 2015, it took them seven months to fine tune the recipes for their first two gins, the Northern Dry Gin and Old Tom Gin. For the final recipes, they assembled a range of classic and unusual botanicals, some of which are cultivated in their dedicated botanical garden situated on the North East coast. 13 botanicals are used in the Northern Dry Gin, including juniper, coriander seed, angelica root, green cardamom, Persian lime and cubeb berries, giving the gin a lovely balance of dry spices, juniper pine and refreshing citrus flavours.

Mark commissioned a custom made 500 litre hybrid still from China, with both a traditional copper pot still and a column still, which they use to distill a rather fine vodka. Upon arrival the still was christened Gracie and was set up in a purpose built room in the Roker Hotel’s bar. The bar of the hotel was refurbished and became the Poetic License Distillery Bar, the ideal venue for sampling their superb artisan spirits.

The team hand crush the botanicals for their gins using a home brew malt mill to extract the flavourful oils. They are then macerated in neutral grain spirit before the still is fired up and heated gently in order to preserve the freshness of the flavours. Mark and Luke use a one shot distillation process and carefully take only the heart of the distillate, ensuring the final gins are soft and smooth on the palate. After distillation, the gin is rested to allow the flavours to mellow and integrate and the Old Tom Gin is filled into oak barrels for a period of cask maturation. Each run of the still yields 400 bottles, which are then wrapped in their distinctive vintage packaging paper.

The Northern Dry Gin and Old Tom Gin were launched in late 2015 to great critical acclaim and within six months had received two awards at the Craft Distilling Expo 2015 including the top prize for the best Old Tom style gin. Since then Mark and Luke have been experimenting with different seasonal recipes and in May 2016 released the first of their limited edition creations, the delicious Picnic Gin, distilled with and infused with a selection of botanicals including juniper, coriander, strawberries and cream. This superb fruity gin makes a refreshing summertime G&T with a dash of elderflower tonic water.


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