Yorkshire couple quit jobs during lockdown to launch pioneering gin brand in Leeds

Ben Peel packed up his life in London in the midst of the pandemic, moving 200 miles north to launch a new micro-distillery in Leeds.

Sunday, 12th September 2021, 11:45 am

Quitting his job as Sipsmith's innovations manager, to the echoes of people telling him he was crazy, Ben returned home to Yorkshire to bring his long-held gin dream to life.

John Robert's Botanic Request offers a smooth London Dry Gin, distilled using pioneering methods from a micro-distillery in Stanningley.

Ben launched the business with his partner Emelie Nilsson in April, naming it after his grandfather and father who inspired his entrepreneurial spirit.

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Ben Peel, 36, and Emelie Nilsson, 32, launched Ben Robert's Botanic Request during lockdown

“I come from a family of self-employed, entrepreneurial people,” Bradford-born Ben told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

“My father was a builder by trade, but he could turn a hand to anything - that’s where I get my innovative and creative nature from.

“It was a risky move during the lockdown, but we spent it planning and prepping to see us out of the other end.”

The world didn't need another London Dry Gin, Ben admits, but he was confident that his spirit would offer something "exceptional".

Ben loads up the 100 litre still in his Stanningley micro-distillery

The distilling process splits botanicals into two piles: delicates such as flowers, zests, tea leaves and herbs, and hardy ingredients like wood, roots, seeds and and bark.

The hardy botanicals are “given hell” with vacuum-pressured maceration, while the flavours from the delicates are extracted using ultrasonic sound, which sends waves to gently remove their surface oils without bruising the botanical.

Ben, 36, added: “If your grandma boils vegetables to death they just taste astringent. That applies to distilling.

“In musical terms, when you pull out a bad frequency you can really turn up the volume on the instruments that you’re playing - without hurting your ears.

Emelie checks the ultrasonic bath, part of the innovative equipment used in the distilling process

“The same applies to your palette, we wanted to pull out the stringent flavours that naturally get spoiled in the still, ramping up the flavour and creating something truly unique.”

The pioneering methods have garnered praise from the American Distilling Institute, as well as Leeds wine and spirits supplier Latitude.

Just five months after the launch of the gin, it's already stocked across Leeds venues including the Watermark Bar, Vice and Virtue and the Chequers Inn.

"We’ve pulled out the bad frequencies and flavours so it’s smooth and palatable," Ben said.

“We recommend that you try our gin neat first - if your gin needs to hide behind tonic, sugars or fruit, then is it a good gin?

"There’s classic London Dry juniper notes on the front of the palette, then you get warming spices from the Cassia bark and green cardamom, giving it a creamy feel and citrus notes.

"On the back palette, you get a nice dry tea finish with a hint of anise. "

Creativity is at the heart of John Robert's Botanic Request; Ben and Emelie have recruited local musicians to create their promotional material, and will partner with Bradford's The Drunken Film Festival next month.

“The local support has been fantastic," Ben added.

“It’s just me and my partner and we’re out hand-selling every day, meeting new people. When people hear our story they really get behind us."

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