Spirit of Harrogate co-founder Marcus Black

Spirit of Harrogate co-founder Marcus Black

Marcus Black: Capturing Harrogate’s spirit

18 August, 2022

Drinks International sits down with Spirit of Harrogate co-founder Marcus Black to talk heritage, sport, and how to create a gin that stands out from the crowd.

“Slingsby was actually started really in 2014 in our local curry house,” explains Black. “We got talking about the drinks industry and started sampling the different gins on offer in the restaurant, got chatting about how the gin market was beginning to explode and decided that we’d like to start our own gin brand inspired by our beautiful hometown, Harrogate.

“That was the beginning of Slingsby. It took us 18 different variants of gin and over 15 months to create the flavour we were looking for. In August 2015, our first batch of Slingsby gin was bottled.”

The consumer response was immediate, by Christmas the brand had picked up listings in Michelin star restaurants and had been stocked, and sold out, in Harrods. Since, the brand has gone nationwide as a mainstay in UK supermarkets and picked up listings in Australia and across Europe.

The key to the success, says Black lies in those 18 attempts over 15 months.

“The key to making a great spirit lies in carefully curating the ingredients. We are so lucky to be based in Harrogate, near the world-famous aquifer, and use the water when we distil. Seventeen of the twenty-four botanicals we use in our gin are sourced in our home county of Yorkshire.

“We work closely with the gardeners at Rudding Park who plant and grow botanicals in their kitchen gardens for us and we use those in our gins. We also source fruit locally, we use rhubarb from the rhubarb triangle in Wakefield and gooseberries and blackberries from Balloon Tree farm in York.”

It’s through a sense of place and identity that Black believes makes Slingsby stand out in the increasingly saturated UK gin market.

“We have built a great heritage brand with Slingsby, we are proud to be based in Harrogate and proud to use local suppliers but we always knew we wanted to operate on a global scale.

“We have a passionate and experienced team behind the scenes, who have helped to create a brand which is not just a drink, it’s an aspirational lifestyle brand. We’re also passionate about supporting our local community and are proud to have created jobs for local people, being able to support charity events locally and nationally and build links with like-minded businesses.”

This societal connection extends beyond the world of drinks too. Increasingly the brand is crossing over into the world of sport. The brand has partnered with Ascot and the BMW PGA Championships and created The Slingsby Golf Academy with the aim to get more women into golf.

The Slingsby Golf Academy follows four celebrities as they work with a golf pro to learn the game in six months. The latest series featured Olympian Zara Tindall, tennis coach Judy Murray, doctor and television personality Zoe Williams and Sky Sports Boxing presenter Anna Woodhouse.

“We are preparing for the BMW PGA Championships where we will see the celebrity winner of our Slingsby Golf Academy compete in the Celebrity Pro-Am but we will also be serving our gin from branded bars.

“I think we’re the perfect partner for sporting events because Slingsby’s brand brings people together.”

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