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Exciting times for Suffolk drinks sector

18 November 2010

It’s been a busy few days for Suffolk’s burgeoning drinks sector with innovative new product launches, a national award and a deal to promote premium niche products

The iconic Adnams brewery, located in the seaside resort of Southwold on the Suffolk coast, has opened its new distillery to produce handcrafted gin, vodka and whiskey, with the company claiming it is the first brewery and distillery in the UK to undertake the whole process in-house, from grain to glass.

Adnams Chairman, Jonathan Adnams OBE, said, “Small scale distillation produces spirits of quality and character that far surpass mass-produced products. The addition of a small distillery to breweries is not uncommon in mainland Europe, but I believe we are the first brewery in the UK to brew beer and distil spirits on the same premises.”

The distilling equipment was installed in a redundant former copper house in September, with the first products completed in time for the pre-Christmas sales period. With the initial launch comprising two gins (Adnams Distilled Gin and Adnams First Rate Gin) and two vodkas (Adnams Barley Vodka and Adnams Longshore Premium Vodka), next month the range is due to grow further with the launch of Adnams North Cove Oak Aged Vodka. Work is also due to start on the company’s first whiskey products, however, these will not be sale for three years due to the maturation process.

The equipment used in producing the spirits incorporates environmental elements such as a cask washing facility, recycling the warm water produced during distillation. Other waste will be converted into renewable gas at the company’s recently launched anaerobic digestion plant located at the Adnams’ distribution centre, close to Southwold.

Located in the village of Debenham in the heart of Suffolk, Aspall’s tradition of cyder-making has been handed down through eight generations of the Chevallier family since 1728 (they still sign off every batch of cyder before its bottled).

This week, the award-winning business has won first place for its Aspall 100% Pressed English Apple in the cold beverages category at the Quality Food Awards 2010 – just a month after the product was launched.

The new apple juice, which has been nationally available in such supermarkets as Waitrose, Tesco and online at Ocado since October, uses a unique blend of sweet English Cox and sharp English Bramley apples.

The 50-strong panel of judges praised the product’s “appealing packaging” and “lovely, appley aroma and delicious, mild, smooth flavour”. They were also impressed that the product uses only English apples and by its value for money.

Aspall Commercial Director, Geoff Bradman, said, “Offering an alternative to the plethora of imported products, our new apple juice is made from 100% pressed English apples to provide the best quality taste possible. Sales of the juice have already exceeded all expectations and our overall business continues to grow.”

At the St Peter’s brewery, based at St Peter South Elmham, near Halesworth, the niche brewer has recently signed a deal with Top 5 Ventures to promote its premium British ales to the on-trade sector.

St Peters was founded in 1996 by brand consultant, John Murphy, who identified a gap in the export market for traditional ales brewed in the UK. Until now, the brewer has concentrated its efforts on off-trade sales and exports. The drive for sales in on-trade will be spearheaded by the brewery’s St Peter’s Best Bitter and Ruby Red Ale, with its Golden Ale set to follow in 2011.

Celia Hodson, Chief Executive, Choose Suffolk, the county’s development agency, commented, “These latest wins for Suffolk’s drink sector highlights the quality, diversity and innovative businesses that thrive in the county.”

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