Warner Edwards - Honeybee Gin
Warner Edwards is a gin distillery located in the village of Harrington, Northampton. Established in 2012 by Tom Warner and Sion Edwards, the brand and their portfolio of products are going from strength to strength.
For the full Warner Edwards story, please click here
2015/2016 saw Tom and the distillery team painstakingly crafting their own botanical garden in any spare moment they had.
Tom’s Mother, Adèle, was a keen gardener and proficient cook. She had created a beautiful garden next to the distillery, full of delicious herbs and plants to use in her cooking. One late-summer evening in 2015, Tom and Warner Edwards’ Head Distiller, Oli, were sitting in the garden and suddenly realised what a perfect opportunity they had for using these plants in their gins. Fast-forward to the next year and they had turned the herb garden into a structured botanical feast. The perfect tribute to Adèle.
This led to the development of gins under their Botanical Garden range. Melissa was the first product, named after the Latin ‘Melissa Officinalis’ more commonly known as lemon balm. Each of the Botanical Garden gins highlights an unique botanical.
Warner Edwards Honeybee Gin is the second release under their Botanical Garden range.
The gins released under the Botanical Garden range are all new recipes. They are not the Harrington Dry with one or two additional botanicals.
Juniper Orange Peel
Honey Lemon peel
Angelica Root Fresh Lime Peel
Ground Orris Root Grapefruit Peel
Coriander Seed Fresh Quince
Crushed Coriander Elderflower
Cardamom Rose Petal
Nutmeg Chamomile Flowers
Fresh Root Ginger Sage Leaf
Star Anise Hibiscus Flowers
Liquorice Root Blue Cornflower Petals
Grains of Paradise One Secret Botanical – sorry guys, it annoys me when people do this!
Unless stated above, the floral and citrus botanicals are dried variants.
Whilst enjoying their botanical garden one evening, Tom and Tina noticed the bees happily pollinating all the different herbs and flowers. As we all know far too well, bees are declining at an alarming rate.
Making the connection between the bees and the botanicals was a profound moment for Warner Edwards. Tina’s family used to have a beehive on their farm in Ireland and it soon became obvious that installing beehives on Falls Farm was a logical progression.
Jonny Easter, a friend of Tom’s who lives locally, keeps 17 beehives on the surrounding hills. Tom and Tina sought his advice and soon had two beehives of their own proudly situated on the farm. They've now upped this to 11!
The obvious idea was to use honey as a botanical, but this product goes far beyond that. Whilst Warner Edwards’ beehives are settling in, they source some additional honey made by Jonny and other members of the Northampton Beekeepers Association. To create a completely new gin, Tom, Tina and their Head Distiller, Jeremy went back to the drawing board and began playing around with all sorts of different flavour combinations – this is the part distillers love and long for.
After many experimental batches – they didn’t fully know how honey would combine with each botanical – they perfected the recipe. 28 botanicals are used in total, balancing citrus, floral and spice elements with the succulence of the honey.
Honeybee Gin was developed on Satisfaction, but is now produced by Curiosity. As is traditional for Warner Edwards, the botanicals are not macerated prior to distillation. They are simply loaded into the still with NGS and distillation commences straight away. The honey is added post-distillation to avoid heating the delicate flavours, (and making the still sticky!). 840 bottles are produced per run.
Interestingly I learnt that honey is harvested twice a year, once in late May, (blossoms and oilseed rape) and towards the end of September as the bees have foraged as much as they can before the weather turns cold, (wildflowers). Bees don't like it when the temperature drops below about 12˚C - they're very sensible creatures. The volume of honey produced at any harvest can be very difficult to predict and is influenced by many factors, not least the weather.
Whilst the honey will obviously taste different batch to batch, once it has been added to the gin any differences are not easily discernible. Warner Edwards did create triangle tastings to determine whether this would be an influencing factor.
Warner Edwards Honeybee Gin is not just another gin to add to their portfolio and it wasn’t determined by its use of an “unique botanical”.
Honeybee Gin has a higher purpose. Highlighting the plight of bees by using honey is the first step. The second is the inclusion of a packet of wildflower seeds attached to every bottle. This is an aspect which Tom and Tina are rightly proud and passionate about. The initial Botanical Garden release, Melissa is sold with a packet of lemon balm seeds to grow and it made sense to continue this concept with the Honeybee.
The idea is to encourage everyone to go out into the countryside to plant their packet of seeds – helping diversify the landscape, enticing all manner of creatures and potentially creating their own mini botanical garden.
Earlier in the year, Warner Edwards collaborated with Raymond Blanc’s “Jardin Blanc” at the Chelsea Flower Show, transporting Satisfaction to the prestigious event and distilling on site. This led to a fantastic relationship with the Royal Horticultural Society, (RHS). Warner Edwards are now working closely with the RHS to raise awareness about the plight of all bee species. A percentage of their Honeybee Gin profits will be donated to the RHS’ bee conservation programme. The precise percentage is not available as it is confidential within the contract, (for example, some would say “5% of our profits…) but having spoken to Tina, Warner Edwards are likely to donate around £10,000 within the first year. That’s incredible.
I am so pleased to see a distillery using their influence and position to create products which do more than just taste amazing. Primarily flavour must be paramount, but the opportunities to expand the message, connect with other industries and develop new concepts are limitless.
The fact that introducing beehives to Falls Farm was a practical and logical development aids the completely natural progression of the Honeybee Gin. The message of conservation isn’t contrived as it fits perfectly with Warner Edwards’ existing branding and ethos.
If everyone who buys a bottle of Honeybee Gin plants their seeds, that would be incredible. I’m lucky enough to have sprawling countryside all around my home, but you can easily plant the seeds in a jam jar or a baked bean tin on your windowsill and there are green spaces in cities. There’s no excuse for not planting these seeds and for getting involved in conservation.
It's brilliant to see a simple idea be executed with such amazing integrity and passion.
Appearance: I was slightly disappointed when I first opened the bottle and realised the glass is tinted golden rather than the liquid being so, but it makes sense the liquid is clear when you think about it.
Aromas: A bright hit of succulent citrussy floral notes. Nuanced and layered; enticing and intriguing. Soft toffee apricot honied tones with gentle floral characters – honeysuckle and clover. A hint of herbal at the back.
Palate: A sumptuous texture. Silky, round and weighty. Gentle orange blossom and honeysuckle over a juniper linear core. Soft peppermint on the finish and a tiny hint of red berries. Good length.
With Tonic: Full, pronounced aromas of heady evening floral tones and juniper. Fragrant honey, lime blossom and pepper aromas. Evocative of sitting on a garden terrace. A succulent, layered and developing palate. Honeycomb toffee and gentle orange flavours. Classical juniper underpins everything.
Opinions: So complex whilst still sitting soundly within the gin category.
I am a huge advocate of Warner Edwards both as a distillery and for their range of amazing products. I am thrilled they’ve taken this lead and are paving the way for other distilleries to branch out, to collaborate with other industries and to achieve so much more than just a delicious drink. It says a lot about the brand and about Tom and Tina’s ongoing compassion, commitment and courage.