Warner Edwards - The Story
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.
Tom and Sion met on their first day at Harper Adams Agricultural College in 1997. Both came from agricultural backgrounds and had a keen interest in furthering their careers within the farming industry. Tom grew up in Harrington and forms the third generation of his family to live at Falls Farm, where Warner Edwards distillery is based. Sion was brought up on his family farm in Wales. With such similar experiences to draw upon, it’s no wonder that together they formed an indomitable team, seamlessly combining hands-on physical expertise with commercial ambition.
After graduating and spending some time in the field, (literally) and produce industries, they decided to start their own business. Originally, the idea was to distil essential oils and perfumes, particularly using lavender. However, the realisation that the still would remain empty for most of the year following harvest made them consider other ventures. Producing vodka was their next notion, influenced by Sion’s Polish wife. Unfortunately, vodka requires large stills and a vast amount of cash injection at the beginning and this simply wasn’t viable.
Four years of dreaming, discussing and building led Tom and Sion to open Warner Edwards distillery in December 2012. Gin was the final answer. The botanicals could be locally grown or sourced and the production methods played to their strengths.
Warner Edwards distillery was established in a 200-year-old converted barn at Tom’s family home. Falls Farm is still a working farm; Tom’s Dad and brother tend to the cattle. The estate is home to many fascinating historical features, including the sloping stepped landscape called “The Falls” which give the farm its name. The Manor House was previously situated on the estate and was well-known for its beautiful terraced gardens, which had three monastic fish ponds and several courtyards. References to fountains play an important role as these water sources allow Warner Edwards to use water from their own springs during distillation.
Building a distillery is a huge investment. Many distillers start by purchasing a small still and increase the size in accordance with production needs. Tom and Sion decided that if they were going to make gin, they were going to make gin. Their first still was a 500 litre Arnold Holstein from Germany named Curiosity. Her name comes from a set of pawprints left in the distillery’s wet cement floor by a wandering cat. Curiosity remains the heart and soul of Warner Edwards distillery.
Interestingly, Warner Edwards was the first distillery to import an Arnold Holstein still.
In November 2016, Warner Edwards welcomed the arrival of a tiny 50 litre still. Satisfaction is a mini version of Curiosity and was purchased to help take the strain off Curiosity and to provide the opportunity for smaller experimental batches.
“Curiosity killed the cat, but Satisfaction brought it back.”
2016 was a significant year for Warner Edwards distillery. The brand was flourishing and production was growing exponentially. The distillery team nearly doubled and the business tripled. At this point, Sion decided to take a step away from the business and to start a new venture. The stress of running your own business is enormous. I admire Sion for acknowledging that a change needed to be made and for following his instincts. He will always be a founding partner of Warner Edwards and can be exceedingly proud of everything he helped to build. The brand and distillery would not be where it is today without Sion.
In March 2016, the distillery was awarded £150,000 from HSBC after winning their Elevator Pitch competition. The money was invested directly into the business and helped to develop their botanical garden alongside launching their fifth gin.
Tom’s wife, Tina Warner-Keogh, joined the distillery as a full-time partner. She was there every step of the way throughout the initial dreams, building and success. It made perfect sense for her to incorporate her skills within the business.
When mentioning the Warner Edwards’ team, it’s very important not to forget about Leia. This gorgeous curly-wurly fluffy puppy dog is the real reason why everyone wants to visit the distillery…
Spring/Summer 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 their 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.
This led to the release 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.
The second product is their Honeybee gin. Tom and Tina installed bee hives on the farm and are raising awareness of the plight of the honeybee in association with the RHS.
The gins released under the Botanical Garden range are all new recipes. They are not the Harrington Dry with one or two additional botanicals.
Harrington Dry was Warner Edwards’ first gin and remains their classic product. They have added to their portfolio over the years to include Sloe gin, Elderflower gin and Rhubarb gin. The Rhubarb gin has developed a distinct following and far exceeded everyone’s expectations.