How it Started
Angus was introduced to Minnie through her mum, after a chance meeting in 2018. Angus was making plans to set up a distillery and Minnie was working as a distiller. They quickly realised they had a shared obsession for creating truly exceptional spirits and together they could create something to be really proud of.
They have spent the past five years chipping away at the big plan, which has always been to build an English Gin & Whisky Distillery. After narrowly missing out on two possible sites, they came across a small distillery available to lease and seized the opportunity to start producing their gin as soon as they could.
Why Copper Lion? Copper is an essential ingredient in the distillation process for removing sulphur compounds and achieving a high quality spirit. Its inclusion in our name is a mark of respect for the generations of craft and knowledge that preceded us. The Lion refers to two animals: First, it is a nod to the Cotswold Lion, a rare breed of sheep which originally brought wealth to the Cotswolds through its wool. Secondly, we will need the courage of the British Lion as we charge into a saturated gin market against all advice!
For a long time now, Angus has harboured an ambition to build his own distillery. He inherited a love of whisky from both his grandfathers and adored his rural upbringing in the raw English countryside. This garnered his desire to create something he could be proud of that also encompassed and celebrated his passion for these.
Angus has always enjoyed sport, which peaked with a brief dalliance with professional rugby before he joined the Army. However, his most random sporting achievement occurred whilst he was serving. Unbeknown to Angus, his Sergeant signed him up for the Scots Guards pole vaulting team. Unable to back out, pure luck played its part and he went on to become the 2002 London District Army Pole Vaulting champion….he never pole vaulted again so is undefeated!
Following the Army, Angus had 18 years within the private client insurance industry. It was here that his distillery aspirations were strengthened when he met some of the early English whisky distillery pioneers in their formative years and the final piece was the lucky chance encounter with Minnie’s lovely Mum. This connection with Minnie and her amazing spirit experience and knowledge gave him the confidence to take the leap into the unknown...
... hopefully we will be as lucky with the gin as he was with the pole vault!
Why the ladybird? You may have noticed the ladybird on each of our bottles. This is a nod to Angus’ dear Mum, who assured Angus that if he saw a ladybird after she was gone, to know that she was about and keeping an eye on things. We were delighted to have a ladybird land on one of our first bottles on the first day we opened the distillery – so the gin has been officially approved!
Minnie’s hallmark is of course a mouse, which you will find on each of our bottles and peeking out about the place.
How does one become a distiller? Probably not the same way as Minnie. She has been a cow hand, equine stem cell salesperson, carbon credit originator, call centre operative and bar manager but for the first ten years after studying Biology at Oxford, she mainly did scientific research. She moved to Glasgow in 2010 to study for a PhD in epidemiology. It was here when on the requisite whisky distillery tour that her analytical mind became obsessed with the process of how so many styles of whisky are made from what is essentially a very simple set of ingredients and a very strict set of rules. She never finished the PhD...
She visited as many distilleries as possible, collecting as much knowledge as she could before moving to Northern Ireland in 2016. Here she temped by day, did her distilling exam revision at night and managed to get a job on the bottling line at Echlinville Distillery at weekends. A distiller job came up just as she had passed her exam in May 2017 and her long-awaited training officially started. She gained invaluable experience there, making a range of spirits by hand, including several styles of whiskies and gins. It was here Minnie had her first encounter with a sipping gin.
She then moved back to Scotland and to the other end of the distilling spectrum as a trainee manager at Diageo's Roseisle Distillery and then had a spell at Co-Products which taught her lots about sustainability in distilling. After this she went back to working manually on the stills at BrewDog Distilling, where she was a co-manager, which further honed her skills.
She was working here when Angus rang to ask if it was time to set up their own distillery. Obviously the correct answer was yes.
Now she has brought this collected experience home to the English countryside where she grew up. Combined with Angus' enthusiasm, what could possibly go wrong?
How It's Going
All the hard work has now come together. Our gin recipe development, production processes, branding, packaging and website for Copper Lion were finalised in December 2023. We have had wonderful reviews from those who have tasted Copper Lion Gin to date, far exceeding our expectations. We now intend to share our spirit far and wide. It's also third time lucky for finding our own distillery site, which will become the home of Copper Lion Gin and our future whisky. We have very ambitious plans to build our own off-grid, 100% renewable-energy powered distillery.Take me to the gin!
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