Welcome to Meet the People. The new section on your Lytham St Anne’s News. Today we have met Sara Dewhurst, the owner of the famous Lytham Gin and also Le Roti deli/takeaway/sandwich shop
I was born in St Annes War Memorial hospital in the late 1960s. My mum was on the same ward and in the same bay as my Granny had been when she had my Dad there 25 years earlier. I am most definitely a Sandgrown’un! That’s why I called my distillery business Sandgrown Spirits.
I always had an interest in science and nature. As a little girl I loved finding out about the medicinal uses of plants and wanted to know what was in them that made them work.
I left St John’s Primary (Lytham C of E) and went to Queen Mary School where I discovered that I really loved Chemistry and it quickly became my favourite subject. I studied Chemistry at university and specialised in organic chemistry (particularly turpenes which are the molecules that are found in plants that play such an important in gin!). I worked for a short time in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry before training to be a teacher. I really wanted to share my passion for science with others. I taught Chemistry in Manchester at first, then at Lytham St Annes High School, and then as an Assistant Head Teacher and Science Teacher at Highfield in Blackpool.
After 24 years in Education I decided that I’d like to try something different. For the last four years I’ve owned Le Roti in Lytham. It’s adeli/takeaway/sandwich shop.
I discovered that I loved being my own boss and running a business mu
ch more than I expected. However, I missed science and I started thinking about how I could use my love of science and combine it with running a business and possibly enhancing what we do at Le Roti. Over Christmas 2017 I came up with the idea of making gin. I’ve always loved gin, even before the current revival in its popularity. I have a huge collection of craft gins at home. I began reading about it and after speaking to some of the bar owners in Lytham, it turned out that there was probably a market for a gin made in Lytham so I decided to have a crack at making it myself.
It combines my love of flavours, interest in molecules from plants and chemical processes perfectly.
It is actually illegal to distil your own spirits without a licence from HMRC so that’s the first thing I applied for back in early February 2018. They take weeks to obtain, and they don’t give them out to just anyone, so whilst I waited I used a method called cold-compounding to experiment with all sorts of botanicals (the herbs, fruits and spices that give gin its character) to get an idea of how they all taste and how blending them can change the flavour. I also drank a lot of gin! Different gins from small batch distillers all over the country. I wanted to make sure that my gin, when I made it, stood up to other commercially available gins and did Lytham proud. And decided on the names ‘Sandgrown Spirits’ and ‘Lytham Gin’.
The Intellectual Property Office allowed us to obtain a trademark for Lytham Gin and also Sandgrown Spirits. Rather than pinning everything on gin, this company allows me to diversify further as we proved in December 2019, Lytham Rum! We also now own the trademarks for Lytham Vodka, Lytham Liqueurs and Lytham Spirits.
Eventually, my rectifier’s licence arrived and I was able to start making distilled gin to try out my recipes properly. All of the earlier experimentation paid off and after about six weeks of intense distilling, I ended up with something wonderful! At the end of April 2018 I sold my first bottle of gin and haven’t looked back.
Sandgown Spirits now makes five very different gins and also a rum. The gins all take some inspiration from the Fylde coast and all contain locally sourced botanicals.
The original London Dry gin contains samphire that grows out on the beach at Lytham. It is wonderfully smooth and has a silky feel in the mouth. It’s subtle hints of citrus fruits and liquorice are perfectly balanced with juniper. This gin has been highly acclaimed winning a Great Taste Award, a silver medal at the London Spirits Competition and ranking in the top 20 gins of the world in the Gin Guide Awards 2109.
Blooming Gorgeous is a dry pink gin coloured with rose and hibiscus petals. The rose petals are from Lytham and celebrate how beautiful our town looks in the summer due to the hard work of the Lytham in Bloom team. The gin is floral and spicy and delicious with strawberries.
Positively Purple is flavoured with locally foraged blackberries and blueberries and coloured with petals that change from purple to pink when tonic is added. It’s fruity and herbaceous notes don’t overpower the juniper, this is still very much a dry gin, but really pretty!
The Navigator’s Navy Strength gin is packed with herbs from my garden and spices such as pink peppercorns, cassia, cardamom and liquorice. At 54.5%abv it’s a punchy, flavoursome gin that makes a fantastic G&T with a slice of lemon. It’s named after my grandfather, a local man who was the Navigator on the Queen Elizabeth during WW2.
The Bees Knees is my only sweet gin. It contains Fylde honey from the Layton Bee Project in Blackpool and lavender from my garden. The honey is subtly concealed beneath the juniper and sneaks up on you as you are drinking!
I also make gins for Royal Lytham Golf Club and Rotary Lytham. The golf club only sell their gin to members and visitors who have played the course, which makes it rather special.
Rotary sell their gin to raise money for the End Polio campaign and have so far raised enough to be able to inoculate over 115000 children. Which is quite an achievement!
I decided that I’d like to try making rum and we released our Jamaican Gingerbread rum just before Christmas. It’s a sweet, spiced rum that tastes exactly as you would imagine. Lots of cinnamon, ginger and cloves. It sold really well and I think a lot of local people enjoyed it over the holidays.
2020 is set to be a very exciting year for us. We will be opening our distillery to the public in the spring where we will be able to show people how the gin and rum is made and let them try our spirits in our very own tasting room. This is a mezzanine bar which overlooks the production area and will be available for parties and other events as well as occasionally being open to the public.
Other plans for this year include another rum and a new range of gins for another company. We also hope to release some special limited edition gins under our own label. I will be looking for staff, too!
Lytham Gin can be found locally at Stringers, Le Roti, Pemberton’s Farm Shop and Majestic Wine Warehouse as well as all of the Booths stores across Lancashire. In addition there are around 100 bars, restaurants, hotels and clubs which stock at least one variety behind the bar.