Despite having ‘London Dry’ on its label, the background of the family-run Nicholson Gin – one of the oldest brands of ‘mother’s ruin’ in the UK – has a distinctly Wiltshire flavour.
The company can be traced back to 1736 when James Nicholson began distilling gin in Clerkenwell.
Milo Walker, the current Brand Ambassador for the business and great-great-great-grandson of its founder, explained, “We’re 30 years older than Gordons, 60 years older than Plymouth and 90 years older than Tanqueray. Nicholson was the pioneer of what we now know as the ‘London-Dry’ style of the drink. Even the Duke of Wellington was known to be a big fan of Nicholson Gin!”
Cricket also has a lot to thank Nicholson for. In 1866 Lords came into financial difficulties and William Nicholson, then Chairman of the distillery, leant them the money – saving the ground from development.
Milo’s grandmother’s uncle, Arthur Nicholson, who was involved with the business, owned Hartham Park near Corsham from the mid-1920s until the early-1960s. His grandmother, Diana Nicholson, escaped London to the house during The Blitz and stayed there for most of the war.
Milo said, “She remembers very clearly arriving at the great house in 1940 and being surrounded by the family. There’s a church just outside the house and that’s where a lot of the family is buried including Arthur Nicholson and his wife. It’s very much a Nicholson house.”
Nicholson hit hard times in the 20th century. “The ’70s were one of the worst periods for gin,” said Milo. “In the mid 80’s we sold-off the company and the last bottle came off the shelves at the end of the decade.”
But in 2010, the family approached Pernod Ricard – the last owners of the brand – and began the process of going to court and buying back the trademarks and reviving the product. It is now made to the same family recipe dating back 284 years. The brand officially relaunched in 2017.
According to Milo, future ambitions for Nicholson are simple. “We want to continue building Nicholson’s reputation back to what it once was while also upholding its family traditions and heritage.”
He added, “We stand out from other gins on the market because we stay true to what gin is – a clear, clean, juniper-led liquid.”
Nicholson Gin is available in most good bars throughout the South West.
Pictured above: Three Mills Distillery in London, a former Nicholson production site