Northamptonshire’s food and drink famous gathered at Warners Distillery in Harrington for the launch of the Carlsberg Food and Drink Awards.
High Sheriff of Northamptonshire James Saunders Watson addressed the VIP audience which were later treated to the Warners tour.
He had arrived in his full regalia despite the windy conditions ruffling his plumage somewhat and proceeded to praise Northamptonshire’s food and drink producers and the awards now in their 11th year.
The county’s great transport links, its central location and its mix of town and country living have proved to be great incubators for food and drink businesses and the room was awash with success stories large and small.
Warners was the star of the show and Tom Warner delivered a potted history of the six years that took his business from being planned round the kitchen table to being a global leader in flavoured gins.
His mother inspired their elderflower gin when she came in with a bottle she had made herself using common or garden gin and foraged elderflowers.
“We told her that we are producing top quality artisan gin and she can’t go using any old gin to put elderflowers in, then we tasted it and it was really good. We decided we would do it!” Tom revealed.
Now Warners Elderflower gin is produced in a single batch when the elderflower crop is ripe, distinguishing it from other elderflower gins which are produced with syrups.
Bottles of a new rasperberry flavoured gin were shared with visitors who also had the chance to sample rhubarb gin and lemon balm gin. Warners also makes honey sweetened gin and using honey sourced from its own apiary.
In the interests of journalistic rigour I sampled some of the rhubarb gin with some ice and ginger ale, which went down very pleasantly indeed.
Iona Campbell of the Waterside Mill team rooms in Ringstead spoke about the dramatic boost that winning Cafe of the Year brought her business.
They have had to hire eight more staff and are now opening another tea room.
William Sitwell, awards patron, was introduced with a friendly jibe from Tom Warner who asked “How are the vegans?”
“I don’t care” was the reply from William who must be wondering how long his vegan roasting will be remembered.
He spoke about the passion of the county’s producers, both large and small .
Carlsberg has been a headline sponsor of the awards since they began and spokesperson Maria O’Brien took the opportunity to unveil the new Carlsberg pilsner.
In the interests of journalistic rigour I sampled some later (at a superb buffet at the Tollemache Arms) which combined the resourcefulness of Fruitful Abundance with the cooking skills of Joe Buckley.
The new Carlsberg pilsner is flavoursome and despite me having spent some time explaining to Maria why I wasn’t really a beer drinker actually went down rather well.
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