Investors get a taste for Gareth's new gin
The fast-growing market for gin in Northern Ireland has another new player.
Copeland Spirits is raising money through crowdfunding for its fruit infused gin, distilled by hand in Saintfield, Co Down.
"We're hoping to raise £23,750 and to date, we've raised more than £17,000," said owner Gareth Irvine. The 23-year-old, who's in the final year of a business management degree at Ulster University, said he was very confident of attracting the full amount.
"We've still got five weeks to go and I've no doubt we'll get there," he said. "The support has been smashing. Apart from raising much-needed money for production costs, crowdfunding allows us to introduce our gin to the market. People are already buying into it and they haven't even tasted it yet."
Gareth is a keen gin drinker and says the spirit has moved on from its rather fusty old image - it used to be known as 'Mother's Ruin'.
"I've always liked gin and lots of younger people are drinking it now because there's a lot of choice in craft gin which is really innovative and exciting. All of my friends have moved away from mainstream drinks towards craft beers and spirits," he said.
"I'm very impressed by what other local gins, like Shortcross and Jawbox, are doing and I'd be delighted to compete with them."
Gareth is using locally-grown fruit for his 'ginfusions' and he turns the mixture by hand at premises in Saintfield, producing small batches that will be sold in 70cl bottles, costing £30 each. He's created two flavoured varieties - raspberry and mint and 'rhuberry', made with rhubarb and blackberries.
"All of our produce comes from local farmers in Co Down," said Gareth. "It's amazing what you can find and the quality is fantastic. Ours is one of the few gins that can be drunk neat, but it also works well with mixers or in cocktails.
"We'll be holding tastings and a big launch in September, with the aim of having it on the shelves in independent off-licences and in bars in October, in time for the Christmas trade."
Even a small taste of the local gin market could prove very lucrative for Gareth. Last year, gin sales in UK shops hit £400m, up 10% on the previous year, while £500m worth of gin was sold in pubs and restaurants across Britain.
According to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, seven new gin distilleries were opened in Northern Ireland in 2015 as entrepreneurs tap into the seemingly insatiable demand for the spirit.