Belfast Telegraph

From crowdfunded to crowd-favourite: Co Down's Copeland Spirits toasts success

Co. Down-based Copeland Spirits launched in 2016 following a successful crowdfunding campaign and has grown to become a local crowd favourite.

Ahead of World Gin Day this Saturday, we caught up with the brand’s founder, Gareth Irvine, to chat about new flavours, new listings and more.

You founded Copeland Gin in 2016 following a crowdfunding campaign - tell us a bit about this?

That’s right, we officially arrived in 2016 although the idea was in the making for about a year before that. I developed a really strong interest in local produce when my uncle started to dabble in home-brewing a few years back.

The quality of beer he was making at home, and the setup he had developed with relatively no experience made me think about what I could achieve with a little dedication and investment.

Considering Northern Ireland’s growing appreciation for gin at the time, I recognised crowdfunding as the perfect investment avenue. We raised £30,000, about £7,000 more than we had hoped for and I think that’s because not only did we offer NI’s gin-loving consumers the prospect of a unique artisan gin, we offered them the opportunity to be part of a local brand that champions the variety and quality of local produce and showcases the skill of our farmers.

How would you describe your gin?

It was important to me when developing the brand that it have a point of difference, to surprise and excite consumers.

In a nutshell, our gins are a premium, artisan products featuring carefully-selected fruits and herbs grown right here in Northern Ireland. We have two permanent flavours in the range ‘Rhuberry’ and ‘Raspberry and Mint’, both of which are 37.8% in volume, so we definitely focus on the quality of our gin as well as our flavours. For the same reason, our products don’t contain any sugars or syrups.

You collaborate with Finaly's Farm to bring these flavours to life. How important to the business is this partnership?

Our collaborations with Finlay Orr at his farm in Balloo has been central to the success of our brand. Finlay is both passionate and mindful in his approach, generously sharing his knowledge on a herb’s seasonality, a fruit’s threshold for mixing with gin or a flavour’s association to Northern Ireland.

Experimenting with herbs and fruits is an ongoing activity for us and working as closely as we do with Finlay allows us to expand our knowledge so we can continue to release the most surprising, exciting flavours on the market. It doesn’t matter how pretty the bottle or how great the Instagram page looks - if the gin isn’t a liquid we’re proud of, it doesn’t reach the shelf.

Gareth Irvine (L) and Finlay Orr (R).jpg
Gareth Irvine (L) and Finlay Orr (R)

The newest flavour in the range is summer-inspired. How did you come up with this flavour?

The limited edition ‘Strawberry and Basil’ is our most-unexpected flavour yet and really showcases our growth as a brand.

We wanted to create an authentic taste of summer that consumers across Northern Ireland would recognise. We also wanted to create a gin for summer’s drinking occasions such as BBQs, picnics or garden parties. This flavour showcases NI’s ever-celebrated strawberry whilst giving local basil its deserved platform too and with a simple splash of Elderflower Tonic, it’s ready for pairing with summer foods like grilled meats, antipasti and mediterranean salads.

Why do you think people in Northern Ireland love local gin so much?

Northern Ireland has always had a strong appreciation for homegrown talent and quality experiences.

Take our food culture, it’s a melting pot of various cultures and inspirations that has put NI on an international stage. As our appreciation and understanding of food and wine has grown, we’ve wanted to explore new tastes, new trends and new experiences which has allowed artisan producers to come to the forefront.

But it’s not just about quality product, Northern Ireland boasts some of the most talented bar folk in the world. Their commitment to showcasing local produce and the sophistication of every drink, from a simple serves to a cocktail has helped to elevate the consumer’s expectation of drinking occasions and allowed local producers to be front and centre.

What's your favourite gin cocktail?

It changes depending on the season and the drinking occasion from a fruity, refreshing serve at summer-time BBQs outside to a negroni by the fire on a cold winter’s night.

At the moment, because the weather is good, I’m socialising with large groups of friends in the garden a lot more so sharing pitchers work well. Pimm’s and flavoured gin work really well together so I simply take the classic Pimm’s No.1 cup, add our ‘Strawberry and Basil’ gin along with cucumber and mint to create a fruity, flavoursome refreshment.”

What's next for Copeland Spirits?

In the short-term our limited-edition, summer gin in ‘Strawberry and Basil’ lands in-stores this week so we’ll be very busy bottling, labeling and distributing the 2,000 bottles that are available.

Summer is a key time for gin-focused events so we’re busy attending local and international festivals and fairs. We’ve also just secured a listing with Aldi to stock our ‘Rhuberry’ flavour in its 120 stores in Ireland - we’re only in a couple of weeks but we’re already a big hit so we’ll be focusing on keeping up with the demand there. We’re also about to announce another major listing in the next couple of weeks and we’re developing a new website.

Long-term, we’re working on expanding our gin offering to include new flavours, new export channels and more. We’re also exploring the potential of moving into other spirit categories. It’s a very exciting time for us and we plan to keep it that way.

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