Conker Spirit is set to sponsor the Christchurch Food Festival again this year when it returns to the town on 12th -13th May, so be prepared to stop by and chill with a G&T or (&) sample the Coldbrew cocktail.
Having just celebrated their 3rd birthday since producing the first bottle of gin, I thought I would find out how Conker came about.
It turns out it is quite an interesting story.
Back then Rupert Holloway, the founder, was working in the city as a chartered surveyor in a career he no longer enjoyed. He decided that instead of spending the day working for someone else, he wanted to start making decisions about his life himself. No one else was making gin in the area, and after a mixed up text message in a discussion about his plans, Conker became its name.
Rupert set about learning as much as he could about gin distillation, researching on the internet and reading about distilling in books, visiting distilleries and talking to industry professionals to get advice and hone his palate. He acquired a 1.5 litre still and started his first distillation experiments in December 2013. A year later in 2014 after much deliberation and menu testing the first bottle of Conker gin was produced. I caught up with him to ask a few questions.
Q.What has been his proudest moment since starting the business?
It was started as a one man band and now just 3 years in there is a team of 9. We are all fighting the fight together and having fun along the way.
Q. Any regrets or things you wish you had done differently?
I’m a big believer about joining up the dots looking back. Technically I failed at a biologist, I failed at a quantity surveyor but these are exactly what I needed to earn the skills to run the Conker Spirit business.
Q. How much gin are you now producing?
We started off by making 60 bottles of Gin a week so you’d class us as small batch, last year we averaged 800-1000 a week and this year we are aiming to double that.
Q. How many staff members are now employed?
My first hire was my best mate from school who left a job clinical science to come and work with me. Now Conker are bringing in enough money to build the team recently hiring an Office Manager and a Marketing Manager.
Q. Is Conker available in any big supermarkets?
Yes! Late last year we stepped into the supermarket. We have a southern listing in Marks and Spencers around 60 store and then a Dorset listing in Waitrose. These are great ‘fist pump’ moments but our main focus and will always be our independents, from a little faerie shop or wine deli to our wine merchant.
Q. Plans for the future? New products? Bigger premises?
We’ve recently taken on more space to do the bottling lines, we distill, bottle and label all in house. We are working on opening the distillery for tours and constantly working on new products, we don’t just churn out a flavoured gin because its popular we look for areas in the market that aren’t filled.
Q. How important is it to you to support local events such as Christchurch Food Festival?
Christchurch Food Festival was our first ever event and this is how we have been getting our products in front of the people. It’s so important to get in front of our customers, tell our story and get their feedback. This is our 4th year at the festival, we’ve grown, the festival has grown and we have a strong Conker community that come and see us here each year. We fill our weekends with festivals, its a big part of what we do.
Rupert went on to tell me that it is a year since the launch of Conker Cold brew and there will be coffee cocktails on offer at the Festival. We also have our cocktail competition that will show the best skills from local bar tenders here in Dorset.
The final of the competition takes place in the demonstration theatre on Saturday 12th at 2.45pm, so everyone can see who is crowned the winner.
Cold brew photo provided by Conker
For more information about traders at the festival, parking etc www.christchurchfoodfestival.co.uk