Our home in Northumberland
The Hepple estate is a sort of Gin Eden. It lies in the wild and remote Northumberland National Park, home to four of the UK’s cleanest rivers, its darkest skies and some of its wooliest, most charming people. Water of great purity rises from deep within the sandstone hills that surround the distillery. As well as providing our water, these springs sustain a tremendous variety of aromatic plants. Including the ancient juniper from which we pick the young green berries so unique to Hepple Gin, but also the stands of Sweet Gale (or Bog Myrtle) by the burns, the Douglas Fir in the woods and the lovage and blackcurrant in the Hepple garden.
But more than any one ingredient, these hills provide the spirit we spend so much time trying to capture, so crisp and clean and real it crackles in the air. As soon as the car door clanks shut after a long drive to the distillery, you feel it. If this spirit has a word, it is invigorating. And if that word has a Gin, we’ve got a hunch it’s Hepple.
The Hepple estate consists of ancient woodland, hill farms and much of the heather moorland that covers the Simonside hills. It stretches from the highest point on the range, across peat bogs undulating with vivid green mosses, past wind-ground rocks that jut from seas of heather and blaeberry, past bog myrtle and stands of venerable juniper and birch to the low sheep pastures and haughs of the river Coquet.
The estate lies in an area of Britain renown for wildlife and is a sanctuary for many rare animals including red squirrels, ringed ouzels, lapwings, curlews, hen harriers and peregrine falcons. Much of the estate is a Special Conservation Area, one of the few such European-level designations in the country, and as a result we work closely with the National Parks authority and other wildlife organisations to support and protect the biodiversity of the land.
This is a quiet place untouched by modern farming and mass tourism. It is home to families who have lived alongside one another for generations and who speak in the distinct, soft burr of the upper Coquet. Yet the fortified Bastle houses and peel towers that pepper the valley are witness to centuries of violent incursions by Scottish cattle rustlers. As the violence ebbed in the eighteenth century it remained an ungovernable, wild area, where illicit stills flourished, fed by the quantity of fresh spring water and local barley, safeguarded by their seclusion from the Excise Man.
Whisky production was found at Wolfershiel, Codley Moss and Swindon (all very close to Hepple) and the operators incarcerated. However Barleysike in Midhope, Copper Snout by Wholehope burn and Whisky Cleugh in Commondale indicate that production remained for long enough in many places for the activity to give rise to a name.