Special feature – focus on Hooting Owl Distillery

The historic Barmby Moor House.
The historic Barmby Moor House.

A Barmby Moor business is proving to be just the tonic for the region’s gin drinkers.

The Hooting Owl Distillery, at the historic Barmby Moor House, takes its inspiration from the four corners of Yorkshire to create a top quality range of products.

The golden owl named Sir Owlfred Tyton Hodgins by customers.

The golden owl named Sir Owlfred Tyton Hodgins by customers.

The company’s base is a historic coaching inn where horses would be changed after the gallop from York through “The Black Moor” (the old name for the moor running East of York on The Beverly Road).

It is reputed that Queen Victoria stopped over at the house as a child, and indeed to this day the master bedroom is known as The Queen’s Room.

The house has had a varied history from being a coaching inn, a public house (The Bunch of Grapes) and a Country House Hotel, it is now a family home, with the Hooting Owl Distillery situated in the old stables.

The company distills six different gins in the London dry style at the site.

They each have a different number of botanicals from 16 in the Signature Gin to as many as 23 in the East Yorkshire Gin offering.

Its Signature Gin 42% ABV is an old fashioned London dry gin, extremely smooth due to the unique distilling process.

The Veterans gin (48% ABV) is a stronger version of the Signature gin, again smooth and can be enjoyed neat over ice.

Hooting Owl also produces a gin for each point of the Yorkshire compass – using botanicals that point towards the geography, culture and culinary history of that part of our county, as well as a little bit of military and family history.

It uses botanicals from the scene of Yorkshire Regiment Battle Honours, e.g. Black Cardamom from Kohima, Mountain Ash as a nod back to the vicar of Barmby Moor in the late 19th century who was posted to Mountain Ash in Glamorgan. The Yorkshire gins are inspired by:

○ North Yorkshire – Bilberry, heather and thyme from the North Yorkshire Moors.

○ East Yorkshire – Kelp for the coast, hawthorn berries as a nod to the famous Hawthorne in Bloom painting by David Hockney, lavender and honey (summer on the Wolds).

○ South Yorkshire – The Barnsley chop, so Rosemary and Mint.

○ West Yorkshire – Cardamom, cumin, coriander and turmeric (a curry in a glass), gorgeous when served with a slice of red grapefruit and a star anise.

Hooting Owl owner Dominic M’Benga said: “What makes us different from other small craft distilleries is our unique distilling process and the multiple small batches that we produce. Each batch of our gin is only 30 bottles, we are able to produce 20 of these batches per day.

“The name of the distillery is a further nod back to the house and the golden owl which sits above the entrance to the house. He has been named as Sir Owlfred Tyton Hodgins by our customers.

“We see one of our responsibilities as small craft distillers is to educate people on the art of craft distilling and the history of gin. I think that the trade is becoming more knowledgeable. We help with that knowledge by offering gin experiences for all our customers. We try to educate them on the different types of gin, the distilling process, the taste, the smell and the feel of a quality gin (mouth feel and finger feel, rub between forefinger and thumb to feel the oils within the spirit).

“We operate six stills, our 60 litre still is called Molly after the distillery cat that sadly passed away last summer, our 30 litre stills (four) also have ladies/botanical names June (juniper), Heather, Rosemary and Saffron. Our small development still is nameless – the still with no name.

“We currently pair food at our gin events, with beef in Yorkshire pudding with our North Yorkshire, Haddock Goujons with our East Yorkshire, a lamb dish with our south Yorkshire and devilled chicken thighs with our West Yorkshire. The Cats Pyjamas in York serve our West Yorkshire with Chilli Garnish, spicy and delicious.

“As a craft distiller I am a bit uncomfortable with the gin liqueur thing happening at the moment, our answer has been to manufacture some pairing syrups. For example we have a lavender syrup that we serve with our East Yorkshire Gin if customers are looking for a sweeter drink.”

Visit www.hootingowldistillery.co.uk to find our more.