Colchester was once famous for producing gin.

In 1812, Bawtree and Savill pumped £40,000 into a gin distillery in Distillery Lane, which fast became one of the biggest in the country.

Colchester produced around 50,000 gallons of alcohol every year.

Distillery Pond was first created as a source for the gin, thanks to its sweet water spring source.

Now, with the country still in the grips of a decade-long gin renaissance, some business-savvy folk are taking advantage of the trend.

Chris Hayter, from Highwoods, Colchester, gave up his career in the retail industry to focus full time on his new found passion – distilling, packaging and selling gin.

He may be some way off reproducing Colchester’s glory days of 50,000 gallons per year, but his operation is growing.

His business, Jumbo Gin, expands at the expense of his kitchen, which is now home to two 30 litre copper stills and enormous bags of botanicals.

Distilling at temperatures of up to 190 degrees Celsius and over the space of eight hour stints, Chris now produces 400 bottles per month.

“My kitchen has been destroyed,” he said. “People always joke ‘Your wife must love you, making gin and destroying the kitchen’ but all jokes aside, as it is just me and my daughter there, we get away with it.

“My daughter loves it. She is 11 and at school she tells everyone ‘My dad makes gin’.

“People must sometimes wonder what I’m up to. Whenever I’ve had parcels dropped off whoever is delivering is hit by this wall of smell.”


It wasn’t all plain sailing. After development of his idea first began in 2017, it took some refining to perfect the recipe for his first gin.

“The first run produced an awful gin, a bottle which has been kept to this day as a reminder to try, try and try again until you get it right,” said Chris.

“It was during this time that blind gin tastings were held.

“Feedback was promising so the recipe was fine-tuned, trialled again and since the autumn of 2018 it has been the recipe we have stuck with.”

The idea for starting his business arose from a chat in the pub amongst friends.

He was able to lean on some contacts in the industry to source supplies of Juniper and other botanicals, as well as East Anglian Grain for the base material.

Chris has also made sure the drink is focused on Colchester and its people. His logo features the distinctive features of the Victorian Jumbo water tower.

The gin is well supported, stocked in a dozen pubs and bars across the town including Smiths, the Victoria Inn, Three Wise Monkeys and Purple Dog.

He forges on with the business alone but is looking to expand this year.

“This is the only distillery in Colchester and I have actually converted the back of my house to accommodate it,” he said.

“I even recently had a visit from the HMRC to come and inspect everything, thankfully that was all good.

“What started as an operation from my kitchen table is now the production of around 400 bottles per month.

“To produce a batch you’re talking about six to eight hours loading and heating it up, getting it up to temperature to produce 40 bottles.

“I was originally a vodka fan, I went down to meet some of the guys at Sipsmith and was actually interested in the vodka side of their business and they said ‘Have you tried a gin with a decent garnish?’

“From then, I ended up really liking gin.

“I worked for some of the big supermarkets in different senior management roles and I knew if a product is to sell from the shelf it has to look decent – you have to want to pick it up.

“At the end of last year I thought it is sink or swim and committed to this full time.

“I want to get a new premises and hopefully finish the year by taking a couple of people on board.”

Ahead of expansion, Chris commits his days and nights to the business.

Chris recently launched his first flavoured gin, marmalade, as well as a Navy strength gin, at the Victoria Inn.

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