Nicholson Gin is one of the great spirit brands. It created the first London Dry Gin in 1736 and at its height, the company had a global reach, importing and exporting spirits to 130 countries, with its own brewery and a chain of 80 pubs.
The company was sold in the mid-1980s but in 2015 two descendants of the original family, Tim Walker and Nick Browne, bought it back and by 2017 Nicholson Gin was in production once more with its original London Dry. The last twist in this classic tale came in August 2021 with the acquisition of the Nicholson brand by Alex Johns, the new CEO, and Steve Goldman, the new COO, and a group of investors keen to make it a truly great British brand again.
‘The distillation is carried out by Charles Maxwell, a master distiller whose family have been involved in the production of Nicholson Gin for four generations,’ says Alex. ‘We have recreated our original London Dry, working with recipes from 1736 and adding a modern twist. The result is an exquisite London Dry flavoured with ten botanicals.’
Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, Nicholson Gin is now listed in several top British hotels, including The Goring and The Marylebone Hotel, as well as premium retailers such as Fortnum & Mason. ‘It is also the house pour at Lord’s Cricket Ground and we have achieved an overseas listing in Italy working with another heritage brand, the great Fernet-Branca estate,’ says Alex.
Nicholson Gin played a leading role in the cocktail boom of the Twenties and Thirties and was featured in two of the most popular cocktail books of the era: Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails and The Savoy Cocktail Book. With the cocktail craze currently at an all-time high, the team is busy recreating some of those original libations. ‘We plan to bring back our most famous cocktails such as the Hanky Panky, created by Ada ‘Coley’ Coleman, The Savoy’s famous bar-woman, for the actor Sir Charles Hawtrey, and the Gloom Raiser, once served in The Savoy and the Waldorf Astoria.’
Top of the focus list for 2022 is a new range of environmentally friendly packaging, a line of ready to drink beverages (RTDs) which will launch in the summer, as well as a carbon offset programme. ‘Brands must play an increasingly important part in helping the planet. We plan to be ahead of the curve and are looking at all sorts of innovations,’ says Steve.
The new team at Nicholson has been hard at work reimagining the bottle and the brand for its high-profile relaunch in early 2022. Plans are in place to export to America, Spain, South Africa and Australia while in the UK, Nicholson will title sponsor The Cricketer Cup, the prestigious old boys public school cricket tournament, and support events such as Glorious Goodwood as well as music and food festivals.
‘We are all extremely proud to be the new custodians of Nicholson Gin and look forward to making it a global brand once again,’ says Alex.