Meet the owners
Cambridge Gin Laboratory is an interactive space in the centre of Cambridge, dedicated to the appreciation of gin! Based in Green Street, you can sample a range of their award- winning Cambridge Distillery Gins and even blend your own with their gin experts. If you want to know more, you can choose to be guided through the history and mysteries of gin production through the ages and discover how to taste like a professional in their Masterclass.
William Lowe MW is the Master Distiller and co-founder (along with his wife and business partner, Lucy) of Cambridge Distillery. We spoke to him to find out more:
What was the inspiration behind setting up Cambridge Gin Laboratory?
Two main things: firstly, demand. At the time we were operating the smallest distillery in the country, and couldn’t possibly accommodate as many people as wanted to visit. The Gin Lab enabled us to explain how and why we do what we do to a larger audience. Secondly, we have always focussed the distillery on producing the highest possible quality of products. It became immediately obvious that quality is only important to those who can tell the difference, and the lab gave us the opportunity to educate consumers regarding things to look for as indicators of quality in all drinks (not just gin, and not just our products).
What does being an independent business mean to you?
Literally, independence. Our team are phenomenal and I think it matters to them that they are working with the founders, not simply working to an unseen end. We are flexible and dynamic (as our recent and ongoing Covid operations have shown), and extremely agile. The team can be rightly proud that they are helping to develop a business of international pedigree along with the founders who still live right here in Cambridge.
What is favourite independent business in Cambridge that isn’t your own?
There’s a tough question! Vanderlyle, Restaurant 22, and The Gogs Farmshop would be front-runners for the title. Each of them share the common theme of being headed by truly insightful and quality-focussed founders who are constantly pursuing perfection.
What makes yours a green or environmentally friendly business?
We have always tried to use locally grown ingredients as far as possible. The air miles involved in most gins, with botanicals shipped from all corners of the world, are absolutely mind-blowing. Here in Cambridge Distillery we can collect botanicals on foot, distilled right here in the distillery, and our consumers can even collect the bottles on foot from either the distillery (in Grantchester) or the Gin Lab (on Green Street).
What’s your favourite thing about Cambridge?
It’s home. Both Lucy and I have grown up here, and that really anchors us to the city. Beyond that, the architectural beauty, green spaces, easy access to the meadows, the river, the vibrant food, drink, music and arts culture… this list could go on for a very long time!
What COVID pre-cautions have you put in place as a business?
We have followed and exceeded all government guidance. We’ve reduced the capacity on all sessions in the Gin Lab from 16 to six, put in one-way systems where the public are visiting, distanced all on-site team members and put in place work-from-home protocols for the commercial team. It’s a very different way of working, but we felt it more important to pragmatically embrace the new reality rather than wait (indefinitely) for previous versions of ‘normality’ to return.
Why is it important for people to support independent business now more than ever?
I think this is really a personal question, and depends on your priorities. Personally, I take great joy in the character that independent businesses bring to Cambridge. Starting your day with coffee and a Chealsea Bun in Fitzbillies, lunching in Parker’s Tavern, treating a loved one to to beautiful jewellery from Eleven Fifteen, enjoying a Cambridge Gin martini on the rooftop at Varsity then savouring dinner facing Kings College in Chop House… that’s a day you simply could not experience anywhere else. For others, it may be important to keep money within the local economy – helping to support the business owners and employers who keep the community in work. Or perhaps the sustainability of independents who are present and accountable to their customer base. Whatever the reason, independent businesses need you, and your loyalty and support more than ever – and we genuinely appreciate it, too.
If you went to a desert island, what three things would you take?
Gin, vermouth, ice.
What would be your superpower and why?
Pausing time – it seems to be speeding up at the moment!
What is your favourite animal?
Darcy (the Distillery Dog)
What advice would you give your younger self?
Trust your instincts.
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