Food & Drink

Published: May 15, 2022 | Updated: May 15, 2022

Taste of Dorset: Historic fair is the inspiration for gin distillery’s branding and unique recipe

Wilfrid Shon, Founder, Shroton Fair Gin: “People who like it find it really moreish.” Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

It’s Dorset through and through, inspired by a feature of local life for over 700 years and even using Dorset dialect in the name of its first product.

Shroton Fair Gin is the county’s newest gin distillery.

Despite being less than 100 days old, it already has two awards to its name.

Zummit Dry – Zummit is old Dorset dialect for ‘somewhat’ – picked up a gold in this year’s Taste of the West awards.

And at the 2022 London Spirits Competition, the same gin was awarded a bronze.

For founder and creator Wilfrid Shon it’s been nothing short of a dream start for his fledging business.

He said: “I only started trading in the middle of February.

“Both competitions are entered by hundreds of distilleries.

“The judges possess some of the most refined palates in the world.

“To win gold and bronze respectively is no mean feat for a recipe concocted in a rural Dorset kitchen.”

Shroton Fair Gin is named after the original Shroton Fair, a social and commercial event that attracted thousands to the fields under Hambledon Hill.

It was first granted a fair charter in 1261 and became an annual feature of Dorset life until the late 1960s.

But it was a travelling menagerie that came to Shroton in 1767, with a Royal Bengal Tiger, that provided the inspiration for both the branding and, indeed, the unique recipe used for Shroton Fair Gin.

Wilfrid said: “I source my produce from all over the world, but mainly the Far East and North Africa.

“The exoticism of the tiger in rural Dorset, which I use for the logo, reflects the Oriental ingredients in my gin – cumin, coriander, cardamom, ginger and cinnamon.

“Sourcing high-quality botanicals for our 16-ingredient recipe is vital for maintaining a distinctly long finish after every sip.”

The gin is distilled, bottled and labelled in Stourpaine, just off the A350 linking Poole and Shaftesbury.

Wilfrid, 25, grew up in Shroton before going to university in York where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Politics and then a Master of Arts in War & Strategy.

But frequent spells working behind the bar at weddings and in pubs and restaurants gave him a taste for both the hospitality sector and running his own business.

He said: “I had imagined that at some point I’d very much enjoy opening a brewery, vineyard or distillery.

“What fun it would be to try out new recipes and add in quirky ingredients that you’ve chosen yourself, and watch a project grow from an idea into something tangible.

“When everything closed down in the events sector during lockdown I thought – why wait? Why not do it now?

“Once I realised this was a possibility, and not something reserved for later life, the thought of working for anybody else evaporated and the search for a recipe began.”

Wilfrid operates from a converted shipping container.

It acts as both a distillery and a shop, open 09.00 to 12.00 every Friday and Saturday.

About half of his business is through e-commerce and home deliveries but Shroton Fair Gin is also available in around ten pubs and several retailers including Dike & Son in Stalbridge.

Wilfrid said that with so many competitors it was important to have a hyperlocal appeal.

He said: “That’s part of the concept. People can come along, meet me and see all the ingredients and where it’s distilled. There’s that personal connection.

“This summer I’ve already signed up for five or six events, including the Family Fest in Wimborne and the Great Dorset Steam Fair.

“I’ve got lots of different hats. Head marketer, head leaflet dropper, head distiller, the list goes on.

“The gin is quite a distinctive flavour because of the spices. People who like it find it really moreish.

“The idea is, fingers crossed, to start with the gin and then move into a white spice rum, vodka and maybe tequila as well.

“I never knew what route to go down but I think this is the one.

“You do all these different things, work for yourself and decide what direction you’re going to take.

“As someone said to me the other day, ‘you’re someone who clearly loves their job’.”

  • Shroton Fair Gin is at Ash Farm Courtyard, Stourpaine, DT11 8PW. Zummit Dry is offered in 5cl and 70cl bottles.
  • shrotonfairgin.co.uk