From Barley to Bali: Stephen’s gin brand Pinkster becomes a global hit

Stephen Marsh

Stephen Marsh - Credit: Archant

An intolerance to alcohol isn’t an obvious reason to launch a gin brand, but that’s exactly what spurred on Barley’s Stephen Marsh.

Stephen Marsh

Stephen Marsh - Credit: Archant

While working as a finance director of a marketing agency about 11 years ago, Stephen started feeling really ill after just a sip of the strong stuff.

His doctor warned that he should avoid drinks like beer and wine which contain high levels of yeast, but should be fine with spirits.

Finding the taste of vodka quite boring, experimental Stephen got to work testing out homemade gin recipes.

The 50-year-old said: “Gin doesn’t normally go with food. Juniper berries are quite bitter.

“Before I developed an intolerance, I’d have wine with dinner and suddenly found I couldn’t have anything.”

After experimenting with every flavour in the book, Stephen decided to add raspberries to his recipe – and at that moment Pinkster was born.

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He said: “I realised something magical was happening. I spent about three or four years playing with the recipe.

“I wanted to create something you could drink all evening without getting sick.”

His friends would come round and sample Stephen’s home brew and finally encouraged him to pursue it as a serious business venture – he had been working at his job for 18 years and said he welcomed a fresh challenge.

After it went down a storm at local food and drinks festivals in 2013, he decided to ‘really make a go of it’ and since then the business has snowballed.

In that year he produced 4,000 litres of Pinkster and, due to growing demand, this year he is set to make about 80,000.

Within the last two months, he has started exporting across the world, and recently sent a shipment to Australia and another to the Indonesian island of Bali.

From humble beginnings, the process has been fine tuned – the gin is distilled in Warrington, before it makes its way back to Stephen’s Barley barn where he macerates the liquid with raspberries and other secret ingredients.

Stephen has ventured into other directions too, producing jars of boozy berries.

Next weekend he will launch two flavours of sorbet – boozy berry and gin and tonic at the famous Burghley Horse Trials.

It’s an impressive journey, one that never crossed his mind 11 years ago when the kitchen experiments began.