Resident Marketing Consultant and ‘old’ friend of the shop, also known as ‘Starky’ takes a trip into North Yorkshire to visit Mason’s.
It was pre-‘gin rush’ that husband and wife team of Masons came into being. Inspired by a G&T at a friend’s house in Ilkley over Sunday lunch, Karl Mason set up a social media page in which friends and relatives would post photos, sample and comment on different gins they tried. The page was, unbeknown to them at the time, in the public domain – and they soon found themselves with over 10,000 followers with producers contacting them to review their gin. They had, inadvertently, become ‘influence marketers’..
Meeting Cathy on one of those bright late-autumn days which has glorious big skies, but an ever-present threat of any kind of weather, I found myself a stone’s throw from the market town of Bedale. For those not in the know, Bedale is listed in the Domesday Book from a time before the ‘Harrying of The North’ – where William the Conqueror waged a series of campaigns. Originally part of the ‘Catterick Wapentake’ is was once known as Hangshire – due to the number of gallows used in the area to execute Scots. We’ve got to assume that this was quite a while ago as this treatment of our Northern friends is quite frowned upon. Quite illegal actually. Fortunately, this wasn’t an inspiration for Mason’s branding…
Sat on comfy leather sofas, surrounded by numerous awards and accolades and with the ever-present aroma of distillation, Cathy told me the story of the distillery: Both herself and husband Karl were gin enthusiasts, but with admittedly no prior industry experience, the pair were motivated to produce their own gin as they were dissatisfied with the ‘middle ground’ of generic gin on the market. After deciding on a career change – one from education and the other from publishing, they decided if they were to create a gin, it had to offer the flavour profile and quality they weren’t so readily finding elsewhere.
The final part of extracting them from the day jobs and starting a drinks business was when their experiments (cuckoo-distilled in Cambridge) came to fruition and popularity. They took the plunge, enlisted help and purchased a copper alembic still from Portugal and began production in North Yorkshire.
Fortune smiled on the pair, as the gin landscape was barren (compared to what it is today) but ready to explode – and the distillery’s creation led to a great amount of media interest which gave them a publicity boost they couldn’t have imagined. As they’ve grown, they’ve stayed close to their roots – employing many locals, some who Cathy once taught at school. This, she tells me, gives her a great deal of pride. They’re adding something to the community and the area they come from.
Masons continue to be one of the key established producers of gin – and that’s down to their quality. Their gin range soon expanded to include a Lavender version, a Yorkshire Tea version and more. As well as being intriguing, these also serve the purpose of presenting a variety of gin styles from sweet to dry and versions in between.
Before leaving, I was able to take a look at their close-to-capacity building and also shared a more experimental tipple with Cathy which I hope indicated where the gin market could go; not yet on the market at time of writing, but the influence of a small Theakson’s cask certainly does keep their feet well and truly in North Yorkshire.
Bedale, North Yorkshire