Every year 250,000 people make the journey to Walsingham, a remote village in Norfolk which since the 11th century has been one of Europe’s great pilgrimage sites. They may not know it, but on the way they pass a new business venture partly inspired by the faith: Archangel Gin, a Norfolk-based drink made with locally grown juniper, and distilled, bottled and labelled in the area.
The name is no accident. “The road that passes by the back wall of the distillery has been part of the pilgrimage route to Walsingham for hundreds of years,” says co-founder Peter Allingham. “I imagine that there have been tens of thousands of guardian angels walking that route beside their charges. I’m very keen on guardian angels. We put them to so much trouble but they never desert us.”
Allingham has many strings to his bow. He is an IT specialist, amateur Egyptologist and farmer. He’s in his early 50s, as is co-founder Jude De Souza, a London-based statistician and former BBC audience researcher. Two years back they joined forces and built their own distillery on Peter’s family farm.
“Our family has two farms in Norfolk with lots of lovely old buildings which were rather underused,” Allingham says, “so I thought ‘Gin-making sounds fun – let’s do it!’ Sometimes you just have to go for it.”
The design of the angel on the label is “inspired by the highly stylised angels from the Watts Cemetery Chapel at Compton in Surrey,” Allingham explains. “I’ve had those images in my head since I first saw them about 30 years ago.” The seal on the bottle-cap foil reads Angeli ab oriente: “The distillery is in the heart of the diocese of East Anglia and I like to think of our products as Angels from the East,” he says.
The gin draws on local history, too. “We wanted to make something that wasn’t a standard London Dry. There was a heavy Dutch influence in our part of Norfolk in the 16th to 19th centuries. You see that in the many Dutch-style houses in local ports. So making something that paid a little homage to traditional Dutch genever was very much in mind.”
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