Business profile - Rare Bird Gin, Malton
PUBLISHED: 00:00 05 December 2019
Up until September of last year when he took early retirement, Matt Stewart was a firefighter of 20 years, dreaming of setting up his own business.
Fast forward to today, and he's a perfect example of it being never too late to chase your dreams. Having worked hard in the years leading up to retiring to establish Rare Bird Gin, he is now gearing up for an incredibly busy festive period at gin HQ in food-loving Malton. 'We noticed that there were very few distilleries in North Yorkshire,' Matt says. 'I've always been a gin lover and my fiancée Elizabeth and I have travelled across Europe a lot and wanted to bring something that little bit different and Mediterranean to the market. From lemons from Sicily to French rosemary, we've pulled on all of our travels to find a flavour we wanted to produce.'
As with any small business, it's important to Matt to be doing things differently so he made it his mission to open North Yorkshire's very first Gin School - something that has proved incredibly popular when it comes to Christmas gift ideas. 'I explain how we do it and what we do, and then people have the opportunity to make their own bottle of gin. It's a great present for the person who has everything,' he says.
The Rare Bird Gin package adds to the artisanal draw of shopping from independent makers. 'We're a Yorkshire gin, made in Yorkshire and there for all to see,' says Matt proudly. 'You can see the process of how it's made, talk to the person making it and ask as many questions as you like. People's shopping habits are changing and they like traceability.'
His own favourite is their London Dry Gin, which is distilled with 11 different botanicals, including green pepper, hibiscus, rosemary and citrus.
But when it comes to gift ideas for Christmas, Rare Bird Gin also offer hampers so it's no surprise that the festive period is incredibly busy. So, how does Matt cope with the Christmas rush? 'No sleep!' he laughs. 'It's just a case that it's for six weeks and it's full on, but you've got to knuckle down and then after that you get time to recoup.'
His best moment of 2019? Being able to take on his first employees. 'Up until recently, it was just me, so it started out as an expensive hobby but it's becoming bigger and bigger, month on month,' he beams. Rare Bird Gin sits within the Talbot Yard in Malton, complete with an ice cream maker, coffee roaster, a bakery, a butcher and a patisserie, so you can see why Matt is so passionate about shopping local too.
The Stable Block, Talbot Yard, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 7FT; rarebirddistillery.co.uk