I first met Pete Lumber at the 2019’s Craft Distilling Expo, held in the Truman Brewery, London. He had attended a panel on distillers and the media and held on after to have a chat. What strikes you first about Pete is his friendly and upfront demeaner. He was newly into distilling, he explained. He had set up a distillery and wanted to make the most of it. A year later, and I have the opportunity to talk to him again for a pre-recorded interview for Gin Live which this year has gone virtual. So, I snatched the chance and was very pleased to have the opportunity of a proper catch up. He kindly sent me some Navy Strength for the interview, then a few days after a mysterious box arrived.
I had been talking to Debbie of Ginstaburge regarding a gin launch via Zoom. The brand was a secret and the curiosity was too much so I agreed. Little did I know it was Pete’s new product, and what a fabulous product it is! Opening the box, to my delight I found a glorious array of treasure. There was a bottle of the gin, mixers, two pre-mixed cocktails (more on those later) and a beautiful glass, just right for the perfect serve. There were also instructions for six, yes you read that right, six different cocktails that we would make on the evening to show the gin in it’s different lights. It is worth adding that we could make as few or as many as we like and sensible drinking was encouraged.
Now, I’d like to say that my discipline has been somewhat improved over the last few years. You need at least a little when dealing with alcohol on the regular. And I did myself proud with the gin, leaving the bottle sealed until the big night. In my mind I would first experience a drink at the launch along with everyone else, and that’s what I wanted to do here, even though its under virtual circumstances. I had been judging for the Gin Masters in the day and managed to wrap up in time to get a little dolled up (well, it’s a launch party after all), and get everything set up and ready to go. When the room opened, I was super pleased to see so many familiar faces there! The night was hosted by Debbie and Pete and between them it was a really interesting and fun affair.
Pete’s pride shone through his talk, “You will all know I love what I do”. We had an introduction to the Berkshire Dry, a clever taste to do as the Navy Royal shares a lot of botanicals and it’s always interesting and beneficial to the palate to note the differences. Pete went on to give a little history, explaining that he was “in the pub game” for fourteen years before moving over to distilling. He set up a still in his spare room and started tinkering, making sixty gins, whittling them down to twenty and then to four. Pete has found his style in boldly spiced gins and all of his gins have a certain character which ties them, a great thing to have in the sense of brand and concept. It’s lovely to see how he’s found his space in the market and made himself at home. 137 Gin has come from a place of love and all of the hours hours of playing with a still shows. There’s a real element of passion and pride, and Pete’s pursuits have grown. Owning a gastropub and having a background working with food and flavour has transferred really nicely to having a micro distillery set up with the pub, and his gin being incorporated into the menu.
So what’s the gin like? “From the 24-hour maceration of botanicals, the multi-distillation, through to the thrice cut final product – this new navy strength gin weighing in at 58% ABV is a huge labour of love.” It’s beautifully bold. On the nose, there is an immediate complexity. Evocative spice and rich fruit. There are earthy notes that come from the spice of Grains of Paradise and cassia, give just a hint of a deep cocoa note on the nose which goes wonderfully with the orange peel. The citrus brightness really lift the finish, along with a pep of white pepper. Another very notable quality is that neat, at 58% ABV, there is so much of that lovely flavour to be found. A lot of navy strength gins at 58% can be quite tightly closed and need a little water to bloom. However, this spirit is bursting at the seams to give you what it’s got, and that means on ice, it’s a real sipper, which is another feather in the hat.
Speaking of feathers, a little birdy tells me news of the cocktails is breaking over the next few days, so I’ll leave those details to them for now, but I will share a couple of photos to tease and I will absolutely mention the Negroni, which was delivered as a premix, and was an absolute delight! With a little Heering cherry liqueur added, it really rounded off the bitter edges and was beautiful to sip. Also, the Royal Dubonnet, which was a truly gorgeous serve.
Pete was kind enough to send me some photos from an official shoot to use and I think they look great. The moody shoot works brilliantly with Pete’s palate of deep rich colours. The bottles are designed to be striking and striking they are.
Ah, what a relief, since the event two weeks ago, I have been patiently waiting to shout about this, and believe me, I really wanted to! Thank goodness the day is here! Lumber Distillery, the warmest of congratulations on your 137 Navy Royal, what a triumph! And Pete, I know you’re particularly proud of this one, and you should be, you are certainly on the right course to achieving some amazing things.