By Dan Coles
A gin enthusiast has defied her neighbours to make booze from a secret 100-year-old recipe handed down by her father in her garden shed.
Former teacher Kathryn Dean, 55, thought the recipe for Indian ‘Colonial Spiced’ gin had been lost many years earlier before she discovered it while looking through late father Maurice Bolton’s possessions after his death from vascular dementia in 2011.
Her father, a Presbyterian minister in Northern Ireland, had been given the special malaria-preventing formula by an elderly parishioner who had lived in India many years previously as a thank you for agreeing to organise her funeral.
Married mum-of-four Kathryn, from Selly Oak, Birmingham, decided to start compounding the infused gin from her garden shed; launching the company The Sin of Gin – in honour of her God-fearing dad’s regular quip, ‘there’s no sin in gin’, to sell her wares.
But the patient liaison officer was devastated when her plans to create and sell the high end booze, which she makes in four varieties, n her back yard were blocked after a group of neighbours argued they would bring crime and disturbance to the area.
Luckily, after appearing before Birmingham City Council’s licensing subcommittee last Monday [Jan 21], Kathryn was granted permission to make and distribute her garden shed gin despite the neighbourhood rebellion to have her stopped.
Kathryn said: “My gin is based on a recipe that’s 100 years old.
“In our mutual love for gin, he always wanted to give it to me but we could never find it until I came across the recipe in his later years.”
“I think some neighbours thought I’d be having parties and encouraging people to drink at my house, so they were concerned it could create extra crime and disturbances.
“They couldn’t be further from the truth, I have encouraged them to come and visit my little gin hut and see that there’s no point in being worried about me.”
Kathryn stumbled across the recipe 15 years ago after the vicar, from Northern Ireland, was given it by a then-94-year-old called Constance, or Connie, who had joined her husband in India while he was in the Indian army in the 19th century.
Kathryn said many in the country drunk lots of gin and tonic back then but didn’t enjoy the taste of the tonic, which was antimalarial due to the high levels of quinin in it, so created a special spice mix to hide the strong flavour.
Kathryn said: “The gin was first developed by a lovely old lady called Connie, she was in her twenties at the time.
“She wanted to drink the tonic but didn’t like the gin, with some of the locals she introduced some different spices to infuse the gin with.”
Kathryn buys the raw spirits, which she then dilutes with still water until the alcohol level drops to around 38 per cent.
After that, she infuses the gin with her secret recipe spice mix for about three months.
The product, dubbed ‘Colonial Spice’ is then sent to be tested and bottled.
So she was shocked when her neighbours claimed her garden shed business would attract boozy crime to the area.
Kathryn said: “There was a group of neighbours who were against the business starting, but people loved the gin.
“It wasn’t just family and friends, the public were asking where they can get more.
“Even the police found the neighbours’ criticisms laughable.
“During the appeal, the complainants’ issues were seen to be unfounded by the panel as they didn’t have any proof any crime had escalated since the business had opened.
“It was quite amusing, my husband was suppressing a giggle at the back.”
With the appeal won, Kathryn has been making gin in her shed ever since and has found success at festivals, selling to local restaurants and online – with her 100-year-old recipe going from strength to strength.
Kathryn said: “My father, a vicar, would say ‘there’s no sin in gin’.
“He used to wink at me when he said that.
“If he could see me now he would find it very amusing, but very impressed that I managed to keep going.
“He always told me that if I put my mind to something, I could achieve it.”