Distilled by hand in Lymington, Hampshire, Beachcomber Gin combines high-end spirit with an eco-friendly ethos
“When I was starting out, I went on holiday to Koh Rong, an island off Cambodia,” says Karen Bass, a keen diver and founder of craft-distilled Beachcomber Gin. “It was a fabulous place: turquoise waters, white sandy beaches… and litter about six feet high that had washed up! It was horrific, so I decided I had to do something about the rubbish in the oceans.”
True to her word, Karen built eco-friendly practices into her product from the start. “The cork is biodegradable, there’s no paper label; and when customers return their bottles I donate to Ocean Cleanup, a project which aims to get 80 per cent of all plastics out of our oceans in five years,” she says. “It is the awareness that matters to my customers. It’s not just about the money.”
Karen’s label-free bottle design, which won her Southern Sweet Gin a silver medal at the 2019 International Wine & Spirit Competition, was inspired by a piece of driftwood she found while beachcombing on Koh Rong. The contents of that bottle took a silver award at the London Spirits Competition in the same year. “Gin and tonic always reminds me of being on holiday,” she says, “so Beachcomber has a distinctly summery, citrus taste. It sits right at the midpoint between dry and fruity gins. It’s strong, at 43 per cent ABV – alcohol by volume – but without a harsh afterburn. It’s very drinkable on its own, or with tonic and a sliver of orange zest.”
Beachcomber is available online and in a number of high-end independent stores – including Waitrose in Lymington, where Karen and the distillery are based – as well as in bars countrywide. It is also starting to attract the attention of some of the bigger hospitality chains and drinks companies.
Only one person can take credit for Beachcomber’s success: Karen herself. “There’s no staff; I do everything,” she says. “Distilling, taking and delivering orders, designing new bottles, bookkeeping, attending events; it’s literally just me.”
As for the future, Karen is ambitious but grounded. “I say just make one very good gin, rather than half a dozen – and I’m convinced I’ve found the right one.”