The Ginterview: Jake Sedge, Anno Distillers

Updated: May 12, 2021

Jake Sedge is the head distiller at Anno Distillers. He tells Kent Gin Co. about the inspirations for the distillery's diverse flavours, and how they set about making the world’s strongest gin.

How did you start your career in gin distilling?

I started as a hobby brewer. I went to university for something completely unrelated and ended up working part time for a very small local brewery. I worked there for a little while and put myself through some education, then an opportunity came up at Anno. At the time I was very interested in distilling work but didn’t know a lot about gin specifically. I had a bit of a crash course and I’ve been working here now for almost four years.

What’s the story behind Anno Distillers?

The company was founded by Andy and Norman, they’re two doctors who worked at GlaxoSmithKline. They had the choice of moving up or retiring and they chose retiring. They’re both big into whisky and they decided they wanted to run a distillery; it kind of sticks with them being chemists. They did some work at a couple of distilleries in Scotland, with the intention of then starting a distillery down here.

One of the big challenges with whisky is it requires three years before you can even call it a whisky. Instead, they started looking at gin because they also very much like gin. Norman especially likes to do lots of walking out in the Kent countryside and they got the link of using their background as scientists and the technical side of things with nature and what you find in the local area.

You also make vodka at Anno Distillers?

You start off with the same sort of base; you basically take a vodka and turn it into a gin. The vodka in my mind is actually criminally underrated. I guess it’s kind of unusual. It sells quite well in the summer, but it’s probably our quietest line. It’s a 29% vodka and it’s quite sweet so it’s kind of halfway to a liqueur. Pair it with a gin to give it a different extra flavour, or it’s really nice with prosecco.

Where does the inspiration for your flavoured gins come from?

Basically, from what’s around us. It started off with sloe gin and after that, our Cranberry and Gin and that’s something different entirely. It’s very much a Christmassy drink. At least for me it certainly replaces mulled wine. And it was in 2018 we decided we wanted to do a pink gin, but we don’t want to do it because everyone else is doing it. We want to make something special.

The B3rry Pink Gin has local blackberries, elderberries and strawberries. We get the strawberries and blackberries from Clockhouse Farm in Coxheath, which is just down the road from us. The elderberries we actually have to go and pick.

Do you get all your ingredients locally?

Where possible. Looking around, it’s kind of what we do, lots of soft fruits and that kind of thing. But we obviously don’t hide the fact that loads of the botanicals we use come from all over the world. In this area we do some things really well, like the fruits, and then we go to other places where they do other things really well.

What is your best-selling gin?

It very much depends on the time of year. The Kent Dry overall is still the best selling. In the summer, it’s B3rry Pink Gin. In the winter, it’s mostly the Cranberry and Gin and you’ve then got the Orange and Honey staggering the gap between summer and winter. I always think it’s quite an autumnal drink.

Tell me about the Extreme 95?

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. We all like to experiment and we all come from that background. We thought, can we make the world’s strongest gin? We did it on a small scale. It was a straightforward gin and we hit the strength that we’re after. It’s sort of inspired by the 60² in a way because it’s so flavourful. Even though it’s 60%, where you’d normally have a double, you can have a single and still get the full flavour and actually less alcohol.

What we ended up making was this gin where if you use 5ml with 200ml of tonic, you get the same flavour you would get in a normal double G&T, but with one quarter of the amount of alcohol. It’s super high strength that you can use to make a very low-strength G&T. Low or no alcohol is a growing thing. At least in the ones we’ve tried, it seems to get the right kind of flavour, you need some alcohol there.

How have you adapted to the challenges of the past year?

We went into sanitiser, and Andy took a big roll of dice on that. Our biggest customers are the on-trade, a lot of the pub groups and places like that which obviously haven’t ordered. We have the pop-up shop in Bluewater which is a big chunk of our revenue. We were planning to launch the Extreme 95 on the day they announced the stricter measures and all that had to be cancelled. But the sanitiser, we had the alcohol and that was the key thing. We gave away loads to the local businesses around us. At the time, you just couldn’t get any.

We started selling it broadly. The prices people were charging at the time were absolutely disgusting so we were able to wildly undercut. And people came to us because we actually had some. It wasn’t going to make massive amounts of money - we could have charged twice as much but it was enough and that’s what really matters.


Five final thoughts

Favourite gin?

Our orange and honey. I really like it!

Favourite mixer and garnish?

A double measure of orange and honey with one shot of Kahlua coffee liqueur, with ginger ale and a slice of orange. It sounds really weird until you try it!

Favourite gin-based cocktail?

French 76

Favourite pub or bar in Kent?

I’m a big fan of Ye Olde Thirsty Pig and The Flower Pot in Maidstone. They’re good independent pubs with a good selection of beers and spirits

Who would you share a gin with?

Teddy Roosevelt. He’s the kind of man who has several lifetimes’ worth of experiences and I’m sure he could tell a story or two.


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Anno Distillers Kent Dry Gin features in our April tasting box.

Find out more about our monthly tastings here.

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