Bornand bred in Camden and having worked in the drinks industry for 16 years…he knows his gin. Meet this week’s LDNER, the gin master, Mark Holdworth.
Where do you live in London and what do you love about the area?
I live in Camden and have done for the most part of my life. I settled here with my wife and children. It has an energy and resilience that’s hard to ignore. I love the presence of its raw industrial history and eclectic mix of urban and tranquil. Camden will always be home to me. Even as the area has evolved over the past few years and benefitted from investment and development, it’s the area’s fiercely proud and unapologetically individual sense of style, backed up by years of hard graft and an entrepreneurial spirit that makes Camden so special.
What inspired you to create your own brand of gin?
I’ve spent over 16 years in the drinks industry working in Research & Development plus various commercial and global roles, so I’m passionate about spirits. Having been born and bred in Camden (and worked in my youth right here in Camden Lock Market), I only recently came across the story of Camden’s role in London’s gin distilling history. It was one of London’s largest gin producers and took up much of what is now the market – stretching from the canal all the way to The Roundhouse – but only a few tell-tales remain such as road names like Juniper Crescent. This inspired my business idea which was simply to reinvigorate this past by setting up our own micro-distillery in the heart of Camden Lock.
The blend of botanicals is key to any good gin, how did you decide on the flavours in yours?
With HALF HITCH, I wanted to create a truly distinctive product. The selection of botanicals reflect the produce that was transported along the canals at the time; black tea, bergamot, wood, hay and pepper. Botanicals are chosen from around the world, including Malawian black tea and bergamot from Calabria, Southern Italy, but only harvested when at the peak of seasonality when the supply reaches its highest quality. We actually use three distillation methods to produce every bottle of HALF HITCH, which is something that stands us apart from other gin brands. It’s a time-intensive, complex process – traditional handmade tinctures, and a copper pot still with modern-day vacuum distillation – but I believe it’s this tenacious drive to achieve excellence that allows us to produce such an incredible gin. Since launching in September 2014, HALF HITCH has built an incredibly passionate following of gin lovers and I’m delighted to have witnessed it go from strength to strength.
What’s the story behind the name HALF HITCH?
‘Half hitch is a mooring knot used to attach barges to the canal side. If you stand on the iconic bridges at Camden Lock you can see the deep grooves worn into the iron handrails from towropes. The name HALF HITCH and the rope detail on our gin’s label is a nod to Camden’s history of interchange, it’s in recognition of our roots but also a celebration of the fact HALF HITCH is moving the gin industry forward to reignite this rich heritage.
Where are some of your fave places for gin cocktails?
For classic cocktails and it’s amazing gin range – The Gin Bar at Holborn Dining Room is a must. I also like the off-the-beaten-track bars such 214 Bermondsey and the London Gin Club in Soho where they offer ‘gin flights’ so you can taste the spirit neat alongside a signature drink.
What would your perfect day in London be?
I rarely get the chance to spend much time down by the River Thames so I would make a bee-line there, take a boat up to Greenwich winding past all the capital’s amazing historic buildings for a traditional pub lunch and finish off back in town with drinks and dinner in one of my favourite haunts like Hawksmoor.