58 Gin is next in our our Local Heroes series, where we big up the people, small businesses and neighbourhood spots that make London great. The distillery, based in railway arches in Haggerston, is the UK Gin Producer of the Year (as awarded by the International Wine & Spirit Competition). As well as creating a core range of London Dry, Apple & Hibiscus, English Berry and Navy Strength Gin, plus the UK’s first gin-based hard seltzers, 58 Gin also aims to demystify distillation through its on-site Gin School and online Make Your Own Gin service. But Managing Director Carmen O’Neal isn’t stopping at gin, “I want everyone to know who we are and what we stand for, a brand and business that pushes sustainability at every level and that acts locally and thinks responsibly.”

Thanks to the UK’s gin-aissance over the past few years, it’s a competitive industry to be in, so the standard that 58 Gin works to has to be high. “We never compromise on the quality of our liquids. Our premium gins and hard seltzers use the alcohol cut from the heart (the purest and most premium part of the distillation process), and contain only natural ingredients, are entirely vegan and gluten-free with no artificial additives, sugar sweeteners or sulphites,” says Carmen. “This results in incredibly smooth, fresh flavours which have been recognised with numerous industry award wins.”

However it’s the commitment to running as sustainable an operation as possible is what really sets 58 Gin apart. The location has a part to play in that, as Carmen says, “Unlike a rural distillery, we don’t have easy access to green space, so we have to approach sustainable production in a very creative way. For example, we have just had solar panels fitted above our office and we have created a ‘Green Wall’ which will allow us to grow different botanicals, like the bitters for a Negroni, on site.”

Working with ethical suppliers is also key, “we’ve formed a wonderful partnership with Loddington Farm in Kent to allow us to produce gin from an urban distillery in a 100% green circular manner and fight against food waste which is such a huge issue in today’s society. We use the Farm’s ‘wonky’ Cox apples for our Apple & Hibiscus Gin and then the waste apples that we are unable to use go back to James, the farmer to be used in his compost,” explains Carmen. “We also forage our sloe berries for our English Berry Gin and we’ve committed to further offsetting our carbon footprint by visiting Loddington Farm as a team once a quarter – in line with COVID- restrictions – to plant rounds of juniper bushes for future use in our gins. We recently planted our first round, and it was such a great, rewarding day out!”

And it’s not just what goes into the bottles, every aspect of the business’s impact on the environment has been considered, from the reclaimed bricks and wood furniture in the distillery to the 100% recyclable glass gin bottles made by a British glass supplier to using Green Courier as the delivery option within London, and they are in the process of becoming B-Corp certified.

Like almost all businesses, 58 Gin was knocked by the pandemic but pivoted fast and hard to producing hand sanitiser – in just three days they had begun to supply the Met Police, NHS trust hospitals and Marie Curie Hospices, and in the 12 months from March 2020, they had produced over 50,000 bottles of Gin-Itizer. As Carmen says, “we’re dedicated to giving back to the industry which has been so adversely affected by COVID-19, so we continue to donate a percentage of our ‘Gin-Itizer’ product sales to The Drinks Trust.”

That local outlook and desire to support the community is something that has been in place at 58 Gin pre-pandemic and will only strengthen once we’re out the other end. “58 Gin believes in the strength of collaborative local and business community engagement to affect change; therefore, it is important that we support, champion and partner with other local businesses as a matter of course,” says Carmen. “We have an ongoing partnership with Humble Crumble London based out of Old Spitalfields Market which sees us donate gin-soaked (macerated) sloe berries and waste apples for use in their crumbles. Essentially, we’re maximising the lifespan of these products while supporting another business, which all aligns to our business ethos – to do everything from the heart and to be a truly artisan, neighbourhood distiller.”

It’s not just Humble Crumble that Carmen has a lot of love for, “Rubies in the Rubble is making huge waves in addressing the issue of food waste by creating delicious condiments utilising ‘imperfect’ but delicious fruit and vegetables – B-Corp certified it is a brand I truly admire. I love what Square Root Soda is doing when it comes to creating authentic drinks – focussing on keeping things simple and producing in the right way rather than cramming full of artificial ingredients.”