A HAMPSHIRE distiller is in high spirits after scooping two international awards for its gin less than a year the product came onto the market.

It was a double for Silverback Mountain Strength Gin from Gorilla Spirits of Four Marks at the 2016 International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) where they won a silver in the G&T category and a bronze for London Dry Gin (46-49 per cent).

The business is run by husband and wife team Andy and Claire Daniels who both still hold down full-time jobs – Andy is a business development director with an IT company and Claire is a dispenser at a GP surgery.

Andy, 58, explained that he was “coming to the end of corporate life” and was inspired to move into the growing artisan gin market by the success of brands like Sipsmith who had reinvented the tipple of blazered golf club types and made it cool again.

He already made his own cider so saw distilling as the logical next step.

Andy spent three years researching the market and the technical aspects of distilling followed by a further three years developing Silverback.

Like almost all gin makers he uses a ready- made “neutral spirit” made from British wheat which arrives at 99 per cent volume.

This is diluted with de-mineralised water and Andy’s special mix of botanicals and re-distilled.

To be classed as gin the predominant flavouring must be juniper and to that Andy adds coriander, orange and angelica plus three more unusual ingredients – acacia blossom, lemon grass and calumus root. Andy explained that calumus was a traditional part of gin up until the 1960s and was also used in snuff.

Although gin is traditionally teamed with tonic Andy favours Silverback as a sipping gin taken over ice with a slice of orange rather than lemon.

Since its launch Silverback has been adopted by some prestigious restaurants including Tom Kerridge’s Hand & Flowers in Marlow as well as the Kia Oval cricket ground and Southanpton FC’s St Mary’s Stadium where it will be the premium gin in all hospitality suites.

It seems that the Daniels have arrived at the gin party at the right time. The UK market doubled last year and is predicted to grow by a further 20 per cent this year.

There is also a thirst for British artisan gin abroad, said Andy and Silverback has already been exported five countries including Singapore.

The distinctive gorilla branding came out of Andy and Claire’s determination that their new business would be socially responsible.

For every bottle of Silverback sold £1 goes to the Gorilla Organisation – a British-based charity helping to preserve the endangered mountain gorillas of Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“We wanted to support a conservation charity and we have a developed a fantastic relationship with the Gorilla Organisation, “ said Andy. “We are joining them for a conference in Rwanda later this year and seeing some of their projects at first hand.

“It’s our target to be their single largest corporate sponsor.”