MORE than 700 investors have backed a bid to expand a Hampshire business and take its premium gins and vodka overseas.

Winchester Distillery’s online crowdfunding campaign closed after raising nearly £500,000 – more than £100,000 above its target.

The campaign, launched just before the distillery’s fifth birthday, will enable it to buy equipment which will increase production of its premium gins and vodka.

Its team will pursue opportunities to sell its spirits nationally and overseas

The investment will also enable it to install a brewhouse, enabling production of rum and, later on, whisky.

More jobs will be created and the site in Old Alresford developed to allow more visitors and the creation of a gift shop, the business said.

It is the first time the distillery has sought investment since Paul Bowler started the business in 2014. The campaign was run on the UK’s most popular crowdfunding platform, Crowdcube.

Other money pledged will help create an interactive botanical garden at the distillery, a redesign of the website and a rebrand for Winchester Distillery and its ranges.

Mr Bowler said: “In these uncertain political and financial times, we weren’t sure how our crowdfunding campaign would be received, so to close last week not just on target but exceeding it by over 25 per cent was incredible.

“Thank you to everyone who has been involved and who has invested both locally and further afield. We can’t wait to get underway with our expansion plans so we can reach new markets and welcome more visitors at the distillery.”

Crowdcube investors were offered a host of incentives for pledging money.

The rewards started with a gin and tonic at a distillery event for those pledging £20, while those investing £25,000 or more were given the chance to fill a 30-litre oak cask with single malt whisky, to be bottled with the investor’s own label after three years of ageing.

Mr Bowler launched the business from his tiny kitchen in central Winchester.

The former software developer left behind his career and daily commute to London to pursue his love for gin in the 1990s, when he recalled everyone else was drinking vodka, Budweiser and alcopops.

It took 84 recipes before he created the distillery’s signature gin, Twisted Nose – described as “an intensely herbaceous yet delicately floral spirit with soft sweet citrus notes and spicy undertones finishing with a peppery sparkle”.

Winchester Distillery’s spirits range consists of Twisted Nose Watercress Gin, Twisted Nose Wasabi Vodka, Hampshire Fine Dry Gin, Winchester Dry Gin and Hampshire Fine Old Tom Gin, plus seasonal and other limited editions

Its products are made in small batches using traditional methods, with botanicals sourced from the landscape surrounding Winchester.