‘I was given months to live - but that spurred me on to my dream of opening a gin distillery in Warwick’
When enterprising husband and wife team Martin and Lorraine Moore open their doors for business every morning they smile.
The couple, from Warwick, are living out their dream of owning a distillery and gin school but it’s been a more testing journey than most.
Because two years ago Martin was given just months to live.
In 2011, after spotting a mole on his back, Martin, 59, was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma.
Despite six months of surgery, four years later the couple received the news they had dreaded – the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes.
Unable to treat the condition with chemotherapy, Martin was put on an immunotherapy drugs trial which, two years on, has shown signs of shrinking the tumour.
He said: “I went to see the doctor about the mole and he sent me to a dermatologist who took it off the very next day.
“Two years ago the consultant told me that usually at this stage I would have six to eight months to live, but the treatment is going very well. I am positive and just get on with it. I do suffer from side-effects and I’m not going to be running any marathons, but I try and stay as active as possible.
“I don’t look at my cancer as negative at all. It’s there and it’s not going away. I just try and look to the future.”
In fact the diagnosis marked a significant turning point for the couple who decided the time was right to start working towards their business dream - together.
Martin said: “The cancer made me less employable and I was starting to think what is it I really want to do with my life. I decided I could sit and mope around or I could get on with it. I see ourselves as pioneers because we knew absolutely nothing about distilleries but went ahead anyway. Every day you learn something new.”
Lorraine, 52, said: “It sounds like a cliché but you just don’t know what’s around the corner.
“Things have taken a little longer than we originally anticipated as his surgery got in the way, but we are finally here. Martin calls it
Believed to be Warwick’s first gin distillery, Moores of Warwick, which opened earlier this month (March) makes small-batch hand-crafted gin using a selection of 12 botanicals, including honeysuckle, the flower emblem of Warwickshire and known as Shakespeare’s Woodbine.
The couple’s love affair with gin emerged around 12 years ago when Lorraine was introduced to the drink by Weightwatchers as a lower-calorie alternative to wine.
Martin admits: “I wasn’t a gin drinker at all and Lorraine converted me. Gin was becoming very popular then and our initial thought was that we’d like to have a go at making our own, not necessarily owning a distillery or anything like that. So I put myself on a distiller’s course.”
But passion turned to ambition and today they operate out of a unit at Hatton Shopping Village where their gin school is also already proving popular.
Groups are invited to hear a short presentation on the history of gin before concocting their own unique recipe using the mini stills, then bottle it and add a personalised label, all while enjoying some G and Ts.
Records of each unique blend are also kept so re-orders can be made.
And it’s a far cry from Martin’s stock in trade having spent 40 years as an accountant.
He even hand-crafted the gin bar and counters from oak floorboards sourced from ebay.
Six new Al-Ambiq stills were shipped from Portugal. The main 100-litre still, in line with distilling tradition, has been given a
name by Lorraine. ‘Nellie’ (the elephant in the room – referring to Martin’s cancer) stands in the corner of the room as a proud
reminder of the challenges they’ve overcome to be here today.
While looking to the future can be a painful prospect for someone with stage 4 cancer, not so for Martin whose aspiration to grow the business are already in the planning.
“Most people drink either gin or vodka or rum so we’re going to have the three brands which we’re going to start developing over the next couple of months,” he said.
“We want to develop a local distillery everyone knows about and introduce new products which eventually go national. This is all about passing our passion onto others.”
Lorraine added: “I’d like the gin schools to run regularly because everybody has such fun, but they also learn something. It’s so nice to witness people have that eureka moment when you’re teaching them about gin.
“We want this to become a busy little gin bar as well. I look forward to the summer and seeing people sitting outside and enjoying our gin.”
Moores Gin can be found at various festivals across the county as well as stocked in some off-licences and pubs across the area but it’s early days for these entrepreneurs thirsty for success.
“Our ambition is to have our gin in every pub in Warwickshire eventually,” said Martin.
As well as enjoying early positive feedback for this fledgling business, the Moores appreciate, more than anything, the new lease of life it has provided.
“Every time I walk through the door it puts a smile on my face. We’re both incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved and look forward to the future,” said Martin.