Skip to content

Talk – The History of Gin – Oct 2020

On 23rd October, Rachel Hicks gave us a fascinating and informative Zoom presentation about the history of gin and the formation of her company, Skywave Gin.

It appears that we can thank a first century AD physician for starting it all, when he steeped juniper berries in wine to combat chest ailments. Happy days! Fast forward a millennium we find Benedictine Monks in Solerno, Italy, producing a tonic wine infused with juniper berries. Even more happy days!!

In the 16th century, the Dutch produced a spirit which they called “Genever”, a combination of malt wine and, you’ve guessed it, juniper berries.  By the late 1700’s, Dutchman “William of Orange” had become William 111 of England and introduced his home country’s beverage to his new citizens – and for almost 100 years they drank it to excess. It was now known as “Gin”.

From the mid 1800, the production of gin was strictly controlled by the government, until in 2008, after several years lobbying, Sipsmith were granted the first official English distiller’s licence since 1820. This opened the market for independent artisan craft gin producers, which is where Skywave come into the story.

Rachel worked for the BBC and now runs her own successful media company.  However, when she and her husband Andy decided to enrol on a gin making course, just for fun, their interest in the subject grew. Their course instructor was very complimentary about the gin they produced and this encouraged them research and develop their recipes further.

To cut a long story short, after launching Skyways Gin and in just under 2 years, they were awarded The World’s Best Contemporary Gin at the 2020 World Gin Awards – an amazing achievement in such a short period of time. They are now developing more recipes to add to their range of products. For more information, their website is:

Following her presentation, Rachel answered a wide range of questions from our members.