Turning your hobby into your career may seem like an ideal arrangement for many.
For James Clark, a former computer programmer, it became a reality in 2012 when he started up the Ely Gin Company.
“For 20 years I was a computer programmer and I got bored with it,” he said. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t what I wanted to do.
“For the longest time I wanted to run my own business but didn’t know what I wanted to do.
“I used to make sloe gin, so I started to make it using other fruits and they were popular with friends and family.
“I decided to put those things together and see if I could make it work commercially. It’s rewarding because I’m working for myself.
“But making something in a Kilner jar in your kitchen is a different technology to making 60 to 100 litres at a time.”
From these humble beginnings, James said the business has been a ‘voyage of discovery’, with many failed concoctions left behind in the development kitchen.
Having started with a stall on Ely market in March, 2012, the company began trading on Bury’s market in September last year. The company also makes regular appearances at markets in the West Midlands, and is soon to open its first shop in its home town.
Among his alcoholic arsenal James has a variety of flavours to suit any season, from the summery raspberry, pink grapefuit and orange-infused gins to the more autumnal tastes of blackberry and family favourite sloe gin.
Explaining the infusion process, which he oversees in the factory himself, James said: “Sloe gin, the traditional infused gin, is typically made in autumn and takes at least three months. None of our flavours take very much longer than that.”
“Raspberries are a softer fruit, it takes three to four weeks and the gin is ready. It was one of the first flavours we did and we sell a lot of it.
“With citrus gins, you want the oils to come out from the skin, and that takes longer to infuse.”
More unsual flavours such as star anise, a favourite of James’, and dark chocolate, have also crept into the company’s stock.
After a quiet start to the year, James and his wife are now ready to hit the road for markets and festivals in East Anglia and beyond for the summer and autumn.
To browse the company’s products, or for advice on how to serve your fruity gin, go to www.elygin.co.uk.