“MIND, body, and spirit” has taken on a new meaning at Blackburn Cathedral this week with the launch of its own-brand gin.
The gin, Cathedra, is designed to cash in on the current enthusiasm for the drink and provide a useful income for the Church’s mission and ministry. Already five other cathedrals have placed orders for their shops in time for the Christmas market.
“This is not a novelty: this is a cathedral doing business,” said the Dean, the Very Revd Peter Howell-Jones, who had a hand in deciding what went into the creation of Cathedra and the bottle design. “Blackburn is not a tourism centre; it is not a rich part of the world, and we need to reach out to markets beyond our town and region to be sustainable long-term. Gin is on trend; it is a developing market.
“I wanted to create a brand that would work across the country, that could create an income stream from which all English cathedrals can benefit.”
Blackburn Cathedral has invested £12,000 in the development of the gin, which retails for about £45 a bottle. The Cathedral expects to recoup its investment by the end of the year.
The gin is produced by Brindle Distillery, an independent company in a village seven miles from Blackburn, which uses a blend of local and international “botanicals” to flavour its spirits. It is notable for its sustainable processes, heating its still from biomass boilers, and feeding by-products to its herd of cows or free-range chickens. Its house brand, Cuckoo Gin, has been praised within the industry.
The water used in the distilling process comes from the farm’s spring. The raw spirit in Cathedra has been flavoured with juniper, orange, elderflower, almond, and vanilla. The brand will be launched at the Dean’s Dinner in Blackburn Cathedral today.
The cathedral sees its gin as one of a number of fund-raising ventures intended to raise £1 million match funding for the redevelopment of its crypt into a community and conferencing facility, and an exhibition and heritage space that tells the region’s history of Lancashire’s cotton towns and the faith that underpinned them.
Dean Howell-Jones has a track record for unusual and imaginative fund-raising initiatives. When he was Vice-Dean of Chester Cathedral, he opened a falconry centre in the grounds, and helped set up last year’s Ark exhibition, which featured Damian Hirst’s Golden Calf, and works by Jacob Epstein and Elisabeth Frink. The show secured Chester the 2017 Tourism Experience or Event of the Year in the local Cheshire Life Awards.
He said this week: “It is imperative that cathedrals commercially engage with different groups of people. We should not be afraid to engage with all aspects of society. . .
“Creating a gin here at Blackburn Cathedral to sell in the commercial world helps us develop our reach beyond Lancashire, and reflects a well-established tradition of monastic and religious communities brewing, fermenting, and distilling dating back to before the medieval period. In doing so, we are helping to reflect something of the entrepreneurism and creativity, which is the spirit of England’s cathedrals.”
Cathedra can be ordered online from www.cathedragin.co.uk.