As one of the most popular choices of spirit across the UK in particular, the variety of gin now available throughout the world is phenomenal and includes a wide variety of flavours and variations, to intricately chosen botanicals. No matter your expertise with the spirit, the versatility of flavours that gin now brings means a large factor of the choice can be solely dependent on flavour as well as complementary additions.
To delve into the world of gin-making, we spoke to Tristan Jorgensen of South Ormsby Estate, who joined as head distiller in 2019.
Set in the heart of the picturesque, Lincolnshire Wolds, South Ormsby Estate are renowned for their unique Massingberd-Mundy Gin creations, which are individually created in their remotely located distillery. Each gin is individually inspired by a different person of local historical importance, starting with Charles Burrell Massingberd, born in 1749. A name that is at the very forefront of the estate’s history.
As well as the award-winning Marie Jeanne’s Pink Gin, the estate produces a Burrell’s Dry Gin and a new offering to the market that is Massingberd-Mundy Oak Aged Gin. In this interview we discuss a range of questions with Tristan, including the inspiration for the brand’s unique gin creations, his days as a head distiller and his career highlights so far.
Where did the inspiration come from for gin distilling at South Ormsby Estate?
The current custodians of the estate have a very clear vision for South Ormsby Estate and creating new opportunities with the community for small businesses such as Massingberd-Mundy Distillery. With the UK’s gin market still growing and the demand for small batch, hand-crafted gin still at a high, we decided to create a range of gins using the near 400-year family history we have at South Ormsby Estate.
What is the story behind each of your gin creations?
When I was creating our gins, I used the family history to draw inspiration from key characters, encapsulating what we know about them but in the form of gin.
Firstly, we have Burrell’s, a classic and traditional London Dry gin but with a fruity contemporary twist to reflect Charles Burrell Massingberd’s impact on the estate whilst he was squire. Alongside Burrell’s we have our multi award-winning Pink Gin, Marie Jeanne’s, named after Marie Jeanne Rapigeon, a flamboyant, sassy and elegant lady from the Kingdom of Versailles. This gin is fruity and flirtatious, sweet but dry and really captures what we know of Marie Jeanne. She was the second wife of Charles Burrell and took on the Estate after her husband’s passing and ran the estate until she was 99 years old. She was loved locally and known as ‘Old Mrs Massingberd’.
What was your biggest challenge during the pandemic?
Our biggest challenge from day one has been building the brand through exposure. We launched Burrell’s in April 2020 right at the start of the first lockdown with Marie Jeanne’s launching a little later in June on World Gin Day 2020. Building awareness of our new brand and gins was incredibly difficult and relied heavily on social media.
How did you become the head distiller for the estate?
Back in 2019 I was working in a bar in Liverpool when my wife sent me the job opportunity, which on paper, reflected my dream job. After a few long conversations I decided to apply. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
After an initial telephone interview, I was put forward to attend a face-to-face interview and I prepared massively by researching the history and vision of the estate. I also put together a presentation to showcase my vision for Massingberd-Mundy Distillery. It went down really well, and I was offered the position in June 2019.
Could you tell us more about the history of South Ormsby Estate?
In the 14th century, the land at Ormsby was purchased by Sir William Skipwith. The Skipwiths were an influential family of knights, MPs and landowners who held the estate through six generations until they sold it to Sir Drayner Massingberd in 1638.
Sir Drayner and his brother, Sir Henry Massingberd both fought in the English Civil War as parliamentarians against King Charles I, but they were pardoned for their part in the revolution after the restoration of the monarchy.
Sir Drayner died in 1689 and was succeeded by his son, Burrell Massingberd. Between 1690-1694, the rector of South Ormsby parish was Samuel Wesley, whose sons, John and Charles Wesley, grew up to become the founders of Methodism.
In 1802, William Burrell Massingberd died and was succeeded by his son, Charles Burrell Massingberd. Charles married Marie Jeanne Rapigeon of Versailles in 1788, and it is this couple in the Estate’s history on which we draw inspiration for our craft gin.
Charles commissioned architect Peter Atkinson and Sons to alter the hall, removing its original pediment and adding a third storey on top of the main building. Charles expanded the estate further but died in 1835.
Adrian Massingberd-Mundy was the last squire at South Ormsby, born in 1927. When he came of age in 1948, Adrian became squire although he only assumed full control of the estate after he retired from the Royal Navy where he served as a submarine officer. Adrian planted many new trees around the estate, and he would regularly visit children at South Ormsby School, bringing them strawberries and cream as a treat, he’s remembered as a good and fair landlord for the residents of the estate. Adrian passed away in 2012, with Adrian’s sister, Anne Margaret Massingberd-Mundy dying earlier in 2002.
Adrian nor Anne had children, so the estate was ultimately sold to Jon and Jan Thornes who became the estate’s new custodians in 2016. Jon and Jan are passionate about restoring The South Ormsby Estate to its former glory and their goal is to regenerate the local area as a better place to live, work, learn and enjoy.
What do your days entail as a head distiller?
I wear many hats in my roles as distillery manager. I am the only employee of Massingberd-Mundy Distillery, so I am responsible for all the business aspects of running the business such as budgets, sales forecasts etc. I also look after all the operational processes like distilling, blending, bottling, dispatching orders, product development, looking after on and off trade accounts and attending events. I do have a great team of people that I work with from South Ormsby Estate such as accounts, marketing and Jon himself mentoring me.
Best moment in your career so far?
My unconventional Marie Jeanne’s Pink Gin won the only gold at the World Gin Awards in 2021 in the English Flavoured Gin category. She really does defy people’s expectations of what a pink gin should taste like.
For anyone looking to work in this sector, what words of wisdom would you provide?
Being involved in the spirits and beverage industry for me is everything. Being a distiller is so much fun and it allows your creativity to come to the forefront. Being a distillery manager is so challenging, but the rewards are so humbling. If you like drinks, then explore possibilities, you won’t regret it.