Mr Berkshire Botanical Gin’s favourite Places
A Muddy man who leaves us shaken and stirred. Mr Gin Johnny Neill spends his days in the West Berkshire countryside dreaming up new flavour combos for his gin brand Berkshire Botanical – but where are his top spots?
In need of ginspiration? Step right up and meet Mr Gin himself, Johnny Neill – Berkshire local and founder of Berkshire Botanical, Mary-Le-Bone and Whitley Neill gins. This is a man who can leave you shaken, stirred, and hungover in his presence.
Johnny is an eighth generation gin distiller. After a brief flirtation in finance, he launched Whitley Neill gin in 2005, with Mary-Le-Bone and Berkshire Botanical following hot on its heels. He lives in West Berkshire, so a locally-inspired spirit was something he really wanted to do. Not only to celebrate the areas natural resources but all to make gin distilling a more sustainable business. He now produces five tasty tipples – Berkshire Dry, Honey & Orange Blossom, Rhubarb & Raspberry, Dandelion & Burdock and Sloe Gin, inspired by the flora and fauna found on the 9,000-acre Yattendon Estate where they’re distilled.
Berkshire Botanical is a relative newcomer on the gin scene but has certainly impressed the judges. The Berkshire Dry won gold at the IWSC awards (the booze world’s Olympics), gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and The Gin Guide‘s Best Traditional Gin Award. And it’s loved all over the world. The Chinese love the flavour and smartly dressed woodland characters. Over in Russia Putin and his pals are fans of the Rhubarb and Raspberry. Warning: Drink too much and you too could be wrestling a bear with your top off. Joking.
The good news is that the gin bubble is showing no signs of bursting any time soon. “We’ve just opened a new distillery on Yattendon Estate, with a new 200L still. You can visit us and have a look around, but also create your own gin at our little Gin School,” explains Johnny. “We have mini stills set up and add your own botanicals to create your very own gin to take away.”
The new distillery is also geared up to leave a low carbon footprint, using renewable energy and recycled rain water. Plans are also afoot to plant things that will continue to develop the sustainability of the Berkshire Botanical brand. “A lot more craft distillers who are looking at the sustainability piece of the puzzle. We might add another gin flavour to the collection, but rum could be an option in the future,” Johnny explains.
It’s an occupational hazard that Johnny spends a lot in and out of bars and restaurants. So who better to ask than Mr Gin himself on his favourite places in Berkshire and beyond. Over to you, Johnny…
My Favourite Places…
1/ The Ridgeway, West Berkshire
There are some fantastic walks and cycle routes where I live in Chieveley. But The Ridgeway – England’s oldest road – is nearby and it’s a beautiful spot, especially in the summer. Up at Chern, between Compton and East Ilsley, there’s the gallops and we take Kim our Spaniel for a run up there.
The kids absolutely love Lusso – and the owners are wonderful people. This is a brilliant local pizza place and they’ve just expanded and added a pasta restaurant too. The pizzas are always good and the lockdown takeaway delivery was phenomenal.
It’s a fantastic pub. Kate and Colin are the loveliest people. They’ve had a tough year but they’re back on track. The Globe is a creative, fun place and and they offer a great selection drinks – including our entire range.
Yattendon is wonderful village. We moved to Frilsham when we first moved out of London. You’ll find the The Royal Oak in the centre of village and it’s a superb country pub. Our still Harry [named after Johnny’s son] can be found in The Orangery and we’re often popping in. The garden is particularly lovely spot for drink in the summer. The West Berkshire Brewery Taproom is another great place. The village is not far from where we live now and it’s also where we have opened our new distillery and gin school. We’ve now got a larger unit up on Childs Court Farm with a 250L still plus four 2.5L stills. It’s a wonderful part of the world.
5/ Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, London
I do love Restaurant Gordon Ramsay on Royal Hospital Road in Chelsea. It’s where my wife Nicki and I celebrated our first anniversary. The food is amazing. Yes, it’s expensive, but worth every penny in my opinion. I can’t wait to go back.
6/ Marylebone, London
Marylebone. It’s where I lived in London and there’s a real sense of community. It’s a vibrant place and new businesses are opening all the time. For something to eat or a cocktail, I love 108 Brasserie, which is at the back of the Marylebone Hotel. It’s a relaxed bar and restaurant and home to our Isabella Mary-Le-Bone still (named after my daughter).
This year, Mary-Le-Bone gin is sponsoring the Marylebone Music Festival (24-26 Jun); Prince and Princess Michael of Kent will be attending, the Royal Household Cavalry Band are playing and Sue Perkins will be conducting. It’s very relaxed and to support some brilliant charities.
Thanks to Johnny for his recommendations! Berkshire Botanical can be bought online in local Waitrose and Tesco stores, Berkshire farm shops and Booths.