It all began…
…in the long hot summer days under the weeping willow trees on her family’s farm in the English countryside, Mary and her 7 brothers and sisters built tree houses and camps and played in the shade.
From an early age she was involved in farming; her family running a small farm and managing a menagerie of animals in order to be self-sufficient. The seeds of environmental responsibility and sustainable living were planted in Mary from this early age.
Mary's passion for experimentation with food and drink traces back to her parents living and working in Nigeria. Her father was a teacher and her mother in charge of a district hospital working as a doctor. Mary's father was a keen cook and loved, in particular, creating recipes using unusual herbs and spices.
Following in her father's footsteps, with a particular passion for African and Asian flavours, this joy in utilising exotic ingredients has been the guiding force in developing her unique gin.
Travel, adventure and entrepreneurial spirit
The starting point for The Willow Tree Distilling Company stems from the time Mary spent in Detroit as an adventurous twenty-something. Her love of travel and adventure took her to the United States for 5 years where the American dream and entrepreneurial spirit rubbed off on her and sowed the seed of creating her own product and operating her own sustainable and socially responsible business.
A mother of three herself, Mary has had a varied career that had to fit around a busy family life. Her last job, working at Waitrose for 4 years in a variety of customer facing roles culminating in Assistant Section Manager exposed her to new and innovative products and inspired her to bring her own ideas to life.
When the time came to fulfil her dream of running her own business Mary took a huge leap of faith and committed to it full time. She set about researching ideas and possible products to create her own company. From the outset, family and friends were canvassed, always with the aim of creating a local high-quality product, focused on flavour.
A year of experimentation
After a couple of iterations experimenting with various ideas, a chance comment about a friend flavouring whiskey sent Mary down the path of researching spirits production and the realisation of the growing popularity of craft gins.
After completing a course in distilling and achieving the required licences a still was purchased and the flavour experimentation began! At this point and despite the already considerable effort expended, it was realised that the journey had only just begun as it took another year of research into flavour combinations before Mary was satisfied she had created a truly unique gin.
There are a number of factors in the recipe that sets Willow Tree Gin apart including the particular herb and spice blend and the smoking process using carefully selected wood on the farm to impart a smooth richness to the gin.
Handcrafted in the Bedfordshire countryside
Willow tree gin is now distilled in small batches on Mary's family farm in Bedfordshire, where her family has lived for the last 40 years.
Her family moved from the main farmhouse to the renovated barns in 2012 and use the land to grow selected herbs used in her gin recipe.
It was extremely important to Mary that the process for manufacturing her gin was sustainable and environmentally conscious.
To reduce impact on resources the water used in the distilling process is recycled in a closed loop twin condenser and the botanicals that give the gin its unique flavour are composted afterwards and used to fertilise and grow fresh herbs. Sold in classically beautiful glass bottles, the packaging uses as little plastic as possible.
Willow Tree Distillery is now also working closely in collaboration with the Forest of Marston Vale - donating 50p for every full-size bottle of Willow Tree Gin sold to ensure new trees are planted for future generations to enjoy.
Willow Tree Gin was born
A premium spirit made from the highest quality ingredients and distilled in small batches in a true craft fashion, Willow Tree Gin is smooth, sweet, fresh and citrusy with a unique smokey character and richness.
A new fresh taste of summer
Willow Tree Gin is a uniquely English product but at the same time inspired by cultures, flavours and plants from all over the world. It draws on warm, verdant summer days in the countryside but also a sense of adventure, global travel and desire for new experiences.
Willow Tree Gin is handcrafted, environmentally conscious, and distilled with care and love for its drinker and for the planet it was made on.