A man who knows exactly how to strike gold has done just that with his latest venture.
In his early years, Philip Robbins spent time working in a gold mine in Africa.
A man with an adventurous spirit, he travelled to South Africa aged 16 for a three week holiday and liked it so much he stayed for nine years. The first five of those were spent working down a gold mine.
Now back home in Lancashire, he has struck gold of a different kind.
He has now launched Forgan Distillery, making top quality gin, whiskey and dark rum using ingredients grown in the local area.
The firm, based in the coastal village of Banks, near Southport, provides specially crafted products for those who enjoy what they savour.
Philip Robbins gave up his career in electro mechanical engineering and IT to pursue his passion.
Learning about his craft and earning his rare Distiller’s Licence took Philip a year while his bottles take several weeks to make.
They include: Refreshingly Modern Forgan 42 gin (42%) – a silver medal winner at the London Spirit Award; Forgan PINK Hibiscus Rose & Apple Gin (42%); Forgan Heather & Vanilla Gin (42%); Forgan Corn Whiskey Single Grain, Single Cask (48%); Forgan Dark Rum (46%); Forgan 74 gin (74%); and Forgan 80 gin (80%).
The Forgan traditional English dark rum takes eight weeks to ferment.
The Forgan Corn Whiskey has its roots back in the 1990s, when Philip spent some time in the USA – although some of its taste is much closer to home.
Philip said: “I use local produce for my Corn Whiskey. The corn for it grows on the other side of my fence in Banks!
“I am not allowed to call it Bourbon, because it is not made in the US, but it is made to a traditional USA Southern States Bourbon recipe and has a very similar taste.”
It takes tremendous time and huge skill to make the Forgan Distillery gins as well.
Between the whiskey, rum, and gins, there are just seven products available. It has to be absolutely perfect to be made available to customers. There are more in development, but it takes time.
Equally, you won’t find wagon loads full of crates rolling out of Banks any time soon.
These are distinctly hand-crafted bottles of spirits for the discerning drinker, not the mass produced market.
Established back in August 2017, Forgan Distillery began its journey with one goal in mind – to create high quality, locally sourced spirits that would change the face of modern alcohol.
Working with local businesses and approaching spirits from a different angle was the main driving force behind owner and gin-enthusiast Philip Robbins’ approach. Fed up with low-quality, cheap and cheerful gins, he set out to give old classics a modern facelift.
Philip Robbins left behind a reliable 30-year career in engineering and IT to pursue his love for great spirits.
Offering completely hand-crafted gin, whiskey and rum, Forgan Distillery has put its name on the map as a distillery you can trust, only creating spirits for true spirit lovers.
Philip said: “I studied hard, and looked into it and I said ‘I am going to do this’.
“It took me over a year to get my Distiller’s Licence.
“I feel very strongly that I want to guarantee the integrity of my product and offer something that is truly local.
“Making these products from scratch is a very expensive process. If I bought in ready-made ingredients, I could do it in 24 hours, but the way I make my spirits, it is a three-week process. It is super time-consuming.
“But all of my gins for example are triple distilled, made using fresh, local ingredients where possible, and with Scottish mineral water at all stages. That is where you can really taste the difference.
“The quality of my products speaks for themselves.
“For me, it is either ‘do it properly, or don’t do it at all’.
“I am one of about 5% of distillers who go all the way from grain to glass, and it is time consuming, but worth every second.
“This is all about my time, my passion and my love for what I do.
“If you want to just go and get drunk on a Friday night, then a bottle of supermarket gin is probably the one for you.
“These are well crafted gins, rums and whiskeys, with real quality, perfect for those who love to enjoy what they drink.”
Philip has travelled the UK where he has attended various festivals and other events.
He is now seeing more bars and restaurants stock his products too, and the feedback from all corners has been impressive.
He said: “When I have done tastings events and cocktail nights in various places, people always comment on the quality and smoothness of my drinks.
“Around 60% to 70% of my business is repeat business. People do come back time and time again. It does say an awful lot about my products and their integrity.
“There are quite a few places stocking my products in the Southport area, and around Manchester and up into the Lakes. Everyone who has taken stock before has come back and re-ordered, which is a great sign.
“There are a couple of companies that have asked me to design gins specially for them. That has been a fun exercise. There’s a gin I make for a country house pub/hotel which is quadruple distilled and quadruple infused, I really do wish I’d kept that one for myself.
“I also do consultations. I was up in Scotland a few months ago where someone was trying to open a distillery. I went up for a couple of days and did a consultation with them.
“They will be filling their first bottle at the end of November, which is exciting.”
Now he is keen to get the Forgan Distillery name better known.
Philip said: “People have told me ‘I didn’t know there was something like this here’.
“I think I am a really well-kept secret! But word is gradually getting out there.
“I have got a really good following in the Southport area and I do free delivery in Southport as far north as Longton, and as far south as Formby the other way.
“There is one customer in Southport who has bought two bottles of everything I have ever made. He buys one to drink, and one to keep because he sees them as a good investment.
“I have also got people from further afield throughout the UK who regularly buy from me, they are very loyal customers, and I am getting more and more customers from further afield with regular orders from Europe and even orders from USA and occasionally Australia and New Zealand.
“Christmas is looking like it’s going to be an extremely busy time.
“With so many families having been under some form of lockdown for most of this year, many people are looking to buy Christmas gifts this year which have a lot of thought behind them and are something a bit special. I am already taking lots of orders.”
So where does the Forgan name come from?
The Forgan heritage comes from Philip’s father’s side of the family, all the way back to William Forgan, in 1625.
William Forgan was born in Fifeshire, Scotland, and was the founder of the hamlet of Forgan, near St Andrews. Philip is proud to be a direct descendant.
It has been family tradition that every generation has one boy with the middle name Forgan, which Philip holds proudly.
Today he is proud to create alcohol from scratch instead of buying it in, allowing him absolute control over the quality and integrity of his products and really emphasising the importance of hand-crafted, high quality produce.
- For more details about Forgan Distillery please visit forgandistillery.com