Published: 14:21, 10 January 2019
| Updated: 16:11, 10 January 2019
A town's rich gin history is set to return this summer as plans for a new distillery gather speed.
Production of the spirit in Maidstone was famous across the world during the 18th and 19th centuries and nods will be made to its heritage at the new venue, which bosses hope will open in a matter of months.
It is set to include a visitor centre, plus a bar for customers to sample some of the local gin and in future could see up to 20 jobs created.
Darren Graves, who is leading the project, said: "We want to give Maidstone its spirit back."
The new venture will join a range of popular gin makers in Kent including Copper Rivet Distillery in Chatham, which opened in 2017, and Anno Distillers in Marden, which launched a pop-up shop in Bluewater for the first time this Christmas.
The small Maiden Distillery also exists in the county town, but only offers mini visits to the public once per month.
Dad-of-three Mr Graves, his wife, Sam and two other business partners are looking to launch the company this summer, selling bottles of unique, locally-produced gin and other spirits.
It will also look to introduce tours, a bar and a visitor centre within a building in the town centre.
Mr Graves, of Roseacre Lane, Bearsted, grew up in the town before leaving to join the army, and established the Maidstone Distillery Ltd with Companies House in August.
He said: “Maidstone had a very well-known distillery for 150 years, making spirits that had European acclaim.
“It seems to have been lost over a period of decades, and we want to help bring that back.
“We think this is an idea to help us create something that will really resonate with the community and revive this legacy that Maidstone is really famous for.
“I’m proud of my town, places like Canterbury and Tunbridge Wells seem to have an identity, whereas I’m not sure whether, since the war especially, Maidstone has lost its a little bit.”
A six-figure sum is being pumped into the project, which has made rapid progress over recent months.
The team, which includes a nationally-recognised master distiller, has earmarked a property in the heart of the town and is in the process of finalising the purchase, and ordering a range of equipment.
Mr Graves insists he will keep the team working on the project relatively small at the start, but with a view to hiring up to 20 employees in future as it looks to expand.
“I’ve been running a local business for a number of years and while this is a step away from what I was doing before, I’m used to handling finances,” he said.
“We are setting something up from scratch but we’re doing it with a team of all the right people.
“We’ve got a good amount of money behind us and we’re realistic about what we want to achieve.”
More by this authorTom Pyman