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Introducing the spirit of alchemy

Felicity Murray asks ex-pharmaceutical chemist Norman how and why he and co-founder Andy, set up Anno, a new artisan gin distillery tucked away in the English county of Kent

Norman Lewis Anno Distillers

Anno Distillers is a new artisan spirits company based in Kent, the Garden of England an area of natural beauty and a source of a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and botanicals. It is the first micro-distillery to open in the county and the first to start distilling gin for 200 years.

The company was founded in 2011 by two PhD research and development chemists – Norman Lewis and Andy Reason. I met Norman at the recent craft distiller’s expo in London.

Norman explained how and why it all began: “Andy and I chose to take early retirement when the pharmaceutical company we worked for took the strategic decision to close our site. Having worked closely together for ten years and having a good understanding of each other’s approach to work and life, as well as a high level of trust and a firm friendship, we decided to go into business together.

“We still wanted to use our technical background in science and our managerial skills and since we both enjoy spirits, Anno Distillers was born. We use our scientific background to distil botanicals into the finest drinking pleasure!

"We have also been joined by Kim, Andy’s youngest daughter, who is looking after our sales, marketing and social media activities.

“The name Anno has been concocted from our Christian names: ANdy and NOrman. The Anno ‘A’ monogram is taken from an ancient German Alchemical text and was used as the symbol to describe the process of distillation, which of course ties in beautifully with our company name! The logo, together with our strapline ‘The Spirit of Alchemy’ nicely connects our scientific background with our products.    Alchemists aimed to turn base metals into gold or, in our case, botanicals into the finest drinking pleasure.

“Distillery tradition calls for naming the still after a lady. Ours is part of the Anno family too and let’s be honest we couldn’t do without her. We settled on the name Patience as it perfectly reflects our journey so far. 

“Patience is our uniquely designed copper pot still. She was created by Christian Carl, a family run business near Stuttgart, Germany, who has been manufacturing distillery technology since 1869.

“We like to keep things small to achieve the best quality so Patience only has a 300-litre capacity. She is designed as a multi functional still with the ability to be adaptable to produce gin, vodka and other spirits.

“Distilling is a science. Unlike many distillers, our background working in the pharmaceutical industry for a multinational company using similar equipment gives us a real understanding of the equipment’s capabilities. This allows us to produce the highest quality spirits.

“To make our gin, neutral grain spirit and water are put into the copper pot with botanicals including juniper, coriander to name two and pure Kentish water filtered on site. The mixture is heated over several hours to release the distinctive flavours into the alcohol. The blended concoction is then slowly distilled allowing the optimum flavours through into the botanical basket.

“It is in the botanicals basket where our handpicked, inspired local Kentish botanicals are waiting to be infused by the vapours, creating a sensual aromatic delight unique to our creation. This incredibly exquisite fusion then passes through the rectification column and down the condenser transforming it into the divine elixir that is Anno gin.”

David T Smith, a well-respected gin writer describes the Anno Kent Dry Gin as having “a crisp, complex and inviting juniper and citrus nose with floral and herbal notes”. On the palate, he says it has classic juniper, moving to citrus and then sweet, spiced notes. “Overall, soft to start, with a complexity of flavours, which grows as you sip. The finish is bold and long, with leafy herbal notes and hops; balanced, with a crisp, dry lift at the very end.”

Norman adds: “We have perfected a blend of traditional gin botanicals including juniper, coriander, orris root, angelica root, cassia bark, liquorice and cubebs with a carefully selected combination of local botanicals.

“We use a special blend of different aromatic Kentish hops with carefully chosen local lavender, elderflower, rose hips and samphire as well as the light notes of Camomile. And to provide the extra delicate citrus notes, we have added fresh lemon, bitter orange and kaffir lime leaves.

The bottle design
Norman describes the carefully chosen hand-crafted design of their first gin bottle as “visually capturing the fusion of science and nature which is at the heart of ‘The Spirit of Alchemy’ and the Anno story”.

The branding and bottle decoration was designed by London agency Wonderland WPA.

“The screen-printed hand-drawn ‘word-strings’ evoke an image of the Garden of England with hop bines curling around their supports, but creating a dancing, smoke-like effect as the writing reflects back through the glass, mirroring the mysticism and spirit of alchemy,” he says. “And the Anno logo, which is a hot stamp copper foil application, shines brightly like the copper of our still.”

The green capsule and scripted ‘Gin’ place the design in the recognised gin category, while the roundel logo is used on the capsule cap to add a sophisticated finishing touch to the top of the bottle.

Norman spent a significant number of years working in the pharmaceutical industry, but his sense of scientific curiosity meant that he was not ready to retire.  His pleasures in life include good food, fine wine and malt whisky.  However, he’s never happier than found rambling around the countryside or working on his allotment where he grows many varieties of fruit and veg.  His other hobbies include travelling and photography.  Married with two children, Norman enjoys relaxing in the company of his family - with perhaps an Anno gin and tonic!

Pictured below: Andy Reason, Kim Reason and Norman Lewis with Patience

To contact the distillery Tel: 01622 833278 or call Kim (sales and marketing manager) at


14 October 2013