Hotham's Distillery creates Viola Gin in the hope it will help return special ship

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 6 Dec 2018

Gin lovers can now get their hands on a specially created spirit highlighting the campaign to bring a steam trawler back home to Hull.

The Viola, built in Beverley in 1906, operated from Humber Dock – now Hull Marina – as part of the Hellyer fleet of boxing trawlers.

She was requisitioned to defend the UK in the First World War and left Hull for the last time in 1918 on a career which took her to Norway, Africa and Argentina, catching fish, hunting whales and elephant seals, and supporting expeditions in the South Atlantic.

She currently sits abandoned on a beach in Grytviken, South Georgia, after the closure of a whaling station in the 1970s.

Now, trustees behind a campaign to bring the former steam trawler back home are promoting the Viola with a message in a bottle.

Read more: Businesses get on board to help bring Viola back to Hull

Emma Kinton and Simon Pownall, owners of Hotham’s Distillery in Hepworth’s Arcade, have been granted a licence to produce a special brand of their hand-crafted gin, which will carry the Viola lifebelt logo on its label.

Emma said: “We were learning how to sail last year and we saw some fliers promoting the Viola campaign. We wanted to do something to support that and decided it would be the ideal name for our new still.

“Then we spoke to some of the people from the Viola Trust and between us came up with the idea of producing a gin dedicated to the ship and to the campaign.”

Production has already begun and the distillery is now taking orders for Christmas and beyond.

From left, Paul Escreet of SMS Towage, Chris Try of Try Lunn Associates and Dominic Ward of Andrew Jackson solicitors (Image: Karl Andre Smit)

Emma produced three different varieties of gin and the trustees added a tasting session to the agenda of their latest meeting at Andrew Jackson solicitors, who then drew up an agreement which will see the campaign receive a donation from every bottle sold.

The trustees opted for a traditional Old Tom-style gin, but the other candidates – a London Dry gin and a citrus gin – may yet reappear as discussions continue about offering a range of Viola gins, including a more potent Navy Strength version.

Read more: A new gin bar is opening in Hull city centre before Christmas

Emma said: “The Viola is an important part of Hull’s history and we hope this will help to raise its profile and support the fund-raising campaign. We’ve already had a lot of orders for corporate gifts for Christmas and we expect to hear from many more people who want to buy something really unique which supports Hull’s heritage.

“Once the Christmas rush is out of the way we will be working on plans for an official launch of the Viola gin, maybe with some new ideas for maritime cocktails.”

Paul Escreet, chairman of SMS Towage and of the Viola Trust, said: “Hotham’s Distillery is a fascinating business and they have offered us a wonderful opportunity to promote the Viola campaign.

“We’re confident this will be a very successful partnership, promoting the expertise and innovation behind Hotham’s Distillery and raising awareness and money for the campaign to bring the Viola back to Hull.”

To find out more about Hotham's Distillery and to place an order for Viola gin visit To find out more about the Viola campaign and to make a donation, click here.

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