Rugby Distillery

Pitch perfect! Rugby Distillery bottles the flavour of the game thanks to turf from the home of rugby

A Rugby distillery has literally bottled the flavour of the game thanks to a new ingredient from one of the most famous pitches in the world. 

Family-run business Rugby Distillery is adding botanicals extracted from grass from ‘The Close’ – the famous pitch at Rugby School where William Webb Ellis picked up a football and ran with it in 1823, marking the creation of the game.

The move comes after Rugby School decided to sell turf from The Close, giving Rugby Distillery – which was set up last year in homage to the game of rugby and the town of its birth – the opportunity to fulfill a long held ambition to include the grass in its botanicals.

Rugby Distillery

Rugby Distillery co-founder Richard Wilson is now the proud owner of four bolts of turf from The Close which he is tending at his garden at home ready for harvesting and distilling into the gin that takes its name from the famous game and location. 

The addition will be the 13th botanical in Rugby gin and will be included in all gins distilled from now onwards. 

Richard, who started the business with sister Emma Riddell in memory of their late brother Ian, said the pitch perfect move marked the final piece of the puzzle for their creation.

He said: “We have lived in Rugby all of our lives and the game is in our blood. Distilling gin in our home town is our passion but it felt like there was a piece of our story missing, we wanted our botanics to echo the story of the game in the same way that our brand does.

Rugby Distillery

“It has always been our desire to involve the game of Rugby in our products, and our bottles already pay homage to the bold shoulders of the players and the signature horizontal stripes of the original shirts that players wore.

“We are the only small batch gin distillery whose products are made here in Rugby, Warwickshire, and now our spirit botanicals will be enhanced by the very grass that William Webb Ellis ran upon.”

Rugby Distillery was founded in 2021 by Richard and sister Emma and has gone from strength to strength, with Rugby Gin sold in pubs and bars across Warwickshire and beyond, as well as a spin-off Wasps Gin created for the rugby team who play at the CBS Arena in Coventry.

The company’s flagship gin, the 1823 Dry, pays tribute to the year William Webb Ellis famously picked up a football and ran with it at Rugby School, creating the game of Rugby. The 1878 Navy Strength gin marks the year of the first Army-Navy rugby match, and a Rhubarb gin also offers an alternative for those who prefer a fruitier flavour. 

The company has plans for other limited edition flavours to add to its range, plus plans to mark the 200th anniversary year of the game of rugby in 2023. 

Emma added: “Our slogan has always been ‘Crafted In The Fields of Rugby’ – and thanks to the addition of this historic, hallowed grass, Rugby Gin really does offer the true flavour of the game.”

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