Produced by two army engineers turned distillers, Yorkshire’s Forged Spirits artisanal organic gin is made with passion and precision
From serving their country to serving up drinks of the finest quality, husband-and-wife team Gary and Victoria Ford have always worked hard and aimed high. Their business, Forged Spirits, is one of the most forward-thinking companies in the industry, and there is no let up when it comes to their plans for the next few years. “We take real pride in what we do, at every stage. No half measures – excuse the pun,” says Gary with a laugh.
The couple met in the British Army in their late teens, working as telecoms engineers in Bosnia and Germany, before deciding to start a family in Victoria’s hometown of Wakefield, West Yorkshire. The seed of Forged Spirits was planted when Gary, from Burnley, Lancashire, began brewing his own beer and wine. “I’m quite frugal so, rather than buying it I thought, ‘I’ll make this’, and it developed into a passion.”
Gary soon became obsessed with creating the perfect alcoholic drink. “I was building equipment and temperature-controlled fermentation cabinets, and then I moved into making spirits, like vodka, rum and whisky.” This was much more than a hobby, and so Forged Spirits was formed in 2018, producing artisanal, organic-certified, vegan gin.
The couple opted for a sophisticated design to match their product. “We went for an Art Deco style to emphasise luxury and glamour, rather than the wooden-crate, crafty vibe that most others were doing,” says Gary. But their success, he believes, is due to one key element. “We’ve had 100 per cent growth year on year and it’s all down to the liquid in the glass. That’s what creates repeat customers.”
Rocketing demand meant larger premises were required, so the brand is in the process of moving into Tileyard North in Wakefield, the sister venue of Tileyard London. “It’s a beautiful 18th-century mill that has been transformed into an arts and creative space,” says Gary. “There’ll be recording studios, master courses in the arts, event spaces and more.”
At this new home for Forged Spirits, Gary and Victoria are venturing into the hospitality industry and launching their own bar. “It’ll be fitted out 1920s style,” says Gary. “And from the bar area, there’ll be a huge domed window looking into the distillery, so people can see the full production process.”
“We’re going for a fusion of industrial aesthetics and the Art Deco period,” adds Victoria. “Brass bar, brick walls and stunning mirrors, with a magnificent courtyard right in front of us. It was always our ambition to go for something greater than a metal box on an industrial estate.”
To match the customer experience, there is equal focus on creating a welcoming space for employees. “Ultimately, we want people to enjoy coming to work,” says Gary. “Then they’ll do a great job and become ambassadors for the brand.”
The next step is to branch out into vodka and rum, using sustainable, locally sourced materials. “Our sipping vodka will be made using Yorkshire-grown winter wheat, rather than the cheap neutral grain spirit used by a lot of vodka producers nowadays,” says Gary. “We’ll be making our rum locally, too. Other items, like glass, cardboard and labels, all come from within a 25-mile radius. It means a massive reduction in CO₂ emissions.”
Forged Spirits is a homegrown success story where quality and ethical values go hand in hand. “For us, it’s all about the people, the passion and, of course, the product,” says Gary.