WHEN enterprising husband and wife team Martin and Lorraine Moore open their doors for business every morning they smile.
The Warwick couple are living out their dream of owning a distillery and gin school but it has been a more testing journey than most as two years ago Martin was given just months to live.
In 2011, after spotting a mole on his back, the 59 year-old was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma.
Despite six months of surgery, four years later the couple received the news they had dreaded – the cancer had spread to the lymph nodes.
Unable to treat the condition with chemotherapy, Martin was put on an immunotherapy drugs trial which, two years on, has shown signs of shrinking the tumour.
He said: “Two years ago the consultant told me that usually at this stage I would have six to eight months to live, but the treatment is going very well. I am positive and just get on with it. I do suffer from side-effects and I’m not going to be running any marathons, but I try and stay as active as possible.
“I don’t look at my cancer as negative at all. It’s there and it’s not going away. I just try and look to the future.”
In fact the diagnosis marked a significant turning point for the couple who decided the time was right to start working towards their business dream – together.
Martin said: “The cancer made me less employable and I was starting to think what is it I really want to do with my life. I decided I could sit and mope around or I could get on with it. I see ourselves as pioneers because we knew absolutely nothing about distilleries but went ahead anyway. Every day you learn something new.”
Believed to be Warwick’s first gin distillery, Moores of Warwick, which opened earlier this month makes small-batch hand-crafted gin using a selection of 12 botanicals, including honeysuckle, the flower emblem of Warwickshire and known as Shakespeare’s Woodbine.
The couple’s love affair with gin emerged around 12 years ago when 52 year-old Lorraine was introduced to the drink by Weightwatchers as a lower-calorie alternative to wine.
Martin admits: “I wasn’t a gin drinker at all and Lorraine converted me. Gin was becoming very popular then and our initial thought was that we’d like to have a go at making our own, not necessarily owning a distillery or anything like that. So I put myself on a distiller’s course.”
But passion turned to ambition and today they operate out of a unit at Hatton Shopping Village where their gin school is also already proving popular.
Groups are invited to hear a short presentation on the history of gin before concocting their own unique recipe using the mini stills, then bottle it and add a personalised label, all while enjoying some G and Ts. Records of each unique blend are also kept so re-orders can be made.
And it’s a far cry from Martin’s stock in trade having spent 40 years as an accountant.
He even hand-crafted the gin bar and counters from oak floorboards sourced from ebay.
Six new Al-Ambiq stills were shipped from Portugal. The main 100-litre still, in line with distilling tradition, has been given a name by Lorraine. ‘Nellie’ (the elephant in the room – referring to Martin’s cancer) stands in the corner of the room as a proud reminder of the challenges they’ve overcome.
While looking to the future can be a painful prospect for someone with stage 4 cancer, not so for Martin whose aspiration to grow the business are already in the planning.
“Most people drink either gin or vodka or rum so we’re going to have the three brands which we’re going to start developing over the next couple of months.
“We want to develop a local distillery everyone knows about and introduce new products which eventually go national. This is all about passing our passion onto others.”