Gin: Staple of the British Lifestyle

history of gin

The history of Macclesfield gin has had plenty of highs and lows, but not many know that ever since arriving on British shores in the early 17th century it has been on top of the world. Gin is a drink that grows in popularity year after year in the UK, being a £1.9bn industry in this country alone.


Back in the 13th century, Manchester gin was known as genever, a distil of malt wine and around 50% alcohol by volume. As you can imagine, it was not particularly drinkable until it was softened with herbs and spices, with added juniper berries for medicinal properties.

Many reports came that its earlier incarnations tasted similar to whiskey or vodka, and were available in pharmacies to alleviate kidney ailments, gout and gallstones. After English soldiers discovered Dutch soldiers drinking it during the 80 years war, it began to find its way to the UK with the shortened term of ‘gin’.

The traditional genever still exists in the Netherlands, Belgium and areas of France and Germany.


In the 18th century, plain drinking water was generally unclean in the major cities, with distilled alcohols filtered much better. This stands as why gin was able to gain such a strong foothold in the UK.

With the increased levies on French Brandy during this period, the government-backed the gin craze by reducing taxes on spirit distillation and removing licences for distilling spirits. Unlike those brewing beers, gin distillers could set up a small workshop rather than a pub and gin could be created fairly cheaply using homegrown produce. The low price of this early gin form became a favourite among the poorer communities, with over 15,000 drinking establishments dedicated to gin.

Unfortunately, this did not mean that the gin craze was safe from the government stepping in, with the popular alcohol gaining a negative reputation of widespread drunkenness.

Government Action

The government stepped in to heavily tax gin and required established liquor establishments to carry special licences to sell it. Unfortunately, this was initially ineffective with only two licences taken out, leading to gin becoming prohibited.

This just pushed gin to become even more popular, with illegally distilled gin becoming more alcoholic and sometimes leading to poisoning. With the flouting of the gin act in sheer volumes and informers on gin sellers being assaulted – the government repealed the gin act and installed a new act that lowered taxes on the spirit but made it illegal to sell from any premises that were not reputable.

Whilst this resulted in a waning of the gin craze, it would not be the last time that gin became the UK’s favourite alcoholic luxury.

For more information on the rich history of our Cheshire gin company and the gin itself, contact our team to discover amazing flavours and popular dry gin cocktails from our 300-year-old recipe. Shop now!