Because Camden’s many artisan craft specialists are keeping our traditions alive
Chris Taylor’s micro distillery has revived Camden Town’s lost gin-making heritage, 150 years on. But while booze remained a buoyant industry during lockdown, being based canalside, in historic West Yard, came with its own set of challenges.
How has COVID affected your business?
“When Camden Market had to completely shut, suddenly we couldn’t have any access to the distillery. Fortunately we had a lot of stock in our warehouse, so we’ve been ok. My focus switched overnight to driving more online sales. Obviously everyone was switching much of their lives online too, and also drinking more – a 30% national increase on alcohol sales I’ve been told! – so fortunately business hasn’t dried up at all.”
What’s your current offering?
“Camden Market is now open again under social distancing guidelines, and our shop was never really about browsing, anyway. People pop in for a tasting at the counter, buy a bottle and take it home, so our retail aspect hasn’t really changed. We won’t start our gin school sessions again until we sure it’s 100% safe, though. They’re an hour an a half spent in close proximity to others, and we want people to enjoy themselves, which isn‘t going to work if you’re feeling at all uncomfortable.”
What have been your greatest concerns?
“My concern is seeing people’s attitudes to health becoming a bit too relaxed too early. We don’t want to see a second lockdown. Commercially, if we lost the run up to Christmas, that would be really difficult.”
What’s made you feel optimistic?
“Our Camden Market landlords, Labtech, suspending the rent was a massive help. It’s meant overall we’ve not lost anything, we’ve just put it all on pause.“
Who would you like to collaborate with?
“We’re keeping a close eye on the pubs, as the on trade is the other important part of our business. We’re available in Young’s pubs, and they are looking to open all their locations at the start of August. The growth in guided tastings and masterclasses happening via Zoom is also interesting, and something we’re looking at getting into.”
While Half Hitch gins may be available in more online stores than ever, now’s definitely the time to pay Chris – and the other small traders in Camden Market – a visit. The usual tourist hordes are absent, offering a rare chance to stroll the quiet cobbles and support our local brewers, bakers, designers and makers. So ditch the regular bottle of Gordon’s and drink local.
The COVID-19 health crisis has burned our economic and cultural landscape much like a forest fire. But across a charred, razed environment, strong green shoots inevitably emerge.
CAMDENIST is a new collaborative local media platform, currently in beta mode and launching soon. Born from the smoldering ashes of this unprecedented era, it will provide fertile support for the regeneration of our communities, businesses and cultural spaces in the times ahead.
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