Introducing James May Gin 

It takes a village: Introducing James May Gin 

James May is a man of many talents – TV Presenter, automotive obsessive, occasional flautist, Wiltshire Pub Landlord…. so of course it would make sense for him to start a gin brand, as all good celebrities do at some point in their careers. 

But rather than just sticking his face on a bottle, it turned out that he was quite the dab hand at coming up with some uniquely different flavours. His range of suitably savoury gins – tested on the loyal locals at the pub he co-owns in Wiltshire – has won numerous awards, is now available in 41 countries, constantly sells out and has even been deemed good enough to go in the fish batter at the pub. 

Mostly known for presenting Top Gear and The Grand Tour, James – along with West Countryman Gus Colquhoun and Hugh Anderson of Downtown Distillery, has created a range of original gins using combinations of botanicals that no-one has ever considered before – including parsnip, mustard and beetroot. 

Each expression is based on ideas from James’ love of cooking and experience of global travel at other people’s expense. His first flavour, Asian Parsnip, serves as an ode to the Great British parsnip, with a touch of exotic spices for excitement. His latest, London Drizzle, aims to recreate the uniquely British feeling of rain on damp London summer’s day. All things that the British public – and, as it turns out, a large chunk of American Gin Drinkers – want to experience.

A little bit of a backstory – James became co-owner of The Royal Oak Swallocliffe in a particularly beautiful part of Wiltshire in September 2020, and thought it might be a good idea to create a gin for the loyal customers.James has travelled extensively during his TV career and experienced a vast range of foods and flavour combinations in some very unusual locations. He enjoys experimenting with cooking, so why not with gin?  So when it came to creating it, he decided to see if some of these ideas could, quite literally, be distilled. Local man Hugh’s nano-distillery is about half an hour from James’ pub, and many hours were spent experimenting with flavours until they forgot what the ingredients were.

James May says, “Originally, I’d intended to make enough to sell in the pub. But Hugh suggested a run of 1000 litres, which is around 1420 bottles. That’s a lot for a village pub, so we also put it up for sale online as a signed and numbered limited edition. Amazingly, it sold out within a few days, rather than the few years I’d anticipated. Our experiment has since turned into a gin-fuelled monster. Like most things involving gin, it’s all got a bit out of hand.” –  

Asian Parsnip: 

Sweet ● Parsnip ● Spicy ● 40% ABV ● from £36.96 for 70cl

Asian Parsnip celebrates both my homeland and the pleasures I’ve enjoyed over many decades of international travel at other people’s expense. I came up with the idea of blending the flavour of parsnip – because it reminds me of England and its dampness – with Asian spices, because they add excitement. Parsnip, a humble vegetable valued by Romans and hated by schoolchildren – was used historically as a sweetener and has a uniquely nutty profile. Combined with spices of the Far East – ginger and green cardamom – Asian Parsnip is a warming gin with lingering light sweet notes.

Asian Parsnip: Navy Strength: 

Sweet ● Spiced ● Intense ● 57% ABV ● from £50.50 for 70cl

Every gin needs a good naval counterpart, and Asian parsnip is no exception. The flavour profile is the same as Asian Parsnip, just more intense. This has the same spiced & subtly sweet flavour as our award-winning Asian Parsnip gin but with an extra kick of 57% alcohol. An American customer asked when we were going to make a Navy Strength version of Asian Parsnip. We didn’t know what he meant, so we looked up the history of Navy Strength Gin. With no help at all from the Royal Navy, we created Asian Parsnip at 57% ABV.

American Mustard:

Savoury ● Mustard ● Warm ● 40% ● from £36.95 for 70cl

Don’t be fooled by its name; this gin has won multiple awards for its warmth & savoury profile. We’ve combined mustard seeds & gherkins to create something really spectacular. American Mustard (or ‘Ramstud’ in America because the authorities were worried you’d put it on your burger) is blended from fresh mustard seed and dill pickles as the perfect accompaniment to every traditional American fast food recipe. The mustard is front and central and provides warmth while being light on the tongue. We paired it with gherkin to counterbalance the heat by giving a briny note to the finished product. As a result, it’s a savory style gin that is both light and warming, with tomato providing a smoothness to the profile.

London Drizzle 

Umami ● Beetroot ● Majesty ● 40% ABV ● from £36.95 for 70cl

With London Drizzle we wanted to re-create the sensation of petrichor – the smell of fresh rain. Research showed that others had tried – and failed dismally. Petrichor is created from chemicals in spores in soil – and these chemicals exist elsewhere – for example in mushrooms, carrots and beetroot. Mushroom has a very dominant flavour (we tried eight different types), carrot has no flavour profile that comes over the still and so beetroot became our best option. But then we have to select exactly what type of beetroot. Since most gins are designated ‘London Dry’ – and London generally isn’t, James came up with the idea of making one that evoked ‘the smell of rain on a hot pavement in Regent’s Park.’ That distinctive scent that hangs in the air, just as those first drops of rain hit the ground on a summer day, is called ‘petrichor’. One of the key components of petrichor is also present in beetroot – so we’ve combined a sweet variety of that with lovage, bay, orange, and ginger to create a gin designed to instantly invoke the majesty of our Sceptered Isle.

Further information –