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JW Lees Special Blend created with Manchester Gin

MIXING beers and spirits is a mistake we’ve all made in the run-up to the festive season, but in the case of JW Lees and Manchester Gin, it’s turned out to be a happy combination.

The two Manchester icons of drinks-making have joined forces in a special collaboration to create a brand-new beverage: a limited-edition winter gin released in November to mark the 190th anniversary of the brewer. Founded in 1828 by retired cotton manufacturer John Lees, the company is still going strong and is now a sixth-generation family business – the perfect excuse for a celebratory tipple!

The two Manchester icons of drinks-making have joined forces in a special collaboration to create a brand-new beverage: a limited-edition winter gin.

Michael Lees-Jones, Head Brewer at JW Lees, said: “I really enjoy the Manchester Gin range so when the opportunity arose to collaborate with them on JW Lees Special Blend gin I couldn’t have been happier.”

JW Lees Special Blend is a winter sipping gin, juniper led (of course) and balancing fresh orange flavours, cardamom and peppery grains of paradise (a species in the ginger family, related to cardamom) for a bitter finish and distilled from the finest botanicals, including hand-foraged local ingredients including dandelion and burdock.

The new creation was crafted at the Manchester Gin’s own Spirit of Manchester Distillery on Temperance Street in the city centre, where they have just three stills to keep the whole enterprise authentically artisanal. The UK’s highest-awarded gin over the last 12 months thanks to a recent run of medal hauls in both UK and international competitions, Manchester Gin is contemporary in style and has four choices in its core range of worker bee-branded bottles.

The Manchester Gin and JW Lees teams met three times to come up with the blend, creating 12 test gins before a final version was perfected for the 1,000-bottle run.

Michael again: “The development day was a brilliant experience – we had a clear idea of what we wanted but we tried different gins to stimulate debate before inventing 12 of our own, all to get the perfect result. The gin is amazing, it has the wow factor.”

Seb Heeley, co-founder (along with partner Jennie Wiggins) and Master Distiller at Manchester Gin, said: “We spent the day with Michael and his team experimenting on our smallest (one litre) still to create a truly special gin. We’re now batch-producing the gin on Victoria (named after Victoria Wood), our 120-litre still. Using orange and cardamom, we have created a warming spiced gin that is perfect for the season.”

He explains the thinking behind the meeting of the makers: “JW Lees is an institution in the north, especially in Manchester, so it was a collaboration we’d always wanted to do. We also wanted to help JW Lees celebrate their 190th anniversary – teaming up and creating a special-edition gin was a great way to mark the occasion.”

The Manchester Gin JW Lees Special Blend will be available in November and December, pouring at The Alderley Edge Hotel, Stanneylands Hotel and in JW Lees-managed pubs from 5 November. But that’s not the end of the story: the two companies will reunite next June when Manchester Gin will be visiting JW Lees’ Greengate Brewery in Middleton to create a limited-edition beer. We can’t wait!

Find out more about JW Lees here.

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