Maidstone has an extremely strong heritage of brewing and distilling and it is particularly known for once being the base for Fremlins Brewery. Brewing first emerged in the mid 17th Century with the first brewery being the Lower Brewery in Lower Stone Street. This comprised of a brewhouse, two malthouses, barns and stables as well as an adjacent house. Distilling also arrived at a similar time (there have been at least four distilleries all within a small radius of ours). It is recorded that in 1648 a property on the east side of Stone Street was sold to Daniel Beckman, who was described as a distiller.
The original site of the Medway Brewery was a large, sprawling site spanning St Peter's Street down to the banks of the River Medway in the heart of Maidstone. The brewery later passed to the Winch family, who were well-respected brewers and distillers from Rochester and Chatham, becoming Style and Winch Brewery. Although the majority of the brewery has been demolished, our distillery building is one of the remaining remnents of the complex, as well as a few other buildings which surrround our distillery. To learn more about brewing and distilling history in Maidstone why not come along to one of our gin & history tasting events. (Click here for more details.)
As well as Daniel Beckman, Maidstone has had at least three other distilleries being registered within 500m of ours; Bishop's Malt Distillery (dating from c.1780, Bank Street), Grant's (Queen's Distillery in Hart Steet c.1800) and Argles Bishop's rival distillery (c.1806 on the site of the Medway Brewery, like us).
The Medway Brewery, where our distillery is housed, is a former brewery dating from the very early 1800s. The brewery also became home to Argles Bishop's genever distillery until 1816. Argles had previously inherited the much renowned distillery of George Bishop, his uncle, along with two other relatives. However Argles fell out of favour with his relatives and decided to set up a rival distillery, which he did here at the Medway Brewery. Pictured right is Argles Bishop's son, Edward, who also went on to become a
Maidstone's most influencial distiller was Mr George Bishop (mentioned above). Mr Bishop, a Maidstone native, returned from Holland where he had learnt to distil to open his own distillery in the heart of Maidstone. He learnt his trade in Schiedam, which at the time was the centre of genever production (genever, although made with a light whisky base, was the forerunner to gin). Upon his return he built a large brick building on the south side of Bank Street which included other premises and yards for his distilling production. By 1789 his distillery was in full flow and it is said that 700 hogs were kept from the surplus grains. The distillery had national acclaim and produced 3000 gallons of Maidstone Hollands (also known as Maidstone Geneva) each week!
George Bishop changed history by petitioning the Legislature claiming his spirit production would reduce smuggling and increase duty for the Revenue. The Act was passed and production of genever, also known as 'Maidstone Hollands' commenced. His products soon gained a countrywide reputation for quality and for their extra strength! Sadly, the original distillery was auctioned off on Thursday 13th March 1817 at the Bell Inn. Here at the Maiden Distillery, 198 years later to the day, we have produced our own Maidstone Gin and will soon be producing our 'Maidstone Hollands' genever-style spirit along with several other spirits made by following recipes dating from the 1790s. Click here for more information.
distiller at Swaine & Co, London.
at The Old Brewery