Mr Hobbs Gin is Henley’s first Highly-Spirited gin and part of our family boating business Hobbs of Henley. We have a bit of a unique story when it comes to our journey into the world of gin which we’d like to share a little snippet of for your reading pleasure.
Back in 1870 Mr Harry Hobbs, founder of Hobbs and Sons (now Hobbs of Henley) and local publican, was renowned throughout the town of Henley on Thames for his flamboyant beard and high-spirited nature. Today, you will find his cheerful face proudly emblazoned on the Mr Hobbs Gin bottles where he has taken up formal residency since our launch in 2017.
Almost 150 years since Harry Hobbs made his first appearance in the realm of business and Juniper, our family have decided to honour his past by making him our official mascot.
So, the story goes; he was often seen in his punt around 11am enjoying his home-distilled gin.
Harry was forever throwing river parties along the banks of the Thames and hiring out his boats for like-minded members of the public to host their own shindigs.
When perusing the Hobbs of Henley business archives, records pointed us towards these gin fuelled anecdotes and it inspired us to follow in his footsteps.
We investigated local botanicals and embarked on creating our own gin as a salute to the man who started it all and to mark the upcoming 150th anniversary of our family business.
When we first started snooping around in the chronicles of Harry’s life and how it all began, we didn’t expect to come across quite as much juicy gossip relating to the man (the legend!) himself. For example, one of the pieces of information uncovered was a newspaper article from 1875 relating to Harry and his subsequent run in with the authorities for ‘’unlawfully opening his house for the sale of spirits between the hours of half past two and six o’clock in the afternoon’’. The article went on to detail how evidence was given by the local Superintendent who ‘’at half past five, was passing the defendants [Harry] house and hearing a good deal of talking’’ so as any proper man of the law would do, he poked his head in.
Now as we know, this was within the time of The Sale of Spirits Act 1750 (commonly known as the Gin Act 1751) which was enacted in order to reduce the consumption of spirits, a popular pastime that was widely regarded as one of the primary causes of crime in England. It was, it seemed, one of Harry’s very favourite hobbies though and one in which he was not ready to be put away for. In a show of savviness Harry disposed of the evidence in what can only be described as a heroic manner as the article goes on to say; ‘’something was thrown onto the fire and it made a great flame, and he [the policeman] believed it was spirits’’. Harry tried to, albeit falsely, claim that they were all just enjoying a cup of tea together around the fire and there was nothing more to tell. Upon further investigation, and several measures of, ahem, inconspicuous ‘tea’, Harry was forced to come (somewhat) clean. ‘’The old man got up and he [the policeman] saw a glass behind him containing gin- the defendant [Harry] said the old man had gin with his tea’’. See! A perfectly good explanation and, spoiler alert, he managed to avoid the cuffs.
Between the folklore and the physical evidence, our family has built the Mr Hobbs Gin brand to sit nicely within our century and a half old boating business. Carrying on traditions of merriment and pleasure boating, it’s a match made in heaven.
At Hobbs of Henley, to this day, we have the largest fleet of boats on the Thames and continue Harry’s legacy of serving up gin (lawfully though nowadays) whilst commandeering cruises along the riverbanks of Henley on Thames.
And thus we conclude the history segment for today. Hope you enjoyed some more insight into how Mr Hobbs Gin came to be and we look forward to celebrating further next year for the official 150 year anniversary- watch this space.