Inside her brewing annexe, experimental steepings for new Hudnott’s varieties are scattered about the shelves. “I just love the alchemy of it all,” Kate tells me. “My partner often says I should get a witch’s hat to wear in here.” She offers me an impromptu tasting session of all five of the currently available varieties of Hudnott’s, as well as an exclusive taste of one or two experiments or prototypes. I agree enthusiastically, for purposes of journalistic integrity of course; I couldn’t very well write about it without tasting it, surely? We start with the aforementioned bottled-hedgerow, blackberry-infused gin, followed by grapefruit-infused vodka – sweet then very zesty on the finish. Next, coffee-infused rum – earthier and less sweet than Tia Maria, – then raspberry-infused brandy – my personal favourite with a huge raspberry punch. And, finally, blackcurrant-infused rum – gloriously, richly dark and curranty with a touch of heat. I am particularly taken with a prototype made using Irish poteen with blackcurrants – dark-purple, head-rinsing firewater with a big fruit kick. Kate hasn’t decided yet if it is viable to produce this on any scale because poteen (outlawed from 1661 to 1990!) is expensive, coming in at a minimum of 60% alcohol.
The ultimate plan, Kate tells me, is to build a Hudnott’s travelling bar to take to festivals and events. The drinks can be enjoyed as mixers as well as unadulterated – they mix well with prosecco, soda or lemonade. Kate envisages a buzzing, semi-nomadic future for Hudnott’s if she can pull this off – it is the perfect platform to compliment the carnivalesque quirk of her brand. Currently, she tends to sell mostly at markets and in some local shops as and when. She doesn’t usually attend any regular markets, preferring seasonal or one-off appearances – “If people think you are going to be there every week, they tend not to buy straight away.” She does, however, usually attend the weekly Christmas fair at the Big Sheep in Bideford each festive season. Kate is now in the process of obtaining the necessary licence to sell directly from her own site, so Hudnott’s should hopefully be available to buy online in the future.
Mel Roach, Exmoor Magazine Issue No.77 Winter 2016.