Artisan Gin – Mr. Hobbs Gin – Henley’s First Highly-Spirited Gin
Nothing is quite as English as enjoying a G&T tonic by the Thames at Henley-on-Thames. At the home of the royal regatta, it is always gin o’clock.
In 1870 Mr. H.E. “Harry Hobbs,” founder of Hobbs and Sons (now Hobbs of Henley) and publican of The Ship Hotel, was renowned throughout the town for his beard and charisma. He started a business hiring out boats for people to mess about on the water in. Allegedly, he also made his gin. To mark the 150th anniversary of the family business, the fifth generation has launched “Mr. Hobbs Gin- “Spirited Since 1870” in his honor and memory. Harry likes to punt and party.
The present Managing Director, Jonathan Hobbs, is the great, great-grandson of Harry whose first base was in Wharfe Lane at the town’s original riverside wharf, now riverside flat. The company – Harry and his six sons- then moved to Station Road, followed in 1898, where it has been ever since. Boatyards were acquired at Goring and Shiplake. One from S. Saunders who went on to form Saunders-Roe, the pioneers of the hovercraft.
“Hobbs of Henley” now offers self-drives launches and motorboats for private and corporate use. It has the largest fleet on the Thames.
“Mr. Hobbs Gin” has been launched by Jonnie and Suzy Hobbs. It is distilled in batches of no more than 200 “to maintain its special refreshing properties.” It is produced at the Foxdenton Estate in Buckinghamshire, established in 1935 by Major C.R.E. Radclyffe.
Says the founder’s great-grandson, Charles Radyclyffe: “We were founded in 1935 by Major Charles Radclyffe, soldier and adventurer. He fought in the Boer War and World War One. He was twice shipwrecked and train-wrecked once. And he was tattooed with the family coat of arms on his chest. He made fruit liqueurs for hunts and shoots. We have continued the tradition of hospitality.”
Foxdenton Estate also produces its range of gins, including Damson, Sloe, Golden Apricot, and Lemon & Cucumber. As well as a variety of premium liqueurs.
Henley-on-Thames is famous for its royal rowing regatta (usually held in July), its blazers, straw boater hats, Pimm’s, and champagne tents. As well as its 1786 seven-arched bridge over the Royal River. Just downstream from Windsor Castle.
Celebrities like George Clooney, Uri Geller, Rowan Atkinson live along the Reach. As well as Paul Greengrass, director of the “Bourne” movies. Beatle George Harrison once lived nearby in Friar Park. Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, had a home not far away in Nettlebed.
There is the rowing museum on Mill’s Meadow. In it, you learn that the infamously snooty regatta officials were choosey who they allowed rowing on their hallowed part of the Thames. They banned a US national champion who was on a 126 race unbeaten streak because he was a bricklayer!
“He also was the father of the actress, Grace Kelly! There is a plaque in the riverside Angel hotel saying, “Grace Kelly stood here” She watched her brother won the diamond sculls at Henley in 1947! Twenty-seven years after his father was refused entry.
You have to behave in the right thing at Henley. So, when you are nursing a tipple, it has to be Mr. Hobbs with ice and slice.