Avalon Distillery Company

Viper Gin: steeped in West Country legend

Deep in the Dorset countryside, beneath the imposing Cerne Abbas Giant, copper stills bubble and magic is made. The result? Avalon Distillery’s Viper Gin. Handcrafted in small batches, Viper is distinctively flavoured with carefully selected local botanicals which deliver a distinctive taste that’s redolent of the surrounding landscape.

Having put aside a career in public-health nutrition, Carl Hankey – Avalon’s founder – returned to his native Dorset with his sights set on distilling. With his company name chosen, the stars began to align. Avalon – the mythical isle of Arthurian legend – is also known as the ‘Isle of Apples’, which inspired Carl to incorporate crab apples into his gin. When harvesting the apples in his allotment he stumbled upon an adder (Vipera Berus) basking in the sun. Carl took this as a sign (the adder is also instrumental in King Arthur’s story) and Viper Gin was duly christened.

With a base of English wheat spirit, Viper is beautifully balanced and smooth. Its clean and fresh mouthfeel makes it an excellent choice to savour slowly when served neat over ice. That said, mixologists have their eye on it, too, as the base for classic – and memorable – martinis.

To bring out Viper’s fragrant freshness, the Avalon aficionados drink theirs with elderflower tonic, adding a slice of Granny Smith apple and a star anise. As a herby-citrus alternative, pink-grapefruit tonic, a twist of fresh orange and a sprig of rosemary is also recommended.

Having achieved recognition from The Guild of Fine Food in its first year, Viper Gin is just getting started. With a new 120-litre column still (aptly named Guinevere) added to the distillery’s kit, 2020 looks like the year Viper will enchant a wider audience.

5 The Gardens, Lenthay Road, Sherborne, Dorset, DT96AB


Owner: Carl Hankey

Gin varieties: Viper Gin, Mulled Gin

Insider’s tip

To treat your friends to something extra special, arrange for an Avalon Distillery mobile bar to attend your event. The Viper G&Ts are on you …

Searchable map for places to eat, stay, shop and cook

Read the latest issue

cookbook Chicken shawarma pickwick Review: The Pickwick Inn, St Issey