OWNERS of a distillery in the Wye Valley, set up just months before the coronavirus pandemic hit, have spoken of how they overcame the challenges of lockdown to emerge as an award-winning foodie business.

Silver Circle Distillery, in Catbrook near Tintern, is run by Nina and Joe Howden.

They create spirits and cocktails from locally-sourced ingredients – with their flagship drink being Wye Valley Gin.

They have even taken on projects for more high profile clients – including creating Holy Vodka for Bianca del Rio of Ru Paul’s Drag Race fame.

Silver Circle opened two years ago, just months before coronavirus sent us all into lockdown.

South Wales Argus:

Nina and Joe Howden of Silver Circle Distillery Pictures: Ollie Barnes

However, they proved more than up for the challenge, even managing to grow through the pandemic.

“We knew we wanted to be in the Wye Valley,” Ms Howden said.

"It is an area which is famous for its foodie culture and we wanted to contribute to that.

“Drinking isn’t just about the alcohol. It’s about bringing people together and the experience.”


The pair say they were “lucky” to find Harold Johns - the farmer who owns the land they are based on - who has been “really supportive” in the time Silver Circle has been running.

However, only eight months into the business came lockdown and with it, a whole new set of obstacles.

“It was very challenging during lockdown,” said Mr Howden.

“We’d barely got going, only about eight months in.

“We were originally just targeting pubs and farm shops. It was going well and then Covid hit.”

Silver Circle was lucky that their online presence was already strong.

“We could fall back on that,” Mr Howden said.

“It’s really hard to know what normal is still, or even what normal would have been.

“Lots of places we were supplying were closed so online was so important.

“We did cocktails at home kits during lockdown, but they were stressful.”

“Measuring everything out and making sure people got them in time,” Ms Howden said.

“It was good to be part of that whole zeitgeist though.”

Silver Circle made it through lockdown and is now going from strength to strength.

“After lockdown we’ve hired three more staff members. It’s exploding,” Ms Howden said.

South Wales Argus:

Silver Circle's flagship product is Wye Valley Gin Pictures: Ollie Barnes

The distillery also now boasts a bar area and a shop, and will even be hosting make-your-own-gin classes due to the fact that gin does not need to age like whisky.

“Lockdown has shown the value of keeping options open,” Mr Howden said.

“It’s made us think about what we value and what we want.”

One thing the couple are looking to do is improve their distribution network.

“We both used to work in the music industry and distribution is like getting a record deal. We have it in south Wales, but we need to build on that,” said Ms Howden.

“Now we want to get out doing events, but in our own way. We’re very into food culture and cocktail culture.”

One way Silver Circle are looking to foray into food culture is with the launch of an Aquavit.

Aquavit is a Scandinavian drink which has been around for hundreds of years.

It has a distinct herby flavour and is made with caraway or dill seeds.

South Wales Argus:

Silver Circle Distillery in Catbrook Pictures: Ollie Barnes

“You can use it in loads of cocktails. It’s very savoury,” Ms Howden said.

“it’s becoming a big part of cocktail and food culture. We want to spread the gospel of aquavit.

“I’m from Sweden and was around it growing up.

“Gin is big, but people are looking for something new.”

For more information, to sample some of their creations or to book a create-your-own gin experience, visit silvercircledistillery.com