Mike and Adrian started Hogg Norton around four years ago. Their business went from operating in a storeroom to a state-of-the-art production environment and went from producing liqueur in demijohns to 200 litre plus stainless-steel vats. We wanted to know what started off this amazing venture. Here’s what Mike had to say:
“We were sat around drinking some homemade liqueurs which were made from gin and vodka, and they tasted good but I knew I could do better. Then, after talking to Adrian, we said ‘let’s do it’. That was in December 2015 and after plenty of tasting sessions, which all of our friends really enjoyed, we have the business we have today.”
Hogg Norton has a wide range of unique flavours for their liqueurs including blackberry, strawberry, raspberry, gooseberry, spiced plum, sloe and mixed berries. We asked Mike about the inspiration behind these flavours and what the process is like when they’re coming up with new ones.
“It’s the passion about strong flavours and flavours that work on their own, as a long drink, mixer or in cocktails, even poured over desserts. The inspiration comes from the fruit around us and British fruit – some of them even come from our own garden.”
We were also keen to know if there were going to be any new flavours being introduced to Hogg Norton. Mike revealed that they have a “Seville orange and a sour cherry planned for 2020”! This is definitely something that their customers and future buyers can look forward to.
Mike also gave us an insight into the process behind making the liqueur, highlighting how natural their products are and the importance of using real fruits to produce them.
“We also make them in the traditional way – where the fruit steeps in the alcohol so there are no additives or preservatives used. The full flavour of the fruit comes through and the colour is coming from the fruit alone. We only use an organic alcohol as the base as we feel this gives a smoother taste.”
The Hogg Norton website has a good amount of choice for customers, the liqueurs can come in a range of bottles – from 250ml and 50ml tasters to unique motorbike and skull bottles. The liqueurs are ideal for giving as gifts to friends or family (or a gift for yourself of course!).
“The flask 50ml bottles are great – they give our customers a chance to try different flavours. We sell them in gift packs of two or eight and they’re great as presents. The larger bottles are great for individual flavours. The skull and motorbike bottles are unique, they make excellent gifts and when they’ve been drunk, you’re left with a unique bottle.”
Hogg Norton Fruit Liqueurs believe in ‘producing a natural product without any use of additives or preservatives.’ Mike expressed that this passion for the ingredients that go into their products is the core of their business – it’s how they started and how they continue to be so successful.
“I think it gives the liqueurs the best taste. Why add anything when nature has done a great job? We set out at the start using all-natural products and we have kept true to that initial thought process. This has also won us the Great Taste Awards for 2019 for the Strawberry, Raspberry and Blackberry Liqueurs which were the ones we entered. This year we will be entering some of the other flavours.”
The Great Taste Awards is an excellent achievement for businesses within the food and drink industry; it is the world’s largest and most trusted food and drink awards. The Great Taste logo is a sign of genuine quality and that’s just what Hogg Norton Fruit Liqueurs offers.
We love that all of Hogg Norton’s liqueurs are vegetarian and vegan friendly and are both dairy and gluten free. This means that the maximum amount of people are able to experience their fruit liqueurs. Mike explained to us the method behind this and why it was so important to offer these kinds of products:
“Due to the way we manufacture our products, we do not use any additives or preservatives and only use natural fruit. Even the base alcohol we use is an organic ethanol as this gives a cleaner taste in our opinion. The liquid from the wheat is used in the mash and not the wheat itself to make the product prior to distilling and, once distilled, it is then gluten free. I feel customers today do want a natural product and we don’t use any animal products so it’s suitable for vegans. Even the glue on the labels is synthetic.”
Not only does the website have an extensive flavour range to pick from, Hogg Norton Fruit Liqueurs are so versatile that they can be drank in a variety of ways. This includes on their own, with ice, with a tonic, lemonade or a soda to make a long and refreshing drink. You can use them to flavour your gin or vodka and they can also be added to champagne or prosecco or used to make cocktails. Apparently, they’re even great over ice cream or with desserts! We want to try all of the above, but what does Mike go for?
“I like to experiment but I also like to keep it simple. You can make cocktails with ingredients that you would have at home. A simple vodka martini – vodka, any flavour of our liqueurs and a drop of simple syrup (equal part water and sugar mixed until dissolved). But I also like them on their own with ice or for a long drink, I add tonic or lemonade. But for fun, just half fill a shot glass with the liqueur, pour a little cream so it sits on the top and then drink. It tastes just like a Jammie Dodger! Yum!”
Hogg Norton don’t just supply to the individual, their liqueurs are distributed all over, making it to massive events, parties and even different countries.
“We have had orders from far and wide, we have delivered to film studios, we work with some celebrity party planners that do individual celebrity events and dinner parties. We supply to chefs who make up specific dishes using our liqueurs. Each bottle can be personalised so we’ve done this for many weddings and birthdays. Some of our liqueurs have even been flown to New York for a specific event. We also work with amazing mixologists who make up some unbelievable cocktails.”
The liqueurs are stocked in a variety of different pubs and shops, even making it to certain Spar, Morrisons and Londis stores. This is a massive goal for food and drink businesses and Mike described how their mindset and the belief in their product made this happen.
“I think the quality of the product comes through and our dedication. When we started, we set out to do the best we could and that also included our premises, set up and operation. We are fully HACCP approved, have a 5-star hygiene rating and also are winners of the Great Taste Awards 2019, which are internationally recognised. All of this sets the groundwork of what some of the better, well-known larger retailers look for – there is a rigorous process to go through to get your products into these brands and we are proud we’ve met their high standards. But determination, good branding and a good product makes the difference and I think we deliver on that.”
Along with making and selling these incredible liqueurs, Mike also makes time for his family: “As an entrepreneur you are involved in lots of different things and opportunities, but family is important.”
“I have 15-year-old twin boys and Adrian has a 14-year-old son so football and rugby consume a fair amount of time, more of the watching than the actual playing I must admit.”
When asked about plans for the future of Hogg Norton, Mike stated “We want to see the business grow and have plenty of fun on the way.”
Our interview was soon coming to a close… but we still had one last question to ask Mike. CraftCover provides specialist insurance to a wide range of crafters – we asked Mike why having this type of insurance was so essential, especially to businesses within the food and drink industry.
“Peace of mind but also as producer it is quite regulated on what is needed – hygiene, licences etc and making sure you have the correct coverage is extremely important to protect not only yourselves and your staff but also the business that you have spent so much time and effort to grow.”
We want to say a massive thank you to Mike for taking part and telling us all about Hogg Norton. Make sure to keep a look out for the next edition of Crafter in the Spotlight!