“A lot of the work that I do today uses the skills that I learned at Bradfield”, explains OB Hugh Anderson (F 85-90) as he discusses his career change from e-commerce worker to gin distiller.

“Whilst most people will see the copper, the gin and branding, behind the scenes I utilise everything I learnt. Chemistry, Physics, Maths, History, English, Economics, Biology, Art; it all plays a huge role in what has been created and established. Even the Latin names of plants are used with suppliers!”

After leaving Bradfield in 1990, Hugh went to work in hospitality in Glasgow before heading to Chile with Operation Raleigh. He served with the Scots Guards until the late 90s before studying for an MBA at Edinburgh University. Upon completion of his studies, Hugh began what would be a decade-long career in e-commerce, working within different industries ranging from health and travel to education and consulting before working within GSMA and the mobile sector. Each of these roles helped Hugh to develop the skills to set up and run his current business venture: Downton Distillery.

His first interest in gin stemmed from buying a gift for his partner for whom it had always been the drink of choice. The pair attended a gin making course at the City of London Distiller and Hugh was fascinated by the whole experience, the history and the idea of being able to create something unique to drink. The seed of his move into the business was sown.

Located on the Wiltshire Downs on a vineyard, the brand was influenced by the local connection to Sir Walter Raleigh and his exploration of the New World. When it came to deciding on a name for the gin Explorer’s Gin stood out as the obvious choice. Even the unique botanicals used in the distillation process are deep rooted in the history of Raleigh’s exploration. Known as ‘The Tree of Life’ to the Native Indians who used it for medicine, cooking, tea, clothing and to build their canoes, Western Red Cedar, which came back from America on one of the trade ships in 1852, now grows outside the distillery and is freshly cut for every distillation.

As a micro distillery, Downton produces 100 bottles per batch and they invite local volunteers to help to bottle the gin. Like many other distillers, Downton turned their production facilities to making hand sanitizer during the pandemic which was given away for free to local communities.

Hugh describes his gin as a “voyage of discovery” and the adventure continues as there are plans to expand the range of products available in the future. Hugh even spent much of last year creating a spirit for one of the Top Gear team members.

To learn more about Downton Distillery, gin evenings or Explorer’s Gin, head to their website: