Trustees behind a campaign to bring a former steam trawler back to its home in Hull are promoting the Viola with a message in a bottle after securing their first
The partnership has given the owners of Hotham’s Distillery a license to produce a special brand of their handcrafted gin which will carry the Viola lifebelt logo on its
Emma Kinton and Simon Pownall, who opened their distillery in Hepworth Arcade,
Hull, earlier this year, have started production and are now taking orders for
Christmas and beyond.
The deal was struck when Emma and Simon heard about the Viola campaign and
decided to name their new still after the ship, which was built in Beverley in 1906 and now sits on a beach at Grytviken, South Georgia,
They already had smaller stills named after celebrities with a strong Hull connection, including Sir Tom Courtenay, Reece Shearsmith, John Godber and Paul Heaton.
Emma said: “We were learning how to sail last year and we saw some fliers
promoting the Viola campaign. We wanted to do something to support that and
decided it would be the ideal name for our new still.
“The we spoke to some of the people from the Viola Trust and between us came up
with the idea of producing a gin dedicated to the ship and to the campaign.”
Emma produced three different varieties of gin and the trustees added a tasting
session to the agenda of their latest meeting at Andrew Jackson solicitors, who then drew up an agreement which will see the campaign receive a donation from every bottle sold.
The trustees opted for a traditional Old Tom-style gin, but the other candidates – a
London Dry gin and a citrus gin – may yet reappear as discussions continue about
offering a range of Viola gins including a more potent Navy Strength version.
Emma said: “The Viola is an important part of Hull’s history and we hope this will
help to raise its profile and support the fund-raising campaign. We’ve already had a
lot of orders for corporate gifts for Christmas and we expect to hear from a lot more
people who want to buy something really unique which supports Hull’s heritage.
“Once the Christmas rush is out of the way we will be working on plans for an official launch of the Viola gin, maybe with some new ideas for maritime cocktails!”
Paul Escreet, Chairman of SMS Towage and of the Viola Trust, said: “Hotham’s Gin
School and Distillery is a fascinating business and they have offered us a wonderful opportunity to promote the Viola campaign.
“We’re confident this will be a very successful partnership, promoting the expertise
and innovation behind Hotham’s Distillery and Gin School and raising awareness and money for
the campaign to bring the Viola back to Hull.”
To find out more about Hothams and to place an order for Viola gin please visit
To find out more about the Viola campaign and to make a donation please visit
The Viola, built in Beverley in 1906, operated from Humber Dock – now Hull Marina
– as part of the Hellyer fleet of boxing trawlers. She was requisitioned to defend the
UK in the Great War and left Hull for the last time in 1918 on a career which took her to Norway, Africa and Argentina, catching fish, hunting whales and elephant seals and supporting expeditions in the South Atlantic.
Her stories are of Hull men sailing to the most distant areas of the North Sea and
working in perilous conditions for weeks on end, transferring their catches by rowing boat to fast steam cutters which fed the nation’s growing appetite for fish and chips.
When the First World War broke out, Viola and her Hull crew were on the front line of the maritime conflict, steaming thousands of miles on patrol across seas infested
with mines and U-boats. Viola had numerous encounters with the enemy, being
involved in the sinking of two submarines. More than 3,000 fishing vessels and their
crews saw active service during the Great War and today Viola is almost the only
In the 1970s, Viola was mothballed after the closure of the whaling station at
Grytviken, South Georgia. Sitting on the beach, where she remains, the old trawler
was the target in 1982 of scrap metal merchants from Argentina. But when they
landed they ran up the Argentine flag, an action which led to the Falklands War.
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A boutique distillery based in the Old Town of Hull has won a silver award in the 2019 International Wine and Spirit Competition, placing their gin amongst the world’s top spirits.
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