THE first legal distillery launched in County Durham since the reign of Henry VIII is set to expand its range.

Durham Distillery has enjoyed a strong start to trading since it started in April 2013, with plans to launch a new product Durham Vodka, within the next few weeks.

The company, based in Langley Park, was supported with a marketing project, receiving funding from the North East Business Support Fund (NEBSF) to help cover the cost of creating a strong brand identity to take the product to market.

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Bosses say the distinctive image has helped the company break into stores including Fenwick, Majestic and a number of independent retailers across the region.

The alcohol is also on sale in bars at Seaham Hall and Jesmond Dene House, among others.

The business, which was set up by former NHS executive Jon Chadwick, is selling between 700 and 900 bottles of gin each month, through its website, retailers and bars.

Products are handmade by Jessica Tomlinson, the company’s distiller, who at 26 is the youngest female distiller in the country.

Mr Chadwick said a key part of the success was the recognizable brand created with the support of NBSL, the North-East enterprise agency that manages the NEBSF.

He said: “I was really aware when I set up the company that we needed a distinctive brand that would stand out. Essentially, we are selling a clear liquid in a bottle, so I knew I needed something colourful and attractive in order to compete with international brands.

“Working with NBSL, we were able to access support to cover the costs of the brand development, and to create labels for our bottles that really do look fantastic. And I cannot speak highly enough of the support we received.

“The team at NBSL were so supportive, and the process of accessing funding was simple and straightforward. I would recommend any business – young or old – to tap into the help available to them. We’re lucky that there are some really good people in the North-East working in the business support sector, and during start up, it is so helpful to have that assistance available.”

The company worked with Wonderstuff, based in Gosforth, to develop its brand.

Wonderstuff are one of more than 850 suppliers signed up to NBSL’s supplier register, eligible to work on part-funded projects. By accessing NEBSF, companies can access funding of up to 40 per cent on a project worth as much as £3,500.

Customers can use the funding for most types of business support that will help their business to grow - from marketing and web design to financial or human resources planning.

Lynne Burns, North-East business adviser, said: “Durham Distillery is a really exciting company, and the success they have seen – I am sure – is only just the beginning.

“We are delighted to have been able to support Jon with funding that has helped to create such an impactful brand, and one that I am sure will only strengthen with the addition of Durham Vodka.”

For more information about the North East Business Support Fund, call 01670 813322, visit of follow NEBSF on Twitter at @nbsl_info.