Written By Steven Atkinson, 2020
Pit-men emerged from the bowels of the Earth
Parched from the dust of their labours
Tongues as arid as the seams down below
Unquenched and devoid of all flavours
These men, through the swing of a pick,
Build villages where there had been none
And forged a community of hard working souls
Who, through to this day, still live on
The grafted and toiled for the masses
But the price for as many was high
Men and boys lost to the darkness below
When the pit heaved a fiery sigh
The seams of these pits run like veins
Under lands born of their dust
Such foundations may tarnish in time
But shall never be eaten by rust
The pit wheel is a symbol eternal
And we pay tribute to the parched tongues of old
Who could never savour such flavours
As they strove to bring home the 'black gold'!
The name behind the brand...
When setting the business up we wanted something that we could identify with something recognizable we could think yeah that’s us, our home, the areas heritage and it wasn’t long before the emblem of a pit wheel stood out.
Driving through the local area we fell upon many mining references open ground once the pit shafts and colliery building, now just memories for the older villagers to relay their stories. Each of the mining villages around us has its own identity symbolized by their wheel with a bit of history attached.
The Pit wheel imagery we use replicates the Wingate monument standing proud with its own story and individuality the very story we want for our product.
We as a couple were married during the miners strike of the 1980’s can remember the hardship the way people came together in the face of adversity even though we were not part of the industry ourselves we were part of the community had friends’ relatives and neighbours all connecting us.
The history of each platformed pit wheel, reminds us of community spirit good times filled with good people so we wanted the pit wheel to keep turning and our Gin to continue the conversation keeping history alive …..
So, who are we?
We are an ordinary family called Rickard, living in the historical East Durham mining coalfield, based in Station Town, Wingate, County Durham.
In August 2019, due to being faced with redundancy, we were looking at options for alternative work and during a family night in we ended up chatting about how we could make one of Derrick's many hobbies into a viable business.
Many-a-time we had been through this phase, right back to the 90's when he was producing specially blended spice powders for Indian curry recipes, but this time it was different!
Derrick had been experimenting with gin flavours for a couple of years - ever since it had become increasingly popular on the drinks scene, people just couldn't get enough of it - including us!
And that's when the light-bulb moment happened and PitWheel Distillery was born.
Director and Distiller
The head of our family is Derrick – an ordinary bloke with a vision for a business!
Our master distiller has over 30 years in the printing world which, for the most part, has been a long and enjoyable career and has given the ability and security to raise a family whilst still enjoying many varied hobbies along the way, some of which have led us to being where we are now.
Although he has no experience in running a business, he is at the forefront and is solely responsible for the production of the gins, experimenting and developing new flavours and ensuring that they are at a high quality standard to pass forward to our loyal PitWheel customers.
Our distillery is part of our home, nothing too big and nothing over-complicated.
When deciding on how we were going to start up we knew it had to be cost effective and having done many years of home-brewing in the garage, it was a certainty that this was where is was going to continue.
As always, an idea quickly turns into a reality within the Rickard household and within moments of discussing our prospective business opportunity, there were plans in place as to how the garage could be converted into a fully functional working space with the capacity and facilities to make distilling gin the most efficient process it could be.
Derrick, always being hands on, had it sorted within no time - our double garage had been halved with the front end being a secured distillery and the rest is now history.
As with many gin distillers the still becomes a family member and is bestowed a title that sums up the importance of its involvement in the process.
During our trials and search for the appropriate name, we had a sad loss within the family which devastated us.
In quiet moments in the midst of grief, and having a history of coal-mining having worked down the pits from a young age, I decided to name my still Fred-Rick, in honour and remembrance of my dad.
Out of sight, but never from our minds.