Our Menton Lemon Gin Story

The story of our Menton Lemon Gin actually began way before we started the distillery, when it was just a dream, an idea starting to form. During his convalescence from a serious injury, with a lot of time on his hands, Richard started researching the history of the game of Rugby, and what had happened to William Webb Ellis later in his life.  With Google at his finger tips he embarked on a journey which would bring us to not only our unique Menton Lemon gin, but 3 others on the way with the birth of Rugby Distillery in January 2022.

After his days at Rugby School, William Webb Ellis went on to become an Anglican priest, spending much of his life in Menton in France, where he passed away in 1872.  This part of history fascinated us and our research continued, discovering that Menton had an annual citrus festival, where the special lemons grown there are celebrated, with a huge parade of decorated floats.

After weeks and months of emails, wishing we knew more French, we got in touch with the ‘Association pour la Promotion du Citron de Menton’ and met Chrystele, their sales and marketing manager, who became a really important part of our story.  We went to Menton to visit her, and she took us on a whirlwind tour of the area.  It was quite an adventure with us all rattling around in her car on tiny French roads through the mountains, culminating in a visit to a lemon farm where we met the farmer Robert and his massive dog!

Menton has got its own microclimate as it’s very hilly on both sides of the village, which gives high humidity, giving the characteristic large and sweet Menton lemon, prized by top chefs all over the world.  Robert gave us a huge chunk of one to try, the skin included, if we are honest, we weren’t too keen to tuck straight into that lemon, but when we did we were amazed by its sweetness.  Imagine chomping your way through a sour British lemon! He also introduced us to his 90% proof home brew which you ‘drank’ by immersing a sugar cube in the spirit and eating it, an experience we will never forget, and probably not repeat.

So with new friendships made, our lemon supplier agreed with a handshake and the promise of enough lemons to open a greengrocer we embarked on the next instalment of the trip, trying to find the grave of William Webb Ellis.

Our adventures finding the grave possibly shouldn’t be revealed, but suffice to say it involved climbing over a few walls and an adventuring spirit.  His grave was hard to find, but we found him in his resting place, and took the opportunity to pay our respects.  It was a proper end to this journey and the start of another.

Our Menton Lemon gin honours this final resting place of William Webb Ellis, proudly developed with the help and blessing of the Association pour la Promotion du Citron de Menton, enjoyed by us and our customers.


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