Clerkenwell Road London Greater London, England United Kingdom
Closed & demolished
Not generally accessible
The Booth family, who moved to London from north-east England, were established wine merchants as early as 1569. By 1740 they had added distilling to their already established brewing and wine interests and built a distillery at 55 Cowcross Street, Clerkenwell, London. This date is referenced on Booth’s label and makes Booth’s the oldest gin brand still in existence.
During the 19th century Sir Felix Booth set up another distillery at Brentford and grew the business into the largest distilling company in England. In 1829-33 he financed John Ross’s expedition to chart the North West Passage: Ross failed to do this but did succeed in locating the true position of the magnetic North, and named some newly discovered areas after his patron, notably Boothia Peninsula in Canada.
King William IV gave the Royal Arms to Booth’s distillery in 1833 and from then on the gin was sold under the strap line ‘King of gins’. The red lion was already established as an icon for Booth’s gin and appeared prominently on the label. When the company opened its new distillery in 1959 it was naturally named the Red Lion Distillery. Interestingly, the classic Red Lion cocktail is thought to have been created in 1933 by W J Tarling for Booth’s.
After the death of the last male Booth family member in 1826, the firm became an independent limited company. In 1937 Booth’s joined the Distillers’ Company Ltd, the interests of which would evolve into part of the conglomerate we know today as Diageo.