Our Story

Ashley & Kelly McCarthy are no strangers to the hospitality scene. Being owner operators of the very successful Ye Old Sun Inn, Colton for 20 years. Over that time accumulating numerous regional and national awards for service, cookery and of course using local commodities

Kelly had always been interested in the process of distilling and in 2019 booked onto a distilling course just as a matter of interest and to understand the products she served on the bar.

Ashley, a trained chef, had always been happy experimenting with chocolate and well known for his chocolate sculptures and has featured on many TV programmes with his pieces of ‘chocolate art’ over the last few years.

Times change, industries change, it was time for a change… this is where Fairfax was born. Our industry, as well as many others were turned upside down on 20th March 2020 when Covid shut all hospitality businesses.

Using our experience within the industry and our ‘new’ found knowledge, Kelly began distilling a Gin and Rum at a distillery nearby, badged it under the Fairfax name as we didn’t want to use the Sun Inn name. We wanted to gain true honest feedback from customers and friends to see what they really thought of the products- we certainly didn’t tell them Kelly had distilled it! The response was amazing, we couldn’t have asked for any better comments from everyone that tried the new Spirits. So once all the licenses were in order and the kit was installed Fairfax Distillery started distilling at the premises of Ye Old Sun Inn, Colton in September 2022. By then we had won regional awards for our spirits and recognised on the spirit scene for our ethos with a tasteful product range using local ingredients. Ashley’s chocolate products had been sold in the shop within the Sun for a few years prior to that, so we brought them all under the Fairfax umbrella. We now have a full range Fairfax Spirits in various styles and packages as well as a range of chocolate gifts, bars and novelties that are available via the online shop or various outlets. Ashley is still building his bespoke chocolate sculptures for various commissions and events.

Why Fairfax?


From the beginning of the 11th century the Fairfax family name was synonymous with the heart of Yorkshire, especially in places like Denton, Gilling, Walton, Bolton Percy, Steeton & Colton to name just a few. Many of the Fairfax generations working alongside the likes of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Mary Queen of Scots, James VI of Scotland and Charles I. Holding very high esteemed titles and many of them Knights or Sirs –even along the way blue blood that has links to the current Prince William and to his wife Princess Catherine.

The land that the Distillery now sits potentially belonged to the Fairfax Family as some point. He may have even visited as it was the only hostelry in the area at his time.

The most prominent Fairfax name, no doubt all of you will remember, is Sir Thomas 3rd Lord Fairfax of Cameron who lived in Nun Appleton Hall south west of York; he was the parliamentary Commander in–chief during the English Civil War and led the cavalry to uphold the city of York against the Royalist Troops of King Charles I in 1644 at York. King Charles had issued a Royal Charter to make any form of distilling illegal, except within the city of London, Westminster & within a 21 mile radius -maybe someone had been distilling Gin in York and King Charles wanted to bring it to an abrupt end! With the stronghold of York weakening, Sir Thomas Fairfax’s troops pushed the royalists out of the city and into the battle ground of Marston Moor which is where the troops of King Charles were defeated in a surprise attack on 2nd July 1644. The control of the north was back in the hands Sir Thomas Fairfax.  Sir Thomas is entombed in the nearby church at Bilborough, the next village on to the Distillery.

Every Distillery of course has a Still, each still has to be given a female name, this is to bring good luck to all who drink from it and give the spirit the blessing of the still angels (!), so to keep this time honoured tradition going we named our Still ‘Mary’ after the wife of Sir Thomas…. Quite a fitting acknowledgement to the Fairfax family we thought.

Awards and Commendations

In the first year of distilling our ‘Lord General’ Rum was entered to the Yorkshire Taste awards, brave decision but we welcomed the feedback from the professionals tasting and sampling the best the region could offer, not only was we shortlisted but we won the award! Kelly was blown away, for once speechless…. This is when distillers, restauranteurs and others within the industry sat up and noticed this new boy on the block was here to stay and had pedigree! Not wanting to miss the party, Ashley has also won awards for his range of Gin chocolates and shortlisted in taste awards for his Fairfax Rum chocolates too.

Since then, we have had the pleasure to be commended and awarded for our products on a regional and national level. Long may this continue

Our Range and Ethos


We have always tried to use local ingredients, cut the airmiles and work with local companies, so why should this change with the distillery? The alcohol content of the spirit was also under discussion, after trying many runs of our spirits (hic!) we felt a spirit that sat at 42% gave the best marriage of flavours and gave the best balance of taste and freshness. We had to consider our spirits on a broader level and how they are drank -be it straight up, with a mixer, or in a cocktail. As much as we wanted to serve the perfect G&T, we needed all of our spirits to work behind our bar in any style of drink, and everyone else’s bar for that matter, so we had to ensure they adapted to mixing with other elements well and not overpowered… it was a hard task but we did it!

Within our core range we looked at the market to see what we felt was missing, owning the Sun Inn for many years Kelly knew what customers looked for in a spirit, especially Gin. There are plenty on the market, but she still felt we could offer a product people would enjoy and want time and time again.

Sir Thomas 1644 Gin, 42% abv. Kelly felt the essential Gin should have a palate of elderflower and chamomile, but not too heavy in juniper, have a hint of citrus notes but distilled to a level where the oils and flavours of all the botanicals are married together to give a clean crisp and fresh taste- welcome to London Dry style Gin

Rhubarb & Quince, 42% abv Gin. We class this as our ‘Pink’ Gin, although blue/purple in colour, when you add tonic the colour magically changes to a nice subtle Pink! As the Gin is distilled with homegrown rhubarb and quince from a neighbouring village and not flavoured after distilling you will find the taste still dry, but with an aroma of rhubarb and the fragrance of the fresh quince. Once distilled Kelly adds dried Pea Flowers for 24 hours to give the blue/purple colour which also makes the magic happen. The pea flowers also add an earthy floral-ness to the finished Gin.

Black Tom Barrel Aged Old Tom Gin, 42% abv Gin. A take on the classic Old Tom Gin, which dates back to prohibition times where a gin was created to become more palatable. A classic citrus gin, with under notes of Juniper, and with the use of local honey whilst distilling it brings a light sweet balance to the punchy flavours. Once distilled the gin is barrel aged in oak, to allow the subtle honey join together with the light vanilla from the oak. A great gin to enjoy classically with an Indian tonic and a nice wheel of lemon!

Our name “Black Tom” derives from the Nickname for Sir Thomas Fairfax, he had long black hair and rode a white horse, and known as “Black Tom”.

Roundheads Botanical Vodka, 42% abv Vodka. The Vodka is one of the latest spirits to be added to the core range. As we promote all of our spirits in the art of Cocktail making we felt we needed to add a Vodka to our selection. Roundheads has a great citrus palette with notes of berries and herbs. Triple distilled to get a very smooth spirit on the tongue and to give maximum flavour.

Lord General Barrel Aged Spiced Rum, 42% abv Rum. Our most popular spirit, Kelly has developed a unique flavour profile with a well balanced structure of taste and spice we are very proud of. The Rum is distilled with a whole host of herbs, spices and citrus. From there we age the Rum in Oak for anything up to 2 months. This maturation helps with the flavour, smoothness and the natural colour of the finished product. Each batch will vary in natural colour, at the end of the day we want the consistency of flavour above colour.

Chocolate & Walnut Rum, 42% abv Rum. Added to the core in December 2022, Kelly felt we needed to bring a chocolate element to the spirits. This works extremely well in cocktails- especially a Espresso Martini! We use the Lord General Rum that we distill and age, but we then add Walnuts and Cocoa Nibs to the spirit and infuse for a further 2 weeks. This brings a totally new dimension of flavour profile to the Rum, the walnuts add a little bitterness that counteract against the initial sweetness of the Lord General with the Cocoa Nibs given a subtle yet prominent chocolate aftertaste without the sweet chocolate expectation.