A Village pub near York has new spirit with it also being a centre for chocolate with a distillery.

The Sun Inn at Colton styles also itself as ‘Thee Home of Fairfax Distillery and Chocolates’ after its owners took the pub in a new direction after the pandemic.

Ashley and Kelly McCarthy have been at the Sun Inn since 2004, buying the freehold in 2009.

Kelly is a born and bred ‘Yorkie’ and Ashley was born in Dewsbury.


Kelly was training to be midwife but plans changed when she met Ashley , who had trained as a chef, working around Yorkshire.

In time they ran the village pub, they won awards, including National Licensee of the Year in 2013, and gained a reputation for great food.

However, in 2020 the pandemic happened and the lockdowns gave them time to think about the future.

Already, village pubs were suffering , and Ashley was enjoying success making specialist chocolate.

York Press: Ashley with the 5ft chocolate Elvis

Gin was becoming increasingly fashionable, with Kelly collecting gins, having 120 different bottles behind the bar, and taking a course in making spirits in 2019.

The couple realised they wanted a better life than working all hours running a pub.

They were interested in making chocolates and spirits, so that would become the focus of their business and time.

Changing economics, with rising costs were another factor.

Just having the pub open two days a week (Fridays and Moondays) meant more of its trade could be compressed into the shorter time, making it viable.

Ashley said: “We didn’t want to lose the pub so we diversified into other areas to guarantee income.”

Fairfax started in lock down 2021, Kelly distilled at another distillery, doing the work herself so she could work the flavours and profiles of each batch.

Kelly said: “We like to think it’s special because we have the same ethos as we always have at the pub, use local, would we eat/drink it?

York Press: Some of the spirits and chocolates available

“We grow the sloes, elderflower, rhubarb and walnuts within or just outside the grounds of the pub. Lots of other ingredients are also locally sourced.”

They offer five core products- 2 gins, 2 rums and a botanical vodka. These are available from the Sun bar and shop, various bars around the York area, as well as farm shops and other food markets. Online sales are also popular.

Last summer, the pub closed ten weeks and a still was installed. The pub was able to offer blending sessions, cocktail masterclasses and the ‘experiences’ customers increasingly desire.

Ashley, who began making chocolate as part of his wider cooking, and to create a display for the pub at Christmas, found tv success with this, by appearing on the Channel 4 show “Extreme Chocolate Makers” which featured chocolatiers making sculptures.

Organisations would commission works, such as Harrogate Flower show wanting a chocolate fountain. One year, Ashley made a 5ft chocolate Elvis for a friend who had cancer.

However, Ashley also makes many bars and boxes of chocolate under the Fairfax banner, which are sold alongside the spirits. A range of ‘Paint Your Own’ chocolate shapes with cocoa butter has also just been launched.

The distillery is going from ‘strength-to-strength,’ better than expected, with new additions due for the core range next year, plus limited releases, and the couple hope to start exporting.

Kelly added: “It’s exciting. The enjoyment of our new direction has put fire into our belly.”