Taking shape in the centre of York and preparing for a February opening is a new distillery and visitor centre.

Since planning approval was obtained in early November, the Hooting Owl and Curious Cat Distillery, has been preparing to relocate from Barmby Moor, near Pocklington, and into the former Society Lounge in Rougier Street.

Company founder Dominic M’Benga, a former soldier and businessman, says the former Society Lounge has gone and all the internal building work for the new distillery and bar is complete.

Dominic said: “The previous club had been closed for a couple of years and so the building is benefiting from a full refurbishment with a new modern air conditioning and heating system being installed along with all mechanical and electrical work.”


The new attraction promises to create 7 full-time and 10 part-time jobs.

Since plans for the distillery were announced in September, the profile of the distillery has increased, with it seemingly more commonly available in York.

Dominic says his online sales are up 20 per cent on last year, but he credits that on organic growth.

York Press: Some of the gins

He continued: “We have not expanded wholesale sales as yet as the business is not in York as yet. “We have gained a few new wholesale clients but this is the norm, we think there will be further gains once we are open and customers can visit what will be the city’s first city centre distillery.”

And whilst the York area has other producers including York Gin and Cooper King, Dom stresses his products differ and they are not rivals.

“We do not compete directly with York Gin and have no intention to target their customers, we are a different type of business, we are a distillery,” he explained.

“There are many public houses, there is definitely room for a distillery. I think Cooper King are brilliant, great people with great ethics, we will try to stock their excellent whisky.

“We are unique in what we do and what influences us. We do not produce product for a market, we are artisans who produce the best product that we can and then find a market for it.

“As for points of difference, our distillery will be open to the public from 9AM daily, the public and customers will be able to view the distillery and production area from the comfort of our well-appointed lounge bar, maybe while they enjoy a cup of tea or coffee or maybe one of our award-winning gin’s, vodka’s or rums.”

York Press: The logo for the new attraction

Looking ahead, Dom is excited about 2024 with the new premises and increased exposure for his brands.

However, the sector has faced rising costs and higher duties from the government.

But the new venue with its lounge bar and members club, higher profile and footfall, promise extra sources of revenue.

Dom said: “The Hooting Owl distillery currently manufactures over 100 different products for our customers, Gin, Vodka, Rum, Brandy and soon to launch our Corny Owl (I can’t believe its not Bourbon).

“There will be several of our brands available to our customers, The Hooting Owl, The Tipsy Toad, The Curious Cat and The Dirty Duck along with other brands that we currently manufacture for."

And early in 2024, he added, Hooting Owl will also launch a ‘York Gin’.