Next Friday looks set to be a Good Friday in the centre of York.

You could even say it will be a hoot!

A new distillery opens in Rougier Street, which is set to raise all our spirits.

It will also open as a visitor attraction, offering tours and tastings, in addition to its own private members club.

Already The Hooting Owl and Curious Cat Distillery has in recent days started making its gins, vodkas, rum and other delights in the former Society Lounge and Bar, after relocating from Pocklington.

Staff and builders are currently making the finishing touches to create what should deliver a tonic to the city centre. 


And after a ‘soft opening’ for the trade and friends, what will become a highlight of York’s tourism scene, will officially open its doors to the public on Friday.

The Grand Opening, reflecting the military background of its owner, Dominic M’Benga, will be undertaken by several Chelsea Pensioners.

And highlighting Hooting Owl’s support for the York Valkryries, some of its women rugby players are also expected. Dom is also working on getting a household-name sporting celebrity.

Though the venue can take 300, numbers for the 4-7pm Grand Opening will be restricted to 140.

York Press: Something special for the Ladies

And in the opening weeks, there will be a raffle, with tickets at £11 of a Harley Davidson Road King Motorcycle, as a fundraiser for St Leonard’s Hospice, the York Rugby League Foundation and the Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire Association.

For the past few months, Dom and his team have been busy renovating the former nightclub, to create something special, relaxing and a destination York can be proud of.

It will be, for now, as York Gin has plans for the Middletons Hotel, the only distillery within the city walls.

Hooting Owl will be launching it’s own York Gin in May, to add to other gins in honour of the different Ridings of Yorkshire.

There will also be a whisky-style drink called The Corny Owl, with the strapline ‘I can’t Believe its not Bourbon.’

York Press: A very special member of the company

There will also be teas, including Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Yorkshire and Green Tea, also “done properly” served in antique tea pots and china cups.

Dominic says he and his team enjoyed selecting the wines, with varieties from around the world, with an Italian focus, as he likes to holiday there.

And to follow in a few weeks will be food, such as classic pizza and paninis, bruschetta, and platters.

With the Hooting Owl employing Andy Dixon, former head chef Tutor at the York Grand Cookery School, Dom promises: “Simple finger food but done very well.”

There will also be a range of foods cured in the spirits made on site, such as gin cured salmon, bacon and ham.

Dom told the Press: “People have to remember we are a distillery first, not a bar. It means trying to give an experience, give knowledge and memories.

York Press: The venue oozes comfort and class

“There will be a bit of theatre from the staff and some stories. It will be Hooting Owl stories based on fact and history.”

Indeed, the venue has much history, originally a barn full of horses, where the Lord Mayor of York lived above!

Dom added: “We are trying to bring something historic to York, become a destination. People will come to York to visit the distillery.”

I am sure they will, and Dom most definitely has the wit to woo!