Manchester Three Rivers Gin Distillery

Chris Patrick
tours and activities guide

Chris Patrick went along to this distillery for the full Gin Experience:

Though readers may feel disinclined in these wintery times to pass from the bright lights of central Manchester, those who are willing to step just a little out of their way – under a couple of bridges, and down a few dark streets past the Co-operative Human Resources building – will find themselves in a perfumed and shimmering land of mysterious spices. I myself have been there. It is called the Three Rivers Gin Distillery.

Gin has a long history, beginning with Italian monks distilling juniper berries for medicinal reasons based on the practice of Moorish doctors. The practice was eventually taken up by the Dutch, and eventually during the Thirty Year’s War it came to the attention of the British, soldiers having noticed the ‘Dutch courage’ of their gin-drinking comrades. The British gin industry took off a few decades later during a ban on imported French spirits, and gin became a staple drink in the 1700s. Subject to various controversies, the fortunes of gin rose and fell, but it is now firmly back on the scene due to a change in legislation allowing small distillers to create bespoke gins.

Massive and elegant, a system of copper pipes and kettles rises up into the ceiling of the arch

One such is Three Rivers, named for the rivers Irwell, Medlock and Irk. Founded by one Dave Rigby, formerly of Salford University, the distillery occupies small premises below a railway arch. I couldn’t quite get over the surprise at finding this strange, glowing alchemist’s lodge behind such anonymous doors.

After being welcomed in and treated to the above history lesson (I have left some of the best bits out so you can go and hear it for yourself) we descended some stairs and laid our eyes upon a wonder within a wonder, the huge distilling machine which they call ‘Angel’. Massive and elegant, a system of copper pipes and kettles rises up into the ceiling of the arch. This is it: all of the gin comes from this one machine. I almost got cathedral neck looking at it so it’s a good job we were all provided with Aviation cocktails at this point. Which let it be said was neither the first nor the last free drink to be given away by our generous and obliging hosts that night.

Next we passed into the adjoining unit, which was set up like a science classroom except that you’d actually want to spend time there. We all had our own little alembics, tiny versions of ‘Angel’ to make our own gins with. Up on the walls a huge selection of herbs, spices and other ingredients in jars. Tiny measures of these – it’s up to you what you put in but full documentation is provided – are put into a little dish, which gets tipped into the alembic along with some pure alcohol. Then heat is applied and the ingredients are distilled, the essence joining with the liquid and running out of a little tap. Then you bottle it and responsibly give it to a family member as a seasonal gift.

Marked out of ten, the Three Rivers gin experience would get an eleven

If I gave marks out of ten for these things the Three Rivers gin experience would get an eleven. This is due to the highly interesting history and science content, which complements all the excellent drinks you get, and the supreme competence and warmth of the hosts. If you’re looking for a family night out, a treat for colleagues or an impressive something for a special someone, or indeed if none of these apply to you and you just like gin a lot, follow in my footsteps to the land of spices this festive season.

Manchester Three Rivers
City of Manchester Distillery
21 Red Bank Parade
Manchester M4 4HF
View map
Visit Now

Opening Hours

  • Thursday7:30pm - 10:30pm
  • Friday7:30pm - 10:30pm
  • Saturday1:00pm - 10:30pm
  • Sunday1:00pm - 4:00pm

Always double check opening hours with the venue before making a special visit.

What's on near Manchester Three Rivers Gin Distillery

Manchester Wine Festival
Food and DrinkManchester
Manchester Wine Festival

New event designed to bring Manchester’s wine lovers together with a wide selection of wine bars, producers, tastings and more.

from £27.50
the artist
Waxahatchee at New Century

Mercurial singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield AKA Waxahatchee performs at New Century in support of her new album, Tigers Blood.

from £29
CinemaCheetham Hill
Jewish Culture Club

Meet new people, explore contemporary cultural works and learn about Jewish culture with Jewish Culture Club at Manchester Jewish Museum.

free entry

Where to go near Manchester Three Rivers Gin Distillery

Cheetham Hill
Osaka Local

Wonderful Japanese street food vendor, often found at Grub and other street food events in and around Manchester and the North.


Billing itself as Manchester’s home of cult films, video games and cool nerd stuff, Cultplex is a small cinema offshoot of indie street food destination Grub Manchester.

Bar or Pub
The Runaway Brewery

An exciting young Brewery on the Manchester scene, Runaway are creating a whole host of drinkable delights.

Fairfield Social Club

Fairfield Social Club is a multi-purpose site next to Angel Meadows Park in the Green Quarter, ran by the team behind the much-loved Grub,.

Popup Bikes
Café or Coffee Shop
Popup Bikes

Independently-run coffee shop and bike repair shop on the edge of the Green Quarter in Manchester.

Event venue

Partisan is a Manchester-based collective and volunteer-run space for independent, community led, DIY and cultural based projects. They have two floors for events, meetings, office space, live music, club nights, and art.

1520 Studios

1520 Studios is bigger than a film and photography studio, also functioning as an event space and community hub.

The exterior of The Pilcrow
Bar or Pub
Sadler’s Cat

The Pilcrow is now Sadler’s Cat, a contemporary community pub at the heart of the NOMA neighbourhood. Overlooking Sadler’s Yard.

City Centre
Event venue
Sadler’s Yard

Sadlers Yard is a public square and events space in Manchester from NOMA Mcr. Home of the Pilcrow Pub and PLANT NOMA.

Culture Guides

Rebecca Watson author photo
Literature Events in Manchester and the North

In between working out, then working through, your holiday reading pile this summer, find inspiration for your next bookish acquisitions from our selection of live events and exhibitions.