UK drinks group Halewood International is to enter the gin market after signing a strategic alliance to sell and market Whitley Neill Gin.

Under the deal, Halewood will have global responsibility for sales and marketing of Whitley Neill, which is a 42% abv London Dry Gin that retails for around GBP16.99 (US$27) in the UK off-trade.

The deal marks Halewood's first foray into the gin market.

Halewood said it is looking to target the brand at 28-45-year-old male and female premium gin and spirits drinkers.

Whitley Neill is currently listed in Waitrose, Oddbins, Booths, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges and On Trade listings include M&B owned Browns Restaurants as well as numerous top London bars including The Dorchester and Dukes Hotel. 

Johnny Neill, MD of Whitley Neill Ltd, said: "With both companies' strong UK and South African connections and their commitment to innovation in the spirits sector it is a perfect fit that will enable Whitley Neill Gin to grow to its full potential." The gin's recipe includes two unique South African botanicals - Baobab fruit and Cape Gooseberries.

Halewood marketing director Graham Oak said: "In Whitley Neill we have a tremendous product with real heritage behind it. However, the brand's unique use of certain botanicals gives it a distinctive flavour that will allow us to set it apart from other premium gins.

"Our first goal will be to drive distribution growth in both the On and Off Trade in the UK before looking at international expansion for the brand."

GBP0.05 from each 70cl bottle of the gin is donated to Tree Aid, a charity which helps people in rural Africa secure an income and livelihood from trees. One of the trees planted by Tree Aid is the Baobab.