SHE is Britain’s most famous operatic performer.
Now Katherine Jenkins is adding another string to her bow – gin-making.
The Welsh mezzo-soprano is releasing her own range of high-end liquor, having spent the past 18 months secretly visiting distilleries and experimenting with botanicals.
So hush-hush has her latest venture been, not even Katherine’s beloved mother was aware before its launch.
Smiles Katherine at a lunch before the launch: “This has been a really amazing creative experience – I come from a family of gin drinkers, and this really has been a passion project.
“Absolutely no-one outside of my team knows – not even my mum as I knew she’d tell the aunties, and they’d start spreading it around the village and then the secret would be out – so it’s amazing to finally talk about it.
“I’m not on a crusade here to change the world but I wanted to create a product that’s for women, speaks to women, is largely made by women and lets them feel heard.
“I have deep respect for all the amazing female entrepreneurs, who are blazing a trail and working towards a better, more equitable and sustainable future for all of us.”
“Whatever it is we are doing, we should be supporting the sisterhood and raising each other up. That’s how I’ve been brought up, and it’s so important to me.”
An “ultra premium gin created by women for women”, Cygnet Welsh Dry Gin (and it’s purer, more expensive sibling Cygnet 22) is made in a distillery six miles down the road from where Katherine grew up.
The botanicals are – according to a very official-looking press release – an “eclectic mix of flavours including Almonds, Angelica Root, Chamomile Flower, Cardamom Seeds, Coriander Seeds, Sweet Orange Peel, Orris Root and Pink Grapefruit Peel”.
“I also wanted to include manuka honey as I’ve always eaten this to help me with my voice”, she adds, punchily sipping from a neat glass of gin.
Yep, it’s also the first gin on the market that is designed to be drunk sans mixer.
Taking a glug over lunch at a smart central London restaurant, I feel part-Don Draper-from-Mad-Men, part Oliver Reed. Nonetheless, it’s strangely quite refreshing.
“Unless I’m preparing for a show, I enjoy having a gin once the kids have gone to bed,” she grins.
“I really do love it. Whilst I am not saying this is better for your body than say, the purest Welsh water, Cygnet is certainly fantastic for your spirit and is truly made of the most quality ingredients.”
Having almost reached the threshold of my gin chat, we – like Katherine – finally branch out.
After studying at the prestigious Royal Academy of Music, Katherine briefly worked as a music teacher (and a tour guide on the London Eye) before getting her big break in 2003.
A performance at Westminster Cathedral in honour of Pope Jean Paul II’s silver Jubilee led to a six-album record deal with Universal Classics.
A string of crossover hits followed, and she quickly became the poster girl of opera.
For a while, she was as likely to be belting out the Welsh national anthem to 60,000 fans at Cardiff’s Millennium stadium as she was rubbing shoulders with the Spice Girls and Take That at the Brit awards.
In a world of manufactured, saccharine pop acts, she was a breath of fresh air – as popular with grandmothers as she was respected by her contemporaries.
In 2014 she was awarded an OBE by the then Prince Charles.
In the intervening years, she has performed at various Royal Variety Shows and built up friendships with at least three members of the Royal Family: William, Harry and the new King himself.
In November she joined Prince William at the TUSK conservation awards – sustainability and environmentalism being two causes close to her heart.
She also performed the first ever rendition of God Save The King – one of the “most surreal “experiences of her 20 year career.
Like so many of us, Katherine – who had performed in front of the late Queen before just 12 people – was devastated by the monarch’s death last September.
Katherine, a fervent royalist, recalls: “I was in a tiny, rural church in the middle of Sussex recording a hymn marking the passing of the queen.
“My PA suddenly got a call saying the BBC would like me to record the first version of God Save The King, asking if I could do it within the hour.
“It was the morning after the Queen died. I could have been anywhere – on a plane, in bed, whatever, but I’m literally standing there with four microphones in front of me, in a church.
“I was like ‘ok, this is meant to be’. We all stopped what we were doing, said a little prayer because the Queen had just passed and I guess I felt almost a little bit disloyal. So we had a moment.
“Then I had to imagine singing the anthem with the new words, and somehow we did it in one take, and sent it in – despite having barely any reception so that was a bit of a miracle in itself.
“I mean, I didn’t get any feedback from the king obviously but obviously it was a huge honour.”
So would she perform at the Coronation on May 6th? “Absolutely!”
And how does she think Charles will get on?
“He will be a brilliant King,” she says, manfully sipping more gin. “I’ve seen him with the British Forces Foundation and how he cares passionately about the military. He just seems dedicated and informed.
“I also think he’s very ahead of his time with all of the organics, and the environmental initiatives, and I have huge respect for it.
“He has also raised children who care about conservation deeply so yes, I just really like him.”
Katherine, married to American filmmaker Andrew Levitas with whom she has two children, Aaliyah, seven, and Xander, four, works fiercely hard.
On the day of our interview, she has flown in overnight from Los Angeles, having spent the previous night in New York.
She leaves me to travel five hours by car to Wales to film a segment for the coronation.
But, with all this travel, comes at a cost – and not just to her exhaustion levels.
A passionate environmentalist – she’s also an ambassador for the Prince of Wales’ conservation charity – she says she off-sets all her travel.
Whilst this doesn’t mean Katherine is out in the New Forest, determinedly planting trees, she does give a small fortune each year to climate change organisations.
Her gin bottles are also “50% lighter than other spirit bottle so that the carbon footprint is reduced”.
She has also employed someone to advise on sustainability, and, ingeniously, her gin bottle is designed to be re-used as a vase.
Katherine – who doesn’t speak for 24 hours prior to a concert to ensure that her voice is in tip top condition for each show (“my kids quite like it, it’s like a massive game of charades”) – adds: “I try and raise my kids in a responsible way.
“I tell them what things are made of, explain the importance of recycling, and we recently got back from a safari conservation trip.
“I love being a mum but as all working mums know, it’s always a juggle.
“I have an amazingly supportive husband, who has officially come on board with me on this latest project, and my mum and mother are both super-keen to come and help out.
“But as any working mum will testify, it’s not easy – and it really does take a village. But right now, I am loving life and trying something new.”
Cygnet Welsh Dry Gin and Cynet 22 will be available to pre-order from the Cygnet website www.cygnet-distillery.com at an RRP of £35.00 and £47.50 on Friday 31st March.