Doran Binder, 49, bought the Crag Inn in Wildboarclough, near Macclesfield, in 2016. At the time, he was working for a New York hair care firm and living between the US and the UK when family circumstances prompted him to buy the pub.
The dad-of-five says he knew the small pub was failing but bought it because he was at “rock bottom” after his divorce and wanted to be close to his kids.
He told Cheshirelive: “At the time I was working in New York and quite happy. I bought this, I’m commuting two weeks here, two weeks there, I’ve got a great little life. I thought, ‘I’ll run it for a year, see how it goes and then make a decision about what we do with the pub’.”
Not long after taking it on, he had to get the water tested as part of an annual inspection to make sure it was safe for the public to drink.
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He continued: “I approached the meeting thinking, ‘I’m going to have to spend 10 grand on this water, I know it’. So, Richard Taylor, who owns Blair Water, comes along and the first thing he says to me is, ‘Do you know how good your water is, mate?’
“He said, ‘I’ve been drilling water for forty years, all over the world, and this is the best water I’ve drilled anywhere.’ He said there was nothing geologically to indicate good water in the area, but what I had hit was a ‘vein of gold’ coming off Shutlingsloe hill.”
Doran sent a sample of the water to be tested and accredited, and soon learned that the aquifer that runs 27 metres below the pub flowed with some of the purest water in the world.
And with 700,000 litres of it – enough to fill more than a million bottles a day – he found himself sitting on liquid gold and began bottling and selling it in 2018, using only glass bottles, which are washed and refilled when they are returned.
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Three months in he was approached by a US drinks manufacturer that sells high-end mineral water to elite clients for up to $150 a bottle.
He continued: “They got in touch and asked me for samples. I thought, ‘Okay, this where I get rumbled.’ These people are global experts, they sell the finest waters in the world
“A week later they asked for a Skype meeting. The first thing they said was, ‘This is one of the finest waters we’ve ever tasted’.”
The firm wanted to sell Doran’s water for $35 to $50 a bottle, but they refused to use glass bottles.
Doran’s passion for environmental awareness led him to turn them down and he now runs his own glass bottling operation straight from the pub, and is regularly receiving calls from India, China, the US and further afield from companies looking to import his water.
His company, Crag Spring Water, now employs 12 people who operate out of the pub’s old dining room. The pub is now closed, and the water business is Doran’s main focus.
The glass bottles are delivered by crate straight to the doors of customers, be that in the company’s own van, or by the dairies that now stock the water and deliver it on the morning milk rounds.
The still waters sell at £12 for 12 750ml bottles, the sparkling at £15 for the same amount.
Doran is proud of the company’s environmental credentials and is passionate about using glass and not plastic.
He said: “Hopefully we can make some kind of a difference. I can count how many bottles we have re-used, and it’s already up to more than a hundred thousand bottles that haven’t been buried or recycled.
“When I think about how this gift came along at the worst point in my life, when I was really at rock bottom, I thought someone’s looking out for me here, and I want to do everything I can to make the product as environmentally-friendly as I can.”