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Ginterview: Paul Donegan

Brand Ambassador, Pickering's Gin




























· Pickerings Gin,Oak Aged Gin,Scottish Gin

I often say choosing a favourite gin is like choosing between my children (which is why I don't have any).

What's your desert island gin & why?

Pickering's Navy Strength - I don't know how long I might be on such a tasty island and I thoroughly subscribe to the maxim:

'You don't have to drink to have a good time - but if you don't drink,

you HAVE to have a good time'.

It'd need to be a good, strong gin that would serve a disinfectant, propellant for fires and signals and make a damn fine super dry Dirty Martini when combined with a dash of sea salt.

Which drinks professionals have inspired you & how?

Dick Bradsell was a major inspiration, I started bartending in 199!$$£$! (not telling) in a cocktail bar in Stirling (yes, they did exist) making Miami Dolphins, Sex on the Beach and other such masterpieces of 80s cocktail design.

Class Magazine and Dick Bradsell were to me a glimpse of a world of history and sophistication. I learned all about Negronis, Old Fashioneds and a host of drinks that didn't contain a bag of sugar per serve. It was a revelation to me and inspired me to get myself down to London fast!

Do you have a favourite Gin Botanical? (Yes. Really.)

We've been playing around with loads of different, new (to us) botanicals recently. Our head distiller, Matt has a still plumbed in to his desk so we are often messing with flavoured distillates. The best recent one has to be Lemon Myrtle, fantastically light and fresh smelling with a beautiful Lemony flavour.

If you were a gin or a gin cocktail which would you be and why?

I would be a Last Word - little, green, tasty.

Which gin has your favourite packaging? How important is this?

I love the ceramic bottles that Rock Rose, Forest and Eden Mill use. Very vintage and the designs are fantastic.

Do you have a preferred tonic?

I am fully in love with Walter Gregor Tonic from Summerhouse drinks. It's a fantastic hand made product that has a beautiful citrus tang and gives backbone to softer flavoured gins.

What's your favourite trade event?

The ones where I don't have to drive home at the end, then I get to make sampling more 'interactive'.

What's your favourite food to pair with gin?

A nice bit of fish.

How did you get into the Gin industry?

Quite by accident really, I have been bartending for the thick end of 20 years and whilst doing a solo bar shift at a rum event ran into my now employers; Marcus and Matt of Pickering's gin. It's kind of strange to get a job in Gin by making Daiquiris!!

What do you love most about your job?

I love spirits in general and adore their history, getting to share that with retail customers at tasting events and getting to help to train bartenders outside of the big cocktail bars is a genuine pleasure for me. I love to share the Juniper knowledge.

And the worst bits?

Worst bits? What are they? It's all gravy here!

If you could share a martini with anyone who would it be?

There is no such thing as sharing a Martini. Bill Murray would have to have his own.

Do you have any recommended reads for gin lovers?

Anything by David Wondrich whether it's about gin or not. The American Standards Institutes 1974 guide to preparing a Dry Martini.

What are your Gin goals?

To have the world recognise the complexity and versatility of Gin and for it to take its rightful place alongside Whisky, Rum and Brandy as one of the biggest and best spirit categories around.

What's your pet Gin industry hate?

Secret processes and secret ingredients. It's not big or clever and to be honest, no one cares. Also, stop pissing around making a big deal out of 'new techniques' for distilling.

If you can't make a tasty product with a copper pot then get in the sea. 99.9% of the time it tastes no different and once again; no one cares. Only idiots will pay the £50+ per bottle to cover your costs.

If you aren't drinking Gin what is your tipple?

Not a lot really; Rum, Tequila, Whisky, Bourbon, love a bit of Pisco.

Paul Donegan

What's going to be the next big gin trend?

For me it's a bit of a toss up between seasonal gin expressions and barrel ageing.

Customers nowadays demand regionality from their produce and part of that is showcasing flavours common to your area. There is also a huge demand, given the number of new distilleries that open every week, for new flavours and different expressions pretty much all the time.

Pickering's Barrel Aged Gin

Barrel ageing is something that a few people seem to think they invented the other week but it has been an intrinsic part of how Gin has been consumed for hundreds of years; the original Gin and Tonics, for example, were made with Old Tom Gins that had travelled across the ocean in oak barrels. They would have taken on the flavour of the barrels whether intentional or not and many people would never have tasted anything else. The botanicals in Gin don't necessarily blend well when left for a LONG time. but careful ageing and wise barrel choice can turn out some banging expressions.

Any other pearls of wisdom or Gin rants?

Remember kids; Gin is more than a showcase for Tonic!! Gin sort of got along quite happily and successfully without the G&T, thank you very much.

There is a lack of awareness throughout the bulk of the industry about Gin's real history; nowadays, everyone makes Gin with one eye on 'How good a G&T does this make', this is great but leaves one massive problem - your Gin makes a fantastic G&T but what else?

The only things required to make Gin are Juniper and Alcohol, you don't even need a still, even less 3 types of bittering agent, citrus and some unheard of leaf from the darkest Amazon. We all need to start looking to OTHER flavour profiles in Gin, OTHER mixers. We have forgotten how to drink Gin and all we have to go on with regards to producing it is memories of terrible G&Ts past. I don't want my Edinburgh produced Gin to taste broadly similar to something produced thousands of miles away.

And stop with the Gin snobbery!! I could go on for pages and pages and hours about how our own industry penalises those who try something different.

As far as I'm concerned there are no Gin experts, just people who drink it.

Where can I send readers to find you online?

Get tickets to The Gin Whore Tour - enjoy tasting 4 gins & plenty of giggles at a venue near you!