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?
Minus 33 of course! (I can be biased right?) I spent over a year designing the recipe so I feel like it is my child and I wouldn't want to leave my baby behind. It would also help take the edge off the dry heat. When I finished it, i could send a message in the bottle for help.
I have many different favourite bars depending on the occasion. What's your favourite venue for:
A. A Dry Martini & Date Night?
B. A Red Snapper & Brunch?
C. Gin & a party?
One Square, Edinburgh
B) One Square or the Tippling House - If I could trust just two people to do a 33 twist on a Bloody Mary it's Alessandro and Andy. Both of these guys are geniuses when it comes to flavour.
C) 56 North - the gin menu is extensive and when I was in there after the Juniper Festival, there may have been some dancing on tables....
Which drinks professionals have inspired you & how?
There have been a few but let's limit it to three:
1) Cory Mason - the botanical master. I have never met anyone so passionate about distilling and flavour - he taught me all I know about distilling and was instrumental in crafting the Minus 33 liquid.
2) Martin Duffy - a well connected member of the spirit scene here in Scotland. He helped me understand the core basics of spirit design and introduced me to Cory above and has championed our product through his business.
3) Stewart Lawrie & Ernie Kinnaird- They come as a team! Former Whyte and Mackay management, both shareholders in my business, their advice, knowledge and enthusiasm has helped guide me through the murky waters that are the drinks industry.
Yes - Lavender. It reminds me of my childhood when we had some growing in the front garden. I hated it back then as it attracted all the bees which made for a tricky and somewhat speedy tooing and froing from the drive to the front door.
If you were a gin or a gin cocktail which would you be and why?
A Bramble, Toby from Taste Cocktails sells a great set that uses our very own Minus 33. It's colourful and simply gorgeous, attributes I aspire to ;-).
Angus Winchester says olives are the devil's testicles. Thoughts?
Having lived in Spain i do love the odd, well marinated olive. Though keep that devil and his tea-bagging ways well away from my martini. Olives belong in a dish, not a martini glass. And if I fancied a dirty martini, I'd go to an underwater bar.
Which gin has your favourite packaging? How important is this?
Good Creative, our design partners did a fantastic job on our bottle, however bias aside I love both the Botanist for it's simplicity and purity and of course Isle of Harris Gin, that bottle is a pleasure to behold. Packaging is vital, people buy with their eyes first, the taste of the liquid determines whether they buy again, but if they never buy in the first place you'll amount to very little.
Do you have a preferred tonic?
No. I have preferred mixers for certain occasions. Bon Accord have created a great tasting tonic and is something just a little different. I really enjoy the Fentiman's Grapefruit Tonic and Rose Lemonade (I know the latter is cheating) And of course Fever Tree naturally light is a great tasting naturally low calorie option as well. We work with all the above as they all bring a unique dynamic to our offering.
What's your favourite trade event?
What's your favourite food to pair with gin?
I will have gin with anything. I recently tried a G&T cupcake and it was delicious!
How did you get into the Gin industry?
By accident, I couldn't find a job, fancied doing my own thing, the idea of spirits came to me and it was a close call between launching with a vodka or a gin. Clearly I saw sense and went with the latter.
What do you love most about your job?
Meeting lots of great people, both within and outwith the trade and getting to share my passion / geekiness about alcohol with them. I love meeting other individuals who are equally passionate about spirits.
And the worst bits?
The hours/seasonality. We tend to be working when everyone else is having fun. Summer and Christmas in particular, it can be frustrating to turn down social time with friends to work a show or event. Then again either way I'm around people so it's never really that bad!
If you could share a martini with anyone who would it be?
The Dalai Lama - Although I'm not a Buddhist I feel the world can learn a lot from their practices. Of late there seems to have been a resurgence of intolerance and ignorance within western politics and I feel we could all learn from being more tolerant and accepting of others. Also I don't think he drinks, so it would mean two martinis for me!
Do you have any recommended reads for gin lovers?
I am a fairly slow reader so keep my learning to short blogs and podcasts. Jamie AKA The Bearded Imbiber has launched a great new blog that is easy to read but full of detail and high level education.
What are your Gin goals?
I'd like to walk into a bar, one which I've never been into before, and for Minus 33 to be on the shelf.
What advice do you have for aspiring Gin professionals?
Learn from others within the industry, it is a very collaborative group, and people are always happy to help and share ideas and knowledge.
What's your pet Gin industry hate?
I have two:
Signature Serves - I appreciate there are ways to serve your drink that bring out the best of certain botanicals, however what my favourite serve is, and yours could vary wildly, as they are subjective. E.g. I hate lime in most gins as I feel it overpowers the flavour, however I would never dare stop someone enjoying my drink with a lime garnish. Let people enjoy it how they like it.
Botanical Snobbery - This one really gets to me - education should be gin-wide and not product specific. I've had someone say my juice mustn't be that good as we don't use cardamom and they learnt on a distillery tour down south that cardamom was vital to a good gin. Newsflash: it isn't and we have tonnes of taste test data to prove it. Imposing your blend of botanicals as gospel on consumers leaves them close minded and hurts the industry and innovation. Stop it!
If you aren't drinking Gin what is your tipple?
Whisky followed closely by a beer.
What's going to be the next big gin trend?
There is a movement towards aged gins and liqueurs although done, still have a lot of room to expand. I wouldn't be surprised if distillers started making gins that highlighted one botanical in particular, e.g. a lime gin with a juniper undertone to carry it through.
Any other pearls of wisdom or Gin rants?
Gin is Life. When one is sick of gin, they are sick of life.
Where can I send our readers to find you online?