What did you do before becoming a distiller and running Abingdon Distillery?
I’ve had my own events venue & restaurant business in central London for the last 10 years and I'm also a qualified ski instructor.
What made you decide to become a distiller?
After a decade in the hospitality trade, it does take its toll on you and 2020 was always going to be my last year as GM before handing over the role. When the pandemic hit and the business was forced to close, I started looking at other opportunities and got involved in Abingdon Distillery. I was actually looking at buying a vineyard in France with a wedding venue in the grounds at one point in 2019 - I dodged a bullet there. I've always had a passion for spirits & wine and I've been all over the world visiting distilleries and vineyards. Cask finishing really does fascinate me, taking barrels from other spirit categories and producing new hybrid flavours is the reason I created our Cask Series range of gins.
Can you tell us more about the distillery and distilling process?
All our recipes are distilled in our copper alembic pot still Jenny and we macerate the botanicals for 24 hours prior to going in the still. Always a one shot method and no artificial colours or flavourings at all. Making concentrates and diluting back isn’t part of our ethos - it sort of takes out the fun of craft distilling. We do distil quite gently on a medium heat as well, so it’s a little longer on the distillation run time (about 10 hours per run) which makes sure we get full extraction of flavours from the botanicals and maximum copper contact time.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
The biggest challenge so far? That is a tough one considering the last 18 months. I would actually have to say the biggest challenge was taking the small experiments I had done for our cask series gins, in 1 litre barrels, and then upscaling the maturation to 125 Litre barrels, considering I had no previous cask ageing experience. I just went all in! They age the gins at completely different speeds so I always had this worry in the back of my mind that I could over-aged and ruin the whole cask. It’s a lot of money to waste if it goes wrong.
However, the Single Malt aged gin scored 95/100 at the IWSC with the highest score in the aged gin category. The Port Cask aged gin took a gold medal at the Gin Masters also. To get that recognition from the judges, that is definitely my biggest achievement to date!
What's your favourite way to drink your gins?
I'm a sucker for a Negroni or a Sour. My favourite Negroni twist at the moment is a Pink Negroni which uses 30ml of our new Port Barrel-Aged gin, 30ml of bianco vermouth & just 10ml of Campari. Garnish with grapefruit peel. The red fruit notes from the port cask really come through, perfect for sipping in the garden in the summer.
How would you describe your gin in 3 words?
Complex, intriguing & surprising.
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
I'm a big fan of Roku Gin and i've recently tried the Cotswolds London Dry gin which is fantastic.
What's next for you and Abingdon Distillery - Any exciting plans?
I'm currently looking for a new site in Oxfordshire to move into so that we can open our distillery and tasting room to the public and increase our production levels. A new larger still is on order so hopefully I've found somewhere before it arrives! And then moving into 2022, I'm looking at releasing a new gin to our core range and probably two more barrel-aged expressions that will be limited batch runs of about 240 bottles each.
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