What did you do before developing Agnes Arber Gin?
Originally from South Africa, I worked in various hospitality roles and was regularly taking part in and organising brewery tours where the interest in home brewing came from. It all started off as a hobby initially; being around the brewing process, I thought I’d try my hand at home brewing different types of beer. I then progressed into vodkas, liqueurs and then finally into gin where I really found an interest in infusing gins with various botanicals.
What made you decide to create Agnes Arber Gin?
I moved to the UK and met Robin Gray, the Chairman of LWC Drinks, a wholesale drinks supplier where I worked as a Depot Manager. The company were looking for a new gin brand when I mentioned my interest and background in distilling and this took us to Langley’s Distillery in the West Midlands. I took a sample of my own gin from South Africa along and met with Sion Edwards, the distiller, who helped to balance the flavours and the very first incarnation of Agnes Arber gin was born!
What's the inspiration behind the brand and the gin?
We were looking for a name that reflected the importance of the botanicals which were infused within the gin and so actually created a company-wide competition looking for the best name. One of our colleagues had just been reading about Agnes Arber and her dedication to the study of plant anatomy and botanical history.
Everything we’ve done in regards to the gin, the artwork and the bottling has been done with Agnes Arber in mind. We looked through her books and illustrations and this inspired the artwork that we see on the bottles today. Also, the shape of the bottle is quite square to emulate the look and feel of one of her books. The artwork was done by a local illustrator and designer, Darren Newman, from Manchester near to where our Head Office is based.
Can you tell us about the distillation process and distillery?
The gins are distilled at Langley’s Distillery in Hertfordshire, in a 500 litre copper pot still, affectionately named Jenny. Jenny is actually one of the oldest working copper pot stills in the UK.
Our original Premium Gin is made with the same traditional method of gin distilling that was used in Agnes Arber’s day. It is a convergence of nine studiously sourced botanicals and clean, pure alcohol. A solid and heady scent of juniper followed by sweet lemon tones, Arber Premium delivers the expected juniper flavour harmoniously balanced with a soft blend of orange and lemon and a hint of liquorice sweetness to finish. The nine botanicals included in our Arber Premium gin include angelica, cassia, coriander, grapefruit, iris, juniper, lemon, liquorice and orange.
What have been the biggest challenges so far?
The biggest challenges we’ve encountered have been launching these gins at a time when the gin wave was in full swing. In a highly saturated market, it was a huge worry for us whether we’d be able to cut through and make some noise when there was already so many superb gins about.
It was also a challenge to refine an at-home recipe to something that could be easily produced in large quantities to satisfy both the on-trade and consumer markets. It feels like only yesterday when I took my gin recipe cards to Langley’s Distillery to see if we could make something marvellous of it and here we are today!
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
The greatest achievements are undoubtedly the numerous awards we’ve won, across the whole Arber collection, including our Pineapple Gin being a Winner in the Flavoured Gin category of The Gin Guide Awards 2021. To hear great feedback from customers, from experts and from judging panels is just an amazing feat and wonderful to achieve in a relatively short amount of time.
Trying to come up with exciting and innovative flavours was also quite challenging. Pineapple was a relatively untapped flavour in the gin market back in 2019 so there was always a concern that it may not take off but we’ve found that Arber Pineapple has been met with huge encouragement and is actually a great entry gin for those who wouldn’t normally drink it.
How would you describe Agnes Arber Gin in three words?
Crisp, refreshing and delicious (of course!)
What's your favourite way to drink your gins?
For the Arber Premium Gin, we’d recommend a simple Mediterranean or English tonic such as Marlish English Tonic Water, whilst the Rhubarb and Pineapple flavours go perfectly with ginger ale.
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
I’d have to say, other than Agnes Arber, one of my favourite gins is Fynbos Gin, a South African Gin made by Wilderer Distilleries.
What's next for you and Agnes Aber Gin - any exciting plans?
We’re hoping to maybe create another exciting new flavour sometime in the not-too-distant future. We’ve currently got a few flavour ideas in mind and there’s a few in there that are definite wildcards, so you’ll have to watch this space!
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