What did you do before established Bond Street Distillery?
I began my career in hospitality in my early 20’s and then moved into customer services, also like many women my age, I took time out to raise a family. When the time came to restart my career I realised that my heart always belonged to the hospitality industry, so I looked for things that I could do to refresh my skills such as cocktail courses and sommelier training. One of these courses included an introduction to distilling, my interest was piqued and I began my quest to learn more.
What made you decide to create your own distillery and what is the inspiration behind your gin?
As a huge gin lover, I spent a lot of time trying gins and learning about what I liked and did not like. I was extremely intrigued by stories about people who had started their own small craft distilleries. It was during a visit to one of those distilleries that I met and chatted to master distiller Jamie Baxter and the dream that I might one day open my own distillery suddenly became a real possibility.
How did you get from the idea to launching your distillery?
I began planning and searching for a location and in early 2018 an opportunity presented itself in the form a very rundown building in my home town. I fell in love with the place instantly and my inspiration and aspiration collided. The building was a lot bigger than I had originally envisaged in my plan, which allowed me to see potential to do something more, so I revisited and revised my vision and ‘Bond Street Distillery and Social’ was born. Investing in and backing myself and others is important to me and it is something of an ethos within the company and my staff.
What is the inspiration behind your gin?
I had many conversations with my closest friends who would often say to me that they didn’t like gin. Knowing as I did that the joy of gin is, in essence, it’s versatility and endless possibilities, I realised my goal was going be to create a gin that would be loved by not only connoisseurs but that would encourage non-gin lovers to reconsider and discover the joy of the perfect Gin & Tonic.
The recipe for my Signature Gin takes inspiration from traditional juniper-led London Dry Gins and incorporates the other elements of floral, citrus, spice and earthiness to create a smooth, rounded gin that seems to have universal appeal - so mission accomplished.
What can visits expect and experience if they visit the distillery for a tour and gin school experience?
The Bond Street Distillery experience is very much about escape and from the minute you enter the building we want you to lose yourself, to be wowed but without distracting from the heritage of the building. People always comment on how much love and thought has gone into the restoration and the glass viewing panel from the bar to the distillery, where you can see ‘Claire’ our 700L Holstein still. It always stops people in their tracks and they are unable to resist taking a picture.
We also pride ourselves on the service and hospitality we provide. From the moment you are met by your host, with a Gin & Tonic, we want you to feel truly pampered. During the behind the scenes tour of the distillery and throughout your gin school myself or our head distiller, Ed Gibson, are here to guide you in making your own truly unique gin and to make this an experience you will never forget. You can even add on an exquisite afternoon tea for an extra special treat or relax in the bar afterwards to enjoy one of our speciality cocktails.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements of your story so far?
The challenges and achievements are all tied up into one, somehow, they are the same thing and for our first year of business there seem to have been so many. The building renovation took just under a year and I was very hands on. Realising my dream often took a lot of problem solving and it was important to keep an eye on my vision for the end result whilst working within the confines of the space and remaining true to the original character of the building. I was very lucky because the team around me bought into what we trying to achieve, and I learnt a whole host of new practical skill from tiling to driving a digger.
Opening the bar and the distillery simultaneously was a challenge but ultimately the timing had to be the same. The response we got from the public made all the hard work worth the effort. Creating and producing our first bottle felt like such an achievement and if I’m honest I had a celebratory cry - it was a huge personal achievement and the sense of pride I felt when people started to buy, drink and really enjoy our gin was overwhelming.
Being a Winner in The Gin Guide Awards 2020 for our Signature Gin in the ‘London Dry’ and ‘Traditional Gin categories just months after our first distil felt like a massive achievement. If I am honest though I think the biggest challenge and achievement throughout our first year for both myself and my team has been keeping positive, creative, and focused during what have been unprecedented and difficult times for all.
How has the team and distillery managed during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Closing down so quickly after opening (less than 4 months) was heart wrenching. We had started to really establish ourselves as a team and an up and coming business, and I was really worried about losing that momentum and what that might mean for us. However, as a team we are versatile and inventive, so we set about planning to rise to the challenge.
We quickly diversified to make hand sanitiser and gave it to those on the front line, such as nurses, paramedics, fire services and other key workers whose supplies at that time had dried up. Our community supported us in this cause by making bottle donations which enabled us to give even more to those who were vulnerable and in need. Next we created our ‘crisis cocktails’ delivered to our customers doors along with our gins and produced live music shows from the distillery that people could watch online and chat with their friends so they didn’t feel so isolated during lockdown. We never stopped or slowed down, all whilst on a skeleton staff (with the rest on furlough).
How would you describe your gin in three words?
What are your favourite ways to drink your gins?
As a company we found our perfect serves by trying the gins in lots of different servings with many different mixers and garnishes (a terrible job but someone has to do it!) and all the staff were very much involved in the process of giving great ideas and feedback. We send tasting cards with our bottles but customers will often tell us how they have swapped a tonic or garnish and it has changed the gin entirely, which is exciting and I love how versatile gin can be. If pushed, I'd say our Signature London Dry with an Indian tonic, and garnished with a slice of orange is delicious - you cannot beat the simple pleasure of a good old-fashioned Gin & Tonic.
Which gins would you always have on your shelf?
Bond Street is obviously always on my shelf but of course I would say that! As a distiller and gin lover I always want to try new gins but an old favourite of mine is still Tanqueray 10 Gin along with a little gem I discovered at a small distillery in Cape Town - ‘Hope Gin – African Botanicals’
What is next for Bond Street Distillery - any exciting plans?
My team and I are looking forward to a more stable year in 2021 in which everything begins to open again, and we can start to see our gin reach a much wider audience both nationally and internationally. But knowing myself and my team that will not quite be enough for us, so watch this space.
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