What did you do before creating Thames Distillery?
I’ve spent my working life in the alcoholic drinks trade and my family connection goes back to the fact that my 8th great-grandfather was an apprentice distiller in the city of London in 1681. From that day to this we’ve basically been distilling gin in London, but not as the same company - we set this company up originally in 1992, and that’s when I left my old family company.
What’s the inspiration behind Fifty Pounds gin?
We were approached by the brand owner to come up with a gin and they very specifically wanted a good, traditional London dry distilled gin with a good citrus note to it and a bit of spice which would make a stunning gin and tonic. That was basically what we were given as the brief - we worked to it and came up with Fifty Pounds Gin.
What have been the biggest challenges & achievements so far?
In terms of Fifty Pounds the challenge was to create a gin when, at the time it was launched, the gin market was going like a steam-train. The challenge was to actually break in and make a presence in that market. Fifty Pounds Gin has been extraordinarily successful in that and it’s now exported to something like 30 different countries around the world. As a small gin distiller I find it quite an achievement that I can go into bars, whether it be in Hong Kong, Colombia, USA, Spain, or Germany, and find them serving Fifty Pounds gin.
How would you describe Fifty Pounds Gin in three words?
Juniper-led, citrus and spice.
Juniper-led with a really good citrus backing to it supported by the bitter orange peel that we put in it, and then balanced off with a nice spice from the grains of paradise and some of the other botanicals in the gin.
What’s your favourite way to drink Fifty Pounds Gin?
Properly made gin and tonic, the way they do it in Spain - a long free-poured gin, lots of ice and a good garnish, topped up with tonic. The free pouring bit is important - you can’t live on a British measure, you can’t find it in the bottom of the glass. The gin should be about 25% of the liquid in the glass and then you get a really good drink. In the case of Fifty Pounds I think a little bit of orange peel or lemon peel really works brilliantly with it.
What gin’s would you always have on your shelf (other than your own!)?
I’m a great fan of Beefeater 24 Gin, I think it’s a superb gin and Desmond Payne (Master Distiller) did an amazing job when he created that. I also like straight Tanqueray Gin - I think it’s another really nice gin.
What’s next, any exciting plans?
The gin boom in the UK may have crested but there’s still a lot of work going on and there’s still the rest of the world! The long-term potential in the Far East is enormous. Using botanicals which relate to that part of the world I think would work. And maybe even making spirits which are not technically gin but which have botanical backings in them at lower strength. That's another area in which I think we are going to see huge developments going on.