How did you get into the gin industry and what did you do before?
I made my first bottle of sloe gin aged 7 with sloes picked in the hedgerows of Lincolnshire where I spent my early childhood. Since then I've been fascinated by the alchemy of alcohol - taking mundane ingredients and creating something completely different has a magic for me.
After school I joined the Royal Navy before studying law and becoming a barrister. Later I moved into the investment world specialising in emerging markets and gold mining - i've always been a bit of an adventure junkie...
My family owned a restaurant in Portugal for many years where I would work in the holidays running the bar and I developed a love of great cocktails and a huge respect for those who can make them well.
What made you decide to create Gilpin's Gin?
I have an abiding interest in the history of world trade (which for thousands of years was driven by precious metals and spices) and its interaction with heretical alchemical teachings and medicinal distillation practices in the Low Countries of the 15th & 16th Centuries - about the time when my ancestor, George Gilpin of Antwerp, was secretary of the English spice trading cartel - the Merchant Adventurers - as well as being Queen Elizabeth's ambassador to the Hague at the very time the first juniper-infused spirits were being created and brought back to England. Basically gin came out of this world, and is one of the first truly global products.
With Gilpin's Gin I was inspired by this family connection to create a modern classic London Dry gin using the finest ingredients from around the world. Gin really is The Spirit of England, but that spirit is international and outward-looking, experimental, inquisitive and bold.
How did you get from the idea to the finished product?
I started by writing two rather long lists: A list of my favourite flavours and smells (e.g. sage, chocolate, leather, earth) and another list of those i didn't like (e.g. saccharine, liquorice, plastic). Over the next couple of years I tried innumerable variants on recipes and infusions before finally settling on a recipe for gin that uses the absolute minimum number of botanicals (eight) while still maintaining an extraordinary level of complexity.
I hope that a good palate can detect each of our botanicals and appreciate how they work together to produce a clean and rounded taste for the gin. I made 10 bottles to start with and entered two of them into one of the major annual blind tasting competitions and was amazed to win a medal - so I felt I had no choice but to make 2,000 bottles and see if i could sell them. We sold our first case to Alessandro Palazzi at Duke's Hotel Bar in London - the Martini Maestro - and we haven't looked back from there.
What's the distillery like and can you tell us about the distillation process?
We use a small 200 litre pot still in South London, nothing fancy. The botanicals are selected and mixed by hand (clue: 50% Tuscan Juniper) and then added to water and pure English grain spirit. Left for a couple of days the essential oils are released and we fire up the still. The resultant distillate is then cut with more spirit and water to achieve the final strength of flavour and ABV before bottling.
How would you describe Gilpin's Gin in 3 words?
Modern, Classic, Dry
What makes your Gilpin's Gin different?
Gilpin's is a true gin-lovers gin. Confident and bold with plenty of juniper but well rounded with citrus (especially bitter orange) and unique herbal botanicals such as sage and borage. Perfect for classic cocktails.
If you only had room for one gin on your drinks trolley this would be the one.
What's your favourite way to drink Gilpin's Gin?
What are your favourite gins (other than your own of course!)?
What's next for Gilpin's Gin, any exciting plans?
We have Lots of plans for the next twelve months. We have two new products coming out soon:
One is a super premium extension of the Gilpin's range while the other is an exotic variation on the gin theme using grape spirit distilled with herbs and citrus then infused for a month with fresh ginger, ginseng and vanilla. Truly unique and amazing on its own or in cocktails. If Gilpin's Gin is minimalist then FincaXu (finca-shoo) is maximalist! See www.fincaxu.com for more details.