What did you do before creating your gin/distillery?
I always said a desk job was a 10-year thing for me. I enjoyed my time in IT, Marketing, Finance but I always wanted to be on my feet making things. I got to that 10 year milestone and thought ‘I’ve been talking about this this so I better make good on my promises’.
By that point I’d been making alcoholic drinks for about 15 years. First it was those awful 'make your own' lager kits, but that eventually led to full mash brews including my all time favourite, brett-fermented flemish red ales. I served my craft cider at my wedding in 2009 and over the years have had various infusions and macerations secreted about my dwellings. So I was a committed hobbyist before I got really serious…
What made you decide to create Greensand Ridge Distillery?
I undertook a Masters in Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt which accelerated the move from passionate hobbyist to full time career. The vision from the start has been to build a different kind of distillery; one which has the lightest possible touch on the lands, but also benefits the community by preferentially fermenting and distilling surplus produce.
What is the inspiration behind your gins?
All our spirits are directed by the produce grown or growing nearby. Gin is a natural way to represent the flavours of the lands around us in a beautiful spirit. Anything with carbohydrate we can of course ferment and represent in its pure form, as with our apple brandy. But many of the aromas around us are bound in oils or resins, for example. The incredible complexity of some of those aromas lend themselves perfectly to gin. My gin is like a walk through the Wealden woods, fields and orchards, with sweet/floral and woodland/herbaceous characters.
Can you tell us more about Greensand Ridge Distillery?
Definitely one of the most beautiful distilleries around! The building is an old victorian coach house, and the distillery operations spill out of the huge coach house doors into the large open courtyard. Through a massive archway to the front is a view over the fields and woods to the Greenand Ridge - a view that inspires our label design.
Can you tell us me about the botanicals?
I want all the products from Greensand Ridge Distillery to truthfully reflect the lands around us, so a palette of botanicals presented itself to me, rather than it being an exhaustive search of esoteric herbs and spices. The backbone of my gin is eight local botanicals - Bay Laurel, Poppy Seeds, Oak Moss, Cobnuts, Gorse Flowers, Hawthorn Berries, Rosehips and Honey.
What can people expect and experience if they visit the distillery?
We run Gin Making experiences, where committed gin fans can come and make their own bottle of gin in the distillery, selecting from our extensive botanical library. It’s a really personal and in-depth experience, and the fun is all within the still house, in the shadow of our massive 300 litre Holstein still.
What have been the biggest challenges so far?
Building a distillery is not for the faint-hearted, but then building a brand to scale is another thing altogether. The operational complexity of sourcing raw materials, producing 6 different spirits and getting them into the hands of customers around the world is a daunting task, but luckily I have a fantastic team to help get it all done.
What have been the biggest achievements so far?
I always say the most rewarding part of it all is seeing our spirits being enjoyed in the many social media posts by our customers. It’s what it's all about.
How would you describe Greensand Ridge Gin in 3 words?
Elegant, smooth, flavoursome.
What's your favourite way to drink your gin?
Our London Dry is best suited to a G&T, with our preferred garnish of a bay leaf and a few juniper berries. I love our Rye Cask Gin in a Negroni, and our PX Cask Gin simply over the rocks with an orange twist. Heaven!
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
I built my cocktail cabinet many moons ago from an old drapers cabinet, back lit with LEDs and filled to bursting with a treasure trove of spirits. In the gin section will be a few gins suited to specific cocktails - Plymouth Gin for an Aviation, or Citadelle Gin for a Tom Collins.
What's next for Greensand Ridge - any exciting plans?
We’ve spent much of the last three years building - both the distillery and our spirits range - so for the short term its about consolidation and growth. That said, we always knock ideas around for new releases and we have one already made and in cask and two more which will likely see the light of day shortly, so stay turned!