What did you do before creating your distillery and gins?
I had my own cafe for 15 years, before that I was a business analyst, Steve has been in construction all his life.
What made you decide to create your gin and distillery?
When I was approaching 60, I decided that I wanted a few experiences and gin making was one of them. We were going to London to visit Steve’s son and they had booked a round of golf, so I booked on a gin making course. That was supposed to be the end of it, but I was absolutely hooked and relished the challenge of purchasing a still and experimenting with my own recipes. Fortunately Alfie, who ran the class that day gave me his email address and so much advice to get me started because the still leaked, the ‘gin’ was cloudy or it all evaporated, so many problems. One thing he didn’t give advice on was the recipes, he made us experiment and take extensive notes.
What's the story behind the Jin Reaper name and your gin range?
I put my full name into an anagram solver one night and up came Jin Reaper. We told Alfie that we had found the name and he said yes, but what are you going to call the gin? The distillery near York where we purchase our NGS, bottles and caps suggested that one bottle of gin is no good as it doesn’t stand out on a shelf, he said that we need at least three. This is where the trilogy was born (after many sleepless nights and research) I was recommended a designer for the labels, who was instantly hooked on the concept and gave it 120% in every respect. The end result speaks for itself. We gave an outline of what we was looking for and left the rest up to him. We are delighted with the result.
Can you tell us more about the distillery and your stills?
We have two T500 stills. One is used for Grim and the Ferryman and the other purely for Evangeline because of the spices used. The distillery is a very sophisticated, very well stocked garden shed. It has everything needed from start to finish. It is an extremely functional workplace. Unfortunately, because of the size, we couldn’t possibly conduct distillery tours. That’s said, Jin Reaper is still in its infancy, we never envisaged running the business from the shed for very long, but we will enjoy it while it lasts and then as the business grows, so will the premises, but in a different location.
Can you tell us more about the distillation process and botanicals?
We like to macerate the botanicals for 24 hours, the botanicals that sink are placed in a gauze bag. Many people take out the bag before they start to distil, but we prefer to leave it in and suspend it, so that it is away from the base of the still. There are less than 15 botanicals in Grim and Ferryman, but considerably more in Evangeline with her being of a spicy nature.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
The challenges were getting started on the 1 litre still, it leaked, so affected the ABV of what I produced. A chap near the café eventually took it to a silversmith to get it soldered, then after that it was just a case of experimenting with the flavours. From the litre we used to produce almost three 20cl bottles. We had 2 to try with various tonics and I gave the other one to gin loving customers in the café, which are 90% workmen. To be honest, they have been given some awful potions, but the response was always the same, 'that was great Jan', I think that was in the hope that the bottles would keep coming and eventually would improve. When we found the perfect tasting gin for us, I sold the café to my son, so that we could concentrate on getting production off the ground. I still help him out occasionally and they are always interested how things are going.
How would you describe your gin in 3 words?
What's your favourite way to drink your gin?
Personally, just slimline tonic (not a strong tasting one that drowns the taste of the gin) and a slice of orange, preferably dried clementine because of its intense flavour. The orange brings out the orange notes in the gin, Evangeline benefits from a star anise because that lifts the curry flavours
Which gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
Ophir Gin is my go-to favourite, I like it with tonic and a slice of lime, but if we want to treat ourselves, we like Brockmans Gin with grapefruit rind and some blueberries
What's next for you and your distillery - any exciting plans?
Steve and I are not fans of flavoured gin (with the exception of Slingsby's Rhubarb) but I think we would have to break into that market because it's so popular. But first we would like to produce an Old Tom. The main thing is how to extend our trilogy, I think that’s one for the designer!
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