What did you do before creating Roundwood Gin & how did you get into gin?
I was previously working as a software developer for a massive company, but quickly realised that office life wasn’t for me and I needed a shake-up. I had realised several years ago, whilst working at a gastro-pub that there was much more to gin than Gordon’s and Bombay Sapphire. Our gin collection at home began to steadily grow as I discovered the amazing variety of gins available – I still have a long wish list of more to try.
On a Sunday evening whilst brainstorming business ideas with a G&T in hand, Rupert (my other half and co-founder) encouraged me to make the leap from desk to distiller, we registered the company there and then and haven’t looked back.
What’s the inspiration behind Roundwood Gin?
From a lot of market research, I’d already began to realise the sort of flavours I liked and didn’t like in gin. From the outset I knew I wanted to create a gin containing botanicals which really add something. Each botanical should have its own purpose, with no one botanical shouting too loud above the others - beautifully balanced. On my quest to keep things simple, ironically, I individually distilled around 50 botanicals one by one to learn the complexities and flavours.
Taking inspiration from the vast woodland between our home and the distillery (also how the name came about – walking daily ‘round the wood’). I discovered that elderberries, once distilled, have a really unique property that compliment juniper berries perfectly. They really lift the dry juniper and transform into a wonderful warm, berry flavour. This formed the basis of our fruity, dry gin.
What has been your favourite story so far from creating Roundwood Gin?
There’s one story that stands out… We had events planned and had arranged to launch on the May bank holiday weekend. Following a number of hold ups to the delivery date of our brand new bottles, we were promised they would be here in time. Unfortunately, the date got pushed back once again, and we were notified that the bottles would be ready on the Friday, but wouldn’t be delivered until the following week. We decided the only option was to drive out to France and collect some ourselves, to make the launch date. We sent Rupert’s brother (who had conveniently just finished his French degree) off in a car to go and pick up as many as possible to take us through the weekend.
It was to the French lorry drivers’ amusement as he joined a queue of HGVs to pick up our bottles in a car. They were even more confused when he then unloaded 80 boxes onto the tarmac, ready to fill with bottles. Miraculously all the bottles arrived back to the UK in one piece and after bottling all night, we made our launch date and were ready for the events on Saturday!
What’s Roundwood Distillery like?
The distillery is in a small brick barn, once a cowshed, which we’ve converted. It’s incredibly peaceful and has fantastic views across the fields.
Although small, we have everything here that we need. Taking pride of place is our 100l Hybrid Copper Still. It has 3 bubble plates, that help to make the gin brilliantly smooth. Also squeezed in the building are bottling/labelling benches, maceration tanks, shelves of botanicals, a bar and a large table in the centre – perfect for our group events. The bar has been built from pallet wood which delivered our first botanicals, and the large Roundwood ‘R’ mounted on the wall is made from the shipping crate that our still travelled in from Germany.
Can you tell us about the distillation process?
We use a combination of maceration and vapour infusion to get the best out of each botanical. We weigh out our precise blend and macerate overnight to extract as much flavour as possible, before gently heating the liquid up the next morning. The shape of the pot still and the bubble plates allow for as much reflux (evaporating and condensing) as possible, increasing the copper contact time, making a more refined spirit.
After carefully making cuts, the distillate is diluted from 83% ABV to a less eye-watering 40% before being rested for 7 days. This lets the flavours mingle and blend before being bottled then sealed and labelled by hand. By distilling in such small batches, only 90 bottles at once, each bottle gets proper attention, resulting in a spirit of the highest quality.
Is the distillery open to visitors?
We run gin sessions from our distillery, we are hesitant to refer to them as ‘Tours’ as visitors may get the wrong impression of our scale, it is essentially one room! In the group sessions, we begin by telling the story of Roundwood and how we came to exist. We talk about the background of gin, before explaining the details and complexities behind each stage of our product and our journey to discovering the perfect blend.
We have an interactive guide to the botanicals, a guided tasting of the gin, and a hands-on play with G&T garnishes. Of course, our bar is here too if you fancy trying Roundwood Gin in some carefully selected cocktails.
How would you describe your gin in three words?
Smooth, fruity, interesting
What makes Roundwood Gin different? Why should gin lovers get their hands on some?
Our gin is a really unique twist on a London Dry Gin. The elderberry adds the ‘berry’-flavour, two varieties of orange add a real bitter-sweetness and a touch of elderflower add a delicate lift at the end. We have even managed to convert adamant non-gin-drinkers to Roundwood!
What’s your favourite way to drink your gin?
We think Roundwood Gin is best enjoyed as a G&T with a splash of Fever-tree Indian Tonic. Our preferred garnish is a twist of orange peel to intensify those zesty flavours and a sprig of thyme. Best served accompanied by a good view.
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf?
To include all of my favourites, we’d need a very long shelf. But to select just a few, in no particular order – Conker Dorset Dry Gin, Silent Pool, Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin and Cotswold Dry Gin. I’ve ticked off quite a few but aim to try a new gin every week, all in the name of market research, right?
What’s next for Roundwood Distillery?
I’m not too good at sitting still, so we’ve got plenty of interesting ideas up our sleeve – watch this space… But, in the meantime we will soon be expanding our small team, ramping up sales and hitting the road to spread the word.
The Gin Guide's review and tasting notes for Roundwood Gin