What did you do before creating your distillery and Sky Wave Gin?
Rachel was a BBC journalist and TV news anchor, and Andrew was an Army Officer in the Royal Signals.
What made you decide to create and launch a gin?
As life-long gin fans always searching for the perfect gin, we attended a Gin School purely for interest. However, we created such a fabulous recipe that even the Master Distiller was impressed, and all the other students wanted to drink our gin and not theirs! We thought that perhaps we had hit on something, and within a day had bought a still from Portugal and began researching licensing requirements. Within 6 months we had perfected our recipe and launched our first gin, and our belief in this fabulously smooth gin was confirmed when it went on to be named the World’s Best Contemporary Gin 2020 at The World Gin Awards just 18 months later.
What's the inspiration behind Sky Wave Gin?
The inspiration behind our gins is the combination of the adventures we have had in our former careers and the spirit of Oxfordshire where we are based; some of the botanicals are sourced from the faraway places we have adventured, whilst others are foraged locally to us in our beloved Oxfordshire.
Can you tell us more about the distillery and still?
Our distillery is based on a former WW2 RAF base, now the beautiful Bicester Heritage, home of historic motoring. Our main production still is a fabulous copper still, named Basca after our Master Distiller’s faithful staffie-lab cross, which was by his side throughout most of his military career. He is a 200L kettle with an onion dome and column. We don’t agree with reflux plates and sight glasses (the columns with lots of little round windows you often see on gin stills) – we believe these strip flavour, not add to it – and indeed most distilleries bypass this column when producing gin, although they won’t tell you that!
Can you tell us more about your distillation process?
For our London Dry gins, we adhere strictly to the one-shot process. Absolutely nothing is added after distillation except the Blenheim Palace Natural Mineral Water that we use to cut the gin. It truly is at the pinnacle of the craft because we have just one chance to get every batch right – there can be no tweaking or blending afterwards. What comes off our still goes directly into your bottle, and we’re very proud of this.
What will visitors be able to experience at the new distillery?
Sky Wave Gin HQ is open on Fridays and Saturdays for an intimate behind the scenes experience. Join us at our boutique distillery where your hosts will guide you through the Sky Wave story, how our award winning gins are created, culminating in a tutored gin tasting. It’s gin heaven as we include 4 complimentary G&Ts.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements so far?
Everything! It’s been such a fantastic journey from launching the business to being named 'The World’s Best Contemporary Gin 2020' a fortnight before Lockdown, and successfully crowdfunded in Autumn 2022, and overfunded, for a new bespoke bottle and supporting sales and marketing to drive us into new territories. We have loved all the experiences we’ve had, from being asked to run a Gin Bar at the Classic Car Show Weekend with just over a week's notice to being let down by cork suppliers the day before our biggest gin festival of the year. But we have met so many wonderful people. The craft gin industry really is made up of the most generous and helpful people who have been kind to us at every step of the way.
How would you describe each of your gins in 3 words?
What's your favourite way to drink your gins?
We have grown accustomed to drinking gin neat due to being involved in many international competitions, where that is the norm, and our gins are all smooth enough to be drunk this way. But other than that, Rachel’s favourite is in a very dry Martini, whereas Andy still loves a classic G&T, with a strict tonic to gin ratio of 2:1 to avoid drowning the gin.
Which gins would you always have on your gin shelf?
We adore Barney Wilczak’s work at the Capreolus Distillery, so we always have a bottle of Garden Swift to hand. Tarquin’s Gin is also fabulous, as is Salcombe Gin. Saint Aman’s Gin from France is also great and Twisting Spirits in Gloucestershire make a really interesting range.
What's next for you and Sky Wave Gin - any exciting plans?
This year we will be attending the Farmshop & Deli Show and also Imbibe. We will be launching our luxurious new upbrand with a new bottle and also launching a new innovative gin expression.
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