What did you do before creating your distillery and Willow Tree Gin?
The starting point for The Willow Tree Distilling Company stems from the time I spent in Detroit as an adventurous twenty-something. My love of travel and adventure took me to the United States for 5 years where the American dream and entrepreneurial spirit rubbed off on me and sowed the seed of creating my own product and operating a sustainable and socially responsible business.
As a mother of three I have had a varied career that had to fit around a busy family life, mostly in accountancy and finance. My last job, working at Waitrose for 4 years in a variety of customer facing roles culminating in Assistant Section Manager exposed me to new and innovative products and inspired me to bring my own ideas to life.
What made you decide to create your distillery, and what's the inspiration behind your gin?
My passion for experimentation with food and drink traces back to my parents living and working in Nigeria. My father was a teacher and my mother was in charge of a district hospital working as a doctor. My father was a keen cook and loved, in particular, creating recipes using unusual herbs and spices.
Following in my father's footsteps, with a particular passion for African and Asian flavours, this joy in utilising exotic ingredients has been the guiding force in developing my unique gin.
Can you tell us more about the distillery and botanicals?
After completing a course in distilling and achieving the required licences I researched the best equipment suitable for small batch production and decided on the Dutch iStill. Once this was purchased the flavour experimentation began! At this point and despite the already considerable effort expended, it was realised that the journey had only just begun as it took another year of research into flavour combinations before I was satisfied that I had created a truly unique gin.
There are a number of factors in the recipe that sets Willow Tree Gin apart including the particular herb and spice blend and the smoking process using carefully selected wood on the farm to impart a smooth richness to the gin.
Can you tell us more about your sustainable and environmentally-friendly processes?
It was extremely important to me that the process for manufacturing my gin was sustainable and environmentally conscious. To reduce impact on resources the water used in the distilling process is recycled in a closed loop twin condenser and the botanicals that give the gin its unique flavour are composted afterwards and used to fertilise and grow fresh herbs. Sold in classically beautiful glass bottles, the packaging uses as little plastic as possible.
Willow Tree Distillery is now also working closely in collaboration with the Forest of Marston Vale - donating 50p for every full-size bottle of Willow Tree Gin sold to ensure new trees are planted for future generations to enjoy.
How would you describe Willow Tree Gin in 3 words?
Rich, Smooth, Flavourful
What's your favourite way to drink your gin?
Neat over ice as an aperitif or with a premium Indian tonic water and ice garnished with a lightly bruised Kaffir lime leaf and slice of lemon in a ratio of 3:1 tonic to gin.
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
With my family’s Irish heritage I am very fond of Beara Ocean Gin and closer to home Cotswold Gin
What's next for Willow Tree Distillery - any exciting plans?
The next stage for the Willow Tree Distillery is to expand our premises in 2020 and begin introducing tours and experience days.