What did you do before creating Zeiver Gin?
JAMES: Drank other people's gins! I have had a wide variety of jobs/businesses but none that I've been so passionate about and focused on than Zeiver. I used to run bars many years ago, so I learned a great deal about the drinks trade and was used to serving Gin & Tonics. I do miss that job and now I can do it again but with my own gin.
CLAYTON: Before Zeiver, I’ve been a retail clerk, restaurant host, autobody tech, and a mortgage transaction coordinator. There were times I worked as a telemarketer, food delivery driver, mover, and I sold donuts from a donut stand. I’ve cleaned construction sites, remodelled kitchens and worked in finance for an international non-profit that combats sex trafficking. I’ve taught English to children and adults overseas. You name it I’ve probably done it!
What made you decide to create Zeiver?
CLAYTON: It all started with a G&T. Feeling overworked and under-appreciated and wanting to commiserate about our jobs. James says to me "Let's grab a G&T this Friday." I said, "I love a G&T, it's my favourite." That Friday, over drinks, we talked about the future and our desires to do something more with our lives. We spoke of our love of gin and how it was widely underrated in our area. Finally, we said "What if we created our own gin, and brought it to the world so everyone could love it as much as we do?!" A week later, Zeiver was born.
What's the inspiration behind Zeiver?
JAMES: We are both passionate gin drinkers and have been for many years. We had tasted many different gins from around the world, met distillers, mixologists and bar customers, and wanted to pour our experience and vision into our own gin - a gin that was truly unique. We drew inspiration from many countries and companies and have very high respect for many gins. We drew on some classic English gins, special Japanese gins, as well as others from around the globe. Our experiences in Japan have been the inspiration for our smooth custom-made base.
What is the meaning behind the Zeiver name?
JAMES: Zuiver (Zay-ver) in Dutch means pure. We wanted a pure drink, no chemicals, no added sugar, and no added oils. We wanted a clear, non-coloured, non-cloudy gin and wanted to be pure and truthful in all we do. It represents our business ethic and how we honestly describe our product. We changed the ‘u’ to an ‘e’ [ZEIVER] because having an ‘e’ on both sides gave it balance.
Can you tell us more about the distillery?
JAMES: The term 'gentleman and scholar' is used a lot. Dr John Walters of English Spirit Master Distillers, who distills our Zeiver Gin is literally that, a gentleman and a scholar. John is an Oxford grad Ph.D. biochemist and we consulted with him after we made our Zeiver prototypes. We were so impressed with him that we flew over to meet him in person and the rest is history.
Can you tell us more about the distillation process?
CLAYTON: We make everything in one of a kind 200-litre copper stills. It takes a week to turn our polished rice into a neutral grain spirit. From there, we take that neutral spirit and distill it with our unique botanicals. During this process, we extract three portions of the "hearts" and combine the ratio for the particular taste we want. These collections sit for a week, which allows the flavour profiles time to mingle before bottling.
Can you tell us more about your rice base spirit?
JAMES: Our base is custom made with Niigata prefecture polished rice. We were inspired by Japanese shochu because of its clean, ultra-smooth taste. The rice is polished to take away the harsh brown husk and give greater smoothness. The water used for the base is ultra-purified by reverse osmosis and just about the purest water you could get.
CLAYTON: We weren't sure if our gin would be taken seriously by deviating from the well-established tradition of using other grains. But, since nothing else about our gin was orthodox, we said, "It’s not about what others will think, it’s all about taste. Polished rice, it is."
Can you tell us more about the botanicals?
JAMES: We don’t use any standard botanicals, except for the all-important juniper of course. That means no cassia, no coriander, no angelica root etc. We use a completely unique blend of botanicals - some that we have never seen used before in gin, including Aloe Vera and Macadamia Nuts. Do visit our website to see the full botanical list!
What have been the biggest challenges so far?
JAMES: It’s taken about a year of study and refining to get Zeiver made, with plenty of challenges along the way. It is harder than most people think to create something from scratch. From researching and buying the right equipment to studying chemistry and the distillation process, we tasted a myriad of gins and analysed numerous botanicals to learn how everything connects. Now there's the complex logistics of international trade. It's all been a challenge but it’s been good for us as a brand and as individuals.
CLAYTON: Starting a company is like climbing the face of a cliff where you find a small foothold to plant a small seed. Working in a partnership is equally challenging. It's a humbling experience to know that not all your ideas are good ones. James and I are very strong-willed and passionate, however, we have always chosen to respect each other and each debate is an opportunity to set aside ego and reach for something bigger than either one of us. These challenges make us better, stronger, and will give us the staying power for whatever challenges lie ahead.
What have been the biggest achievements so far?
JAMES: Being a brand new company, many achievements are yet to come. But we are seeing things ignite. We were able to secure an agreement with a well respected distributor in Tokyo (an extremely competitive market), based solely on the taste of our prototype and the look of our brand. We have people in other countries already waiting for Zeiver and are encouraged too by the level of excitement expressed by mixologists and gin drinkers.
CLAYTON: Less than a year ago we had no recipe, no name, no brand, no bottle - nothing. Today, we are starting to see Zeiver take flight. It's almost intoxicating.
How would you describe Zeiver in 3 words?
JAMES: Delicious, Unique, More-ish
CLAYTON: “Bartender, another please!”
What's your favourite way to drink Zeiver?
JAMES: I like to drink gin neat, at around 8 degrees. I also like it with chilled stones or an iceball, just to loosen it up and allow more flavour to come through. I’m a huge G&T fan, so I love to drink Zeiver with a quality tonic. We've found Zeiver to be very versatile and it works well in a Mule (with ginger ale) as well as with fruit juices such as apple juice. We serve our Zeiver Martini with a cherry, and our 'Z&T' - a twist on a G&T, is with a splash of grenadine to add a touch of colour and complementary taste. We garnish our Z&T's with an apple or apricot slice. We also recommend a shaving of white truffle for something really special.
CLAYTON: G&T with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water or in a G&T with Grapefruit juice:
What gins would you always have on your gin shelf (other than your own of course!)?
JAMES: I admire so many gins - I started drinking gin many years ago and Tanqueray Gin has been my go-to. Around twenty years ago I discovered Hendrick's Gin when looking for a different kind of gin. Some favourites now include:
What's next for Zeiver?
JAMES: We have many plans but we must stay focused. We are getting some good awareness and excitement in other countries, so we are looking to expand our international presence. We’re looking forward to some gin shows in 2020 in both Asia and the UK. We plan to enter the US by late fall of 2020 as we have some strong contacts there. We have plans for a Sublime Zeiver range which will showcase an even rarer and more exclusive list of botanicals from around the world. It will be a limited run of about 700 bottles made from crystal.
CLAYTON: We plan to be on 3 continents by the end of 2020. Until then, it’s just doing our absolute best, one day at a time. The best way to ensure a good tomorrow is to have a good today.