Named for the purported Goddess of Gin, Daffy’s Gin launched at the tail end of 2014 and quickly went on to secure nationwide distribution via upmarket supermarket chain Waitrose. With slick packaging supporting a strong product, the gin has since grown quickly, leaving owners Chris Molyneaux and his wife Mignonne Khazaka fighting to keep up with demand.
The Edinburgh based duo began work on Daffy’s Gin in 2012, aiming to create a spirit discernible from others – one that could be recognised in much the same way as whiskies are. The process involved sipping variations a day (tough life but someone has to do we suppose…), building up a portfolio of tasting notes with potential tweaks for each until, three years later, there was a stack of 400.
Chris knew that he was interested in alcohol production from a very early age. At 17, the ambitious young man wanted his own drinks company so, from his home in Northern Ireland, he wrote off to 200 French vineyards to ask if any would allow him on an as apprentice. Much to his surprise, Peter Sichel of Chateau Palmer said yes, bringing him on for grunt work and allowing him to make his way up the chain, from tending to vines, to producing, blending and tasting the wines.
An interest in distilling brandy and grappa saw Chris take a trip to Scotland to visit distilleries. Whilst there, he met and fell in love with Mignonne, which made a permanent move to Edinburgh necessary. Understanding that a knowledge of how businesses work was pertinent to actually running one, Chris began studying for a business degree at The University of Edinburgh, eventually qualifying as a Chartered Accountant.
He eventually went on to work across the world, learning about the distillation processes behind gin, rum, whisky, brandy and various Asian spirits. The gin eureka moment came when he realised that there wasn’t a London Dry Gin on the market that, in his opinion, was so well made and well balanced that it could be enjoyed neat on ice. This perceived gap in the market was enough to plant the seed in Chris’ mind and four years later Daffy’s Gin was set for launch.
Before we go onto explain how the gin is made, we’ll go back to the stack of 400. 400 potential Daffy’s. This was a huge number to whittle down, but the eventual recipe was selected because it had the smoothness and underlying complexity yearned for at the very outset.
The most notable botanical is Lebanese mint, donated by Mignonne’s father, who grows it at his home in the Bequaa Valley. The mint is a salad mint, which brings slightly warmer notes than one would expect from say, spearmint or more pungent varieties. This gave Daffy’s Gin an edge, allowing it to stand out without straying too far from a traditional gin profile.
The other botanicals forming the line up are angelica from Belgium, cassia from Malaysia, orris from Morocco, juniper and coriander from the Balkans and orange and lemon peel from Spain. According to Chris, the most important part of the process is the sourcing and ageing of botanicals – each are allowed to reach their perfect maturation and humidity before being steeped in a neutral grain spirit from Northern France for four days. This process allows the oils and flavour from each botanical to properly saturate the alcohol.
Once the maceration process is over, the spirit is added to Jenny, a 10,000 litre capacity still based at Alcohols, near Birmingham. Although more typically used as a third party production site – Chris is the distiller of his gin, overseeing the entire process and watching the product like a hawk for the nine hour run. The hearts cut is then sent up to Daffy’s HQ in Edinburgh, where it is blended with demineralised Scottish water to the very specific bottling strength of 43.4%.
This bottling strength is of great importance to Daffy’s Gin – this helps the gin to maintain as much body as possible without adding overwhelming heft to some botanicals or diluting others too much. Each run produces 2500 bottles – a vast number that has allowed the brand to grow at breakneck speed. In their first year they made 30,000 70cl bottles, this year they’re aiming for 70,000. For those wondering – the still can make well over 15,000 bottles per run if fully loaded, so fear not, there is plenty of room for the brand to grow before there are any supply issues…
Daffy’s Gin to taste…
To nose, fresh citrus comes to the fore, with bright orange and lemon notes each leaping out in turn. The mint comes through but is never overwhelming, giving extra lift to the juniper and creating an overall sensation of a cool, green forest in the middle of summer. Cassia nips ever so slightly at the nostrils, bringing with it an earthy feel, but the rest of the botanicals have a patient air, each well balanced and biding their time.
To taste, a sweet, though zesty citrus bursts forth, and the roots (angelica and orris) fill the cheeks. The citrus quells rapidly allowing coriander bringing its distinct warming lemony tone. Through out – Mint and juniper are co-conspirators again, never straying too far from one another and leading to an overall crisp, juniper forward feel. While the cassia bark isn’t obvious in the mix, it clearly helps prolong a lovely finish and is more discernible towards the end of the journey. The end is smooth, too – Chris has really met his aims here, creating a spirit that is very much gin, but quite distinct in its own rights.
If you are feeling adventurous, we’d suggest to go a bit rogue with a G&T garnish and opt for something like a slice of fresh pineapple. The sweetness and acidic nature of the fruit would pair well with the sweeter citrus tones, although a handful of fresh herbs, something like sage, would bring a really nice, savoury tone.
Daffy’s themselves recommend lime and fresh mint to garnish – a decent serve, for sure, and one that would take it down a very distinctive path. In terms of cocktails, while it was almost certainly hold its own in a Martini, we’d like to try it in something like a Gin Rickey, where the underlying tones of the mint would turbo charge the cooling effect of the drink.
The name Daffy, incidentally, was a Dickensian term frequently associated with gin (and often mistaken for it), named after a medicine for children that was commonly mixed with the spirit. Daffy’s elixir and the blurred lines between it and gin is outlined in the Charles Dickens book, Oliver Twist: ‘Why, it’s what I’m obliged to keep a little of in the house, to put into the blessed infants’ Daffy, when they ain’t well, Mr. Bumble,(the Parish Beadle)’ replied Mrs. Mann as she opened a corner cupboard, and took down a bottle and glass. ‘It’s gin. I’ll not deceive you, Mr. B. It’s gin.’
The story – that of a gin Goddess – is a great one, though, and demonstrates the sheer effort that has gone into the branding of this product. The icon behind the gin – that of Daffy herself – was drawn by acclaimed artist Robert McGinnis, who is perhaps best known for his James Bond film posters throughout the 60s and 70s.
Taking inspiration from his 17-year-old self, Chris once more took on that if you don’t ask, you don’t get philosophy and got in touch with McGinnis, asking him to collaborate on designing the logo. He agreed, requesting that Mignonne fly to New York so that he could base the illustration on her.
The overall look is one of great quality – Daffy, with her bright green eyeshadow and Debbie Harry cheekbones, stares out at you from the bottle. The Italian glass has a hint of green about it and a small, neat strip of images etched onto the side demonstrate the botanicals within.
A small paper label attached by thin gold thread carries the recipe for five suggested serves – straight over ice, a Gin and Tonic, a Martini, a Sidecar and a French 75. This is a nice detail, adding to the notion that each element of the product has been very well considered.
Shortly after its launch in December 2014, Daffy’s Gin took home a Gold IWSC medal. This is something Chris cites as the most unexpected event in the brand’s journey so far, saying “we always 100% believed in what we were doing but when other credible bodies tell you so, it is very special.”
An IWSC award and a contract with Waitrose aren’t the only pieces of evidence that Daffy’s Gin is being taken very seriously indeed. The brand has also partnered with Manor Racing team to produce a limited edition gin – Daffy’s Manor Racing. The 1,000 batch edition was launched at the Monaco Grand Prix and served at events hosted by the British Formula 1 team.
The gin is very similar to Daffy’s regular edition, but with the addition of fresh lime from Southern Spain. This added citrus is particularly dominant on the nose and the aroma is peculiarly sweet, too, as though a sticky, hard boiled lemon sweet had been dropped in a bag of turmeric.
Sweet roots greet the tongue here, with the citruses – hugely amplified and lime-leaning by the new addition – following rapidly and boom on the palate. The mint feels a touch more boisterous compared to the original while the is juniper initially dominated by the citrus. The cassia seems to have also gained a new strength towards the end too. Those all important berries are still there, though, and come through particularly strong on the finish helping to anchor the gin.
Notably, the ABV is at 43.2% here, a minutiae lower than the regular edition and a demonstration of the detail orientated nature of its distiller. That 0.2% is intentional, and clearly – in Chris‘ opinion – the best strength to showcase the new botanical lineup.
While we didn’t find it as balanced as the original Daffy’s Gin, the more singular lime heavy profile makes it great when you have a particular idea in mind for a cocktail and for those who like Tanqueray Rangpur, this is worth a try. We enjoyed it with a star anise as a garnish in a G&T.
With distribution across the UK secured and exportation to Belgium, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Cyrpus and Dubai already taking place, Daffy’s Gin has made striking progress in short time. The next step is distribution in Asia and America – currently Daffy’s have only been reaching out to markets that they have the capacity to manage production wise, but they’re now in a position to scale up.
That this will work out for them, we’ve no doubt. The gin is great, with the mint striking enough to make it stand out in American markets, but subtle enough that it remains, first and foremost, a great interpretation of classic gin. Plus, as things seem to have a way of working out for Chris and Mignonne too – if there is a Gin Goddess, she’s looking after this brand very well.
For more information about Daffy’s, visit their website: www.daffysgin.com
Say hello on Social Media!
Copyright © Gin Foundry