On the 18th December 2003, Duncan Goose, fresh from a trip motor biking around the world, sat down at his table and opened up The Guardian. The news, as it ever seems to be, was full of death and war. He flicked through the pages as idly as one does, not blinking until he landed at page 18. There lay Marco Longari’s now famous photograph of a young girl sat next to a padlocked tap in Nairobi.
The image hit Goose like a bolt of electricity and he knew, at that moment in time, that he had to do something. He’d been a marketer for years, so, with brand building knowledge to hand, he established One Difference, an ethical drinks brand with an aim to bring safe drinking water to the 663 million people in the world still without. Since its launch, The One Brand has raised over £15m towards sustainable water projects, and has set itself the admirable target of reaching £20m by 2020.
In August 2016, the charity started looking into other drinks that would support the cause and very quickly decided to enter the spirits market. Ian Spooner, Managing Director of The Spirit of One, explains the lean towards booze, and gin in particular: “With the growth in Gin and our close relationship with World Duty Free, it was a natural first step. Every bottle of One Gin, just like our water and soft drinks, helps to fund life-changing water projects in the world’s poorest communities.”
As soon as the One Gin concept was born, it ran. The brand already had an 11-year-strong relationship with World Duty Free, so with a guaranteed route to market they stepped on the gas, working with the airport distributor to arrange a launch date of the 22nd March 2017 – World Water Day.
With no real knowledge of the spirits industry before embarking on this project, the team had a task on their hands, not just to create the gin, but to build a product that would both fit in and stand out in today’s market. They met up with an old contact, Kate O’Neil from Liquor Lips, who led them to the Blackdown Distillery in Sussex.
Something about the distillery and its Head Distiller Sarah Thompson clicked right away. Spooner and the One team knew at once that she’d be able to help them, as she had an understanding of the charity and its aims that would translate into every drop of gin she made.
Together, they developed a concept. Spooner explains: “In creating One Gin, we wanted to reflect the story of One, by uniting something small but significant sourced from the UK with a global story. We took botanicals from around the world and added one signature botanical from home to create a unique and quintessentially British gin.”
The signature botanical in question is sage, which is picked from the distillery grounds. The other botanicals used are angelica, cassia, coriander, juniper, lemon & orange peel, liquorice, nutmeg and orris. The ten ingredients are added into the alembic copper pot still together, with the botanicals added over time according to how long they need to soak. Separate to this, the sage is distilled separately in a Grainfather still. The resulting distillate is intense and concentrated, and when it is added to the gin mix it dominates. Once the two spirits have been blended together, they’re cut down to 43% with water and charcoal filtered seven times.
One Gin to taste…
A bright streak of herbal green sage dashes across the nose, quick and bold, like a streaker at a victorious home team game. Bright, burning citrus peels follow swiftly behind, supported by a spice cupboard dustiness that brings an earthy depth. It’s as though a classically styled gin has a starring role in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers – everything points towards gin, but there’s a vague hint of something… different.
That – the taste quickly tells you – is the amped up, supercharged, boisterous sage, which rules the tongue with the tenacity of an evil emperor, bathing the mouth in a so-thick-its-almost-soapy, green, bushy taste. Amazingly fresh and herbal, the sage paints images of countryside meadows and miniature window box gardens in the mind, while a warming cassia sneaks up behind to light a small fire in the throat. The (secondary) citrus peels take on an earthier profile here, as though the dominant sage has sucked all of the fruit out of them, leaving just the pith behind. This is as savoury and herbal as gin gets, but Juniper is present enough, though you have to hunt for it, and it sits right at the back, as though observing this new lead character with vague alarm.
With tonic, the sage still asserts itself, but the orange and lemon are given a little more chance to rise up above the din. It’s a fresh and refreshing G&T, herbal (perhaps overwhelmingly to some, although we think it’s quite divine), sweet and keen to lean in whatever direction you push it. Add a slice of lemon and the citrus will rise up, add juniper to pull that piny core in a bit tighter or add a sprig of lavender and… well, the sage might explode, actually.
A gorgeous gin with a gorgeous heart of course deserves a gorgeous bottle, and you’d be hard pushed to find one as pretty and as detailed as that for One Gin. Foiled and textured, with lines and patterns dotting their way around the label, the SAINT design is one you could look at time and again and always find something different to see. In the middle of the label lies an art deco butterfly which, Spooner explains, represents One’s global mission: “We wanted to reinforce the difference that a small change – such as your choice of gin – can make on the other side of the world. Just as chaos theory suggests that a tiny flutter of a butterfly’s wing can trigger a cyclone on the other side of the world, every bottle of One Gin funds life changing water projects in the world’s poorest communities.”
One Gin is made 2000 litres at a time and bottled in batches of 500. The initial aim for the first year is to produce 30,000 bottles, but the eventual aim is to launch additional expressions, with the +1 botanical being swapped out each time. That level of forward planning, along with the somewhat glorious bottle, make it feel very much like a brand on the accent already. The speed at which they moved out of exclusively being in Travel Retail and into 70cl bottles for the wider market goes to show it is not just them as a team who are moving fast – but that the demand for their gin has grown rapidly too.
If you’re in the market for a new add-on to your collection, then you should definitely hunt out One Gin. It’s the full package: beautiful, unique and ethical, with a minimum of 10% of its net profits going straight to The One Foundation. This gin will change lives, and who doesn’t want to be a part of that?
For more information about One Difference, visit their website: onedifference.org and for more information about One Gin visit thespiritofone.com
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