Antonio Cuco, Sharish Gin
When Sharish bought its colour changing gin to Junipalooza this year it was a genuine hit, prompting squeals of delight from even the most serious of gin drinkers as they watched tonic transform their drinks from blue to pink. The gin flew from our shelves quick as a flash and has since enjoyed a growing following in the UK. We thought we’d catch up with founder and distiller Antonio Cuco to see how he’s dealing with all the attention.
For those just discovering Sharish – how long have you been established and where did it all start?
We launched Sharish Gin Original on the 24th April 2014 and Sharish Blue Magic Gin on the 28th April 2015. It all started at lunch with friends in my family restaurant. My friends wanted to have a new gin (we had 50 varieties behind the bar) and I said that I didn’t have any new ones. He said it would be nice for the restaurant to have an exclusive gin and I said, jokingly, that I would make one. At the time I’d never even seen a still working!
How many are there in the team and who does what?
We are currently have six people working on production. I’m in charge of distilling and blending, plus marketing and social media. Carlos is in maintenance and preparation of infusions, my uncle António José does bottling, my mother in law, Lurdes, cleans and prepares the labels and my brother and sister in law, Filipe and Sara, do labelling and packaging. My wife Patricia, in the moments she’s free from her flower shop, does stock keeping and general management.
That’s a family focused team! You seem to have grown enormously over 2016, what’s it been like for you on a personal level?
We still are shocked at the growth. The main change was the the number of hours we spent working and the amount of voyages and meetings. I don’t get to spend as much time with my family, but I’m fortunate to live 10 meters away from the distillery.
Before we ask more about your colour changing gin – tell us a little about the flagship Sharish Original. What are the key botanicals?
Our flagship gin is Sharish Gin Original; it’s a very easy gin to drink and like. The key botanical is a very specific variety of apple, the ‘Bravo de Esmolfe.‘ It’s only exists in Portugal and is very sweet and aromatic. We grind the fresh apples and infuse them for a minimum period of 30 days. We always use the most fresh ingredients possible. In the seven distilled ingredients of Sharish Gin we use four fresh: apple, plus locally sourced orange peel, lemon peel and lemon verbena. The remaining three – juniper, cloves and coriander seed are bought dried. We distill each of these botanicals separately following a 30 day infusion in 15 litre buckets, then we make a blend and infuse cinnamon and vanilla from Madagascar for two hours.
How long did it take you to perfect the recipe until you were happy with it?
The recipe took a week to perfect because I was lucky… My friends loved it at the first try and I only needed to increase the juniper and reduce the orange peel. We use the same recipe today.
With Sharish Blue Magic Gin you have an unusual product to say the least… Why is it blue?
Sharish Blue Magic Gin gets its blue colour from a flower called clitoria ternatea, which we infuse after blending. The colour changing magic comes because this flower reacts with citric acid, so when you make a Gin and Tonic the citric acid of the tonic water will make the colour transform from blue to pink.
How did you come across the plant?
I visited a friend who has more than 200 varieties of citrics while I was looking for new citric flavour. He had this plant in is backyard and gave me some dried flowers to try.
Do you feel like Gin in Portugal is ahead of or still catching up to Spain? The volume might not be there, but there’s a strong interest in craft that’s more noticeable compared to the Spanish market.
I would say that Spain has more consumption and volume, but that the portuguese know more about gin than the Spanish. The portuguese market is very interested in Craft Gin and Spain is more mass market.
What are your plans for the UK in 2017?
The Uk is a very important market for us because we have lots of fans that tried Sharish when on holiday in Portugal. We now have a distributor and with strong steps we will have our place in the market. The most important thing for us is that people enjoy our gins!
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