Brogan Carr – Brogan’s Way
With the winter season kicking in across Australia and distillery tours and indoor activities growing rapidly as a result… we caught up with Brogan Carr, the namesake distiller behind father-daughter made gin Brogan’s Way. Read all about how one dinner changed the course of their lives…
What were you and Simon doing before opening up a distillery together?
I was working in a hospital laboratory as an intern as part of final qualification as a Medical Laboratory Scientest when my father decided to quit a successful thirty plus year career in the automotive industry and do something he had always dreamt about; setting up as a small liquor producer, it was good timing for me as I no longer wanted to pursue a career as a Medical Scientist and this was an opportunity to keep doing something with a scientific basis but far more creative which is where my passions lie.
Legend has it the decision to take the plunge was made over dinner – was it really that simple, a pure let’s just do this kind of a moment?
As far back as I can remember Dad had always talked about doing his own thing and starting a business to make drinks that people would really enjoy, but it never seemed to get further than talk. I am not sure exactly why it happened the way it did. There was no real big moment or special family event, we were just sitting around the dinner table after the meal getting ready to clear away the dishes and somehow the conversation drifted and we each started talking about our dream jobs/careers when Dad literally blurted out something like “Ok, that is it. I am going to do it, I not talking about it anymore, I want to make gin”.
I immediately thought it would also be a great thing to do to and before I knew it we started working together to make it happen. There wasn’t really a discussion about should we work together, there was just this unspoken understanding from the outset that we were going to make it happen together.
You trained at Heriot Watt and wrote your paper on Australian botanicals and launching an new gin- did you know at the time that it was where you were heading to or was that what triggered the conversation at dinner?
My original ambition as a Medical Scientist was to work in research and further my academic qualifications so there has always been a desire to further my scientific learning but there were other factors. We wanted to do things “properly” and my father thought it was important that he refreshed his scientific qualifications, he graduated as an Industrial Chemist but hadn’t worked in the field in over thirty years. So he started doing the IBD Qualification in Distilling and that sparked me to look into other formal qualifications and the reputation of the MSc programme in Brewing & distilling at Herriot Watt was very attractive. I applied and was lucky enough to be accepted.
It wasn’t long after starting the studies that I had the idea to do all my project work on the use of Australian botanicals in gin distilling, it was a great fit then. I have also become fascinated by the science of barrel ageing but that may be something I will come back to at another time.
What was it like converting an old mechanics chop-shop into an urban, fully compliant craft distillery?
We worked out pretty quickly that it was probably better that I was putting my energy into the recipe development and creating the gins, Dad loves playing with the still and making stuff, but how do I say this kindly, he is as a heavy handed with distilling flavours as he is with his serves of gin, so he was the one who really drove the project of converting the dirty old workshop into a distillery and cocktail bar. He spent days, weeks and months going backwards and forwards with, local councils, town planners, building surveyors, fire brigades, water authorities, hazard assessment engineers, ventilation engineers, noise engineers, waste treat firms, the tax office, liquor licensing authorities and not to mention the banks and lawyers.
It seemed to me that every time we solved an issue it would reveal two more that needed addressing, so it was a real emotional roller coaster. But we couldn’t be happier with the result.
The beginning is all nerves, excitement and hard work – a real roller-coaster. What was your favourite moment of the first few weeks distilling on the new stills in the new space?
I still get nervous, but it is different now, it is all about building the brand & the business and I am not so comfortable when I have to speak to groups or do talks and interviews. But you are right, so many ups and downs along the way, all great experiences though. The biggest not so good moment was not getting our hazard assessment sign off, we were knocked back for not having something that had previously been deemed as not required and then running into long delays to commission of the new Still as we worked how to resolve it. The good moments, that is an easy one. Every time I see someone smile after their first sip of one my gins, not only when I see it happen today, but the whole way along the three years of recipe development, we did so many trial and tasting panels. I get a kick out of it.
What do you think makes Brogan’s Way stand out in today’s crowded market?
There are a lot of great distillers, great gins and more coming all the time. We knew we had to have something of our own at the heart of what we do. For us it is who we are and how we do things. A daughter and father team who have a scientific approach to what they do, but the younger member of the partnership is creating the products, innovating and setting the path new products. And if I dare to say it myself, it is a young female distiller doing it her way in what has previously been considered a traditional male profession.
How important is the bar to the distillery’s operations and was a front of house always what you had envisaged, or as a response to your Richmond location?
We did a lot of research and visited many distilleries in Australia & around the world, so we learnt very quickly that a Distillery/Cellar Door was essential for a successful distillery. But the interpretation of idea changed for us once we secured our inner city venue. It shifted beyond being a cellar door tasting and sales outlet to be also be a cocktail bar, function centre and tourist attraction, the location just gave us the potential to do these things.
How often do you run tours now and do you enjoy that part of the distiller’s job?
What’s the big milestone for Brogan’s Way in 2019?
Launch the next gin later mid year, prepare for our next seasonal release gin for later in the year, enter a few competitions to learn more about how are gins are perceived in the gin world and develop my interpretation of Akvavit – an Australian gin distiller’s take on a nordic spirit by adding some southern botanicals into the mix, a north meets south inspiration. That should keep me busy.
Lastly, G&T time – which is the favourite of your babies and how are you serving it?
I love all of my children the same. Yeah right………. my go to G&T is my Royal Blood Gin with a fantastic local Australian tonic water produced by Srangelove. I am particular about the making of it though – Brogan’s Way is 30mL Royal Blood Gin into a collins glass, then measure out exactly 90mL of cold Strangelove Dirty Tonic and carefully pour it into the glass. Now gently fill the glass with clear half size ice cubes and garnish with a fan of apple slices. Sip and enjoy.
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