Craig Allison – Bullards Gin
Just a couple of years on from their launch, Norwich-based Bullards Spirits has had a complete rebrand, casting their gins into bottles fit for a gallery. It’s the kind of branding work has caused many, including us, to sit up and take notice. We thought it was high time we had a catch up with co-founder Craig Allison to see what prompted the new look.
Three glorious new bottles now make up the Bullards Range – what prompted the redesign and how long did the process take?
The redesign was prompted by upscaling due to demand. We moved site, invested in a brand new 600L still and increased production – we wanted to grow organically and so the brand has evolved with growth. The redesign from start to finish took about 12 months.
It’s not a surprise to hear that, actually – there are so many small details in the design. What was the key component that you were looking to capture in the new identity?
As Bullards is a heritage brand Established in 1837, all the small details in the new design – like the tipsy anchor on the cap and base of the bottle, the embossing detail and the long neck (inspired by the Iconic Bullards Chimney tower) – all capture the heritage look and feel of the vintage Bullards bottles and story.
There are three quite distinct colours in there too. That blue is beguiling. Was that part of the plan or just something that was developed during the process?
Yes, the three colours again link back to the heritage story. The Turquoise of the London Dry was inspired by one of the many vintage Bullards bottles, the Old Tom smoky colour was inspired by the iconic Bullards Chimney that towered over the city of Norwich for over 100 years and the Strawberry and Black Pepper just lets the gin do the talking!
Let’s talk tonka for a second! We love it, but most people have no idea what it is or what it tastes like. Can you give our readers a little introduction to this most mystical of botanicals?
Yes, The Tonka, This little gem originates from Central and South America. It’s a species flowering tree in the pea family (fabaceaa family to be precise). It is sweet to smell on the nose with hints of vanilla, marzipan, battenburg and almonds. To taste it has raw subtle notes of vanilla, but an overriding bitterness comes through when translated through distillation. The tonka gives our gin a very smooth, creamy mouthfeel. Interestingly, due to the high content of Coumarin, it is in fact illegal in the US and has been since the 1950’s!
Old Tom is the latest to join the line up, why did you pick that style as the next gin for the range?
Our distiller, Rory Smith, came up with that. He is a real drinks innovator. Frequently after work he’s found behind the distillery bar experimenting and mixing up cocktails. We love it as he puts so many twists on cocktails using our gin that keeps things fresh for our customers. He loves the classic Old Tom style because it’s so diverse and works with so many different cocktails, and he also saw that there was a resurgence of the style and wanted to be a part of it
There sure is – it wasn’t too long ago that there were none, and then two, and then… dozens. In terms of flavour direction for the Old Tom, what was the objective for it and how does it differ from the London Dry?
Rory wanted to add his own twist on the classic – it was never going to be a case of just adding sugar to our London Dry, the new Old Tom had to have its own identity. We own our own beehive so it had to incorporate Honey! Adding the fresh Mango provided soft subtle flavours to continue with the sweetness – demerara sugar was used as it has a more complex flavour profile than bleached sugar plus it adds a lovely caramel tone to the gin.
Mango in the Old Tom, a touch of dried banana being used in the Strawberry & black pepper- is there a tropical theme going on over there?
Haha! Yes, absolutely – the distillers even distill in Bermuda shorts and Hawaiian shirts!
So, re-brand done, new product added. What’s next for Bullards?
It’s all about our new site at Crystal House – we’ve taken on this beautiful double glass fronted building which is iconic to Norwich and located in the city centre. Our New still is up and running and next we will open up our tasting bar and retail area – phase 3 will see a restaurant open on the second floor. The Bullards Anchor Distillery will become a city tourist attraction telling the story of the Bullards Brand and running daily tours and tasting master classes
Wow – that sounds above and beyond. You’re obviously doing pretty well for yourselves if you have the funds, the energy and the momentum to do all of that. If you were to give any advice to those following in your wake, what would it be?
You are absolutely right, the past 12 months have been full of R&D – any advice to a younger brand would be unless you have big investment behind you from the start don’t be afraid to take baby steps, don’t fear growing organically this makes you real, your consumers then get to grow with you and are almost on the journey with you – its a way of connecting and engaging and we believe helps grow customer loyalty and trust.
Lastly – Time to pick a favourite child… You have the time for one G&T and one only. Which gin, which garnish?
Bullards London Dry with naturally light tonic and an orange twist – my go to at the end of the week!
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