Felix Elliott-Berry – Sibling Gin
What is so interesting about the Sibling Gin story is not that it’s makers, Felix, Cicely, Clarice and Digby Elliot-Berry began their distillery so young (all four are under the age of 25), but that all four siblings are able to work together all day long – surrounded by explosive substances, we might add – without falling out. We caught up with the eldest of the quartet, Felix, to get the facts on the distillery’s plans for the coming year.
Your story is a pretty unique one – for the uninitiated, could you tell us how four young people ended up running their own distillery?
Growing up we were surrounded by the industry; our parents ran a micro brewery together, so from a very young age we were working with them and helping them as well as being exposed to the highs and lows of running an alcohol business. Working with my siblings made sense as we’ve all had the same upbringing so we think along the same lines, but conversely have varying experience outside of the industry so each can bring something different to the table. We wanted to start the business whilst we were still young because it meant we could do it with less pressure on our shoulders, none of us have kids yet so can dedicate a lot of time to getting the brand off the ground and grow it at a rate that was manageable to us without having to adopt an aggressive sales strategy to pay for mortgages!
You make your own base alcohol from scratch, which is rare for a gin company. Why did you choose that path?
We grew up watching our parents making amazing craft ales from scratch, so for us to cut out half of the gin making process wasn’t something that even crossed our minds really. We didn’t want to rely on another company to do a really important part of the process for us, so bit the bullet to go it alone and handle it all ourselves. Since the idea first came about and we toyed with loads of ways of making a base alcohol we’ve understood what a difference it makes to the final taste of the gin, so although it creates us a lot more work than if we were to just buy a basic grain spirit, it’s a decision that we’ve never regretted making.
It must add a lot more work/cost on to the production process? Is it also more fun though?
To be honest, if there was an easier way to get the quality that we aim for, we would take it! There isn’t though, the easier options are lower quality ones so we are bound to doing it the hard way! We do get a lot of satisfaction out of knowing that we do everything we can to guarantee the quality of the gin though, so in a sense it does make the process more fun. It’s definitely not the most cost effective way of doing it, but that doesn’t really come into consideration – the end liquid is the number one priority.
We find that Sibling Gin is vanilla heavy with a rich blueberry undertone. How do you think it’s best served?
Personally, I like it in a basic G&T with no garnish, but I make the stuff so I’m probably more interested in the details more than most! I think served with a nice tonic, Fever-Tree Mediterranean or Naturally Light are both good, with a small slice of fresh orange or lemon, or orange peel if you prefer a more bitter flavour are probably the most popular. If you’re not a huge citrus fan, then sliced blueberries speared on a cocktail stick is a bit of a more fancy option.
You’ve secured some new premises. How are plans for the move coming along?
Exciting! Unfortunately it’s happening at the busiest time of year for us, but it will be great to start the New Year in a new premises. The last year has been a bit of a struggle space wise, and we’ve had to turn quite a lot of business down due to our lack of capacity, but with the new premises we are going to be in a much stronger position stock-wise. As well as the increased capacity, the site that we are moving onto is going to end up being really cool – we can’t say too much, but watch this space! Add to that the ability for us to run tours and events and so on at our new facility and 2017 looks hugely positive.
Do you plan to create and Sibling Gin variants? We can see the vanilla getting on very well with the vanillins from a cask…
We made our first variant available online on Black Friday actually, which is a Cranberry and Clementine Winter Edition gin. It’s bottled at 42% (as is our flagship gin) but has a great warm fruity flavour to it. Amazing with ginger ale or cloudy lemonade to brighten up a dull winter evening so keep an eye out for that! To be honest though it’s been a struggle to develop any variants over the last couple of years due to the demand for our original gin, but with the extra capacity we will gain from the move they are going to very much be on the agenda for the new year.
The distillery obviously takes up a lot of your time. Has it always felt worth it?
It has its moments, but even on the worst days I’m proud of what we’ve achieved and proud that we are bringing new drinkers to the gin market every week. We are so involved in the running of it that we don’t often get a chance to reflect, but hopefully on Christmas day this year we will be able to toast another successful year and look forward to the most exciting chapter of the Sibling story yet!
What do wish you knew when you started that you know know?
Get early nights when you can!
What’s the big milestone for Sibling Gin fans to look forward to in 2017?
The launch of some new members of the family for sure, and the ability to actually come and visit us!
From one family company to another – do you walk away from it or is a constant presence even outside the distillery?
I can’t remember the last conversation I had with my family that wasn’t distilling schedule focussed! Actually that’s not strictly true, we do actually talk about other things from time to time, but it is pretty all-encompassing!
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