Filipe Sousa – Faith & Sons Gin
Thinking back to what it was like when you first began, as a new distiller and brand owner – what’s the scariest part of starting up?
Being a foreigner, the lack of network was the scariest part, the devil himself. We must not forget as well – many of the other brands similar to mine and who started at the same time, did so with greater financial capacity and network. I´ve always relied on my passion and my thirst of knowledge. Dr. Klaus Hagmann with a Phd in distillation for over 40 years, was the person responsible for my training.
And what triggered you to take the plunge and start distilling?
It started in 2012 while I was living in Portugal. I was the owner of a bar based in Cais do Sodré and at that time I was looking to have my own brand of spirits but outsourcing production rather than doing it all myself. As soon I arrived in England in August 2013, I noticed Tarquin´s (as mentioned already). Seeing the simplicity of his setup and the ethos was extremely motivating. The seed was planted.
It was such a small set up back then, we can imagine how that would inspire others to follow suit. We always look towards others both in the industry and beyond too for inspiration – who’s another distiller you admire and why?
I feel attracted by people’s work. Christoph Keller with the use of fresh and seasonal botanicals for example, with his “keep it real” attitude. The project you’ve run together with Warner’s is another good example, or Hepple. Being passionately devoted makes a difference, and people notice that.
And fast forward to today, you’ve got a lot of variants happening under one roof. What’s it like managing all those elements and making sure there’s enough of everything, keeping stock levels etc.?
By nature I´m an extremely organised person, and my background as a bar owner and bartender allowed me to understand about stock / orders management. With a 500 sqf distillery (with WC’s included, ahahah), organisation is king.
It all started with Faith & Sons, but you’ve since added a few Gin based Liqueurs. What’s been the trickiest expression to work on and get the balance right?
For sure the Chocolate and Orange Gin Liqueur under the F&S umbrella. Any product made with fresh ingredients adds to the sampling process and a huge amount of variables. From the correct maceration time for the orange peels, the balance between the cacao and dairy, the purchase of specific equipment… almost an endless amount of combinations but in the end it’s down to listening to the feedback friends and close customers provided during the tasting period.
What has been the most fun project for you as a distiller / distillery owner?
It was the Faith & Sons Cold Press Coffee Gin definitely (not gin liqueur like some of the online retailers state). As a Portuguese, coffee is something part of our culture. Beside that, since 2012 I had barista training with Sandra Azevedo from Academia do Café. Sandra is one of the most qualified people in the world when it comes to coffee. I source the green coffee beans (single origin), and I make all the cold press process at the distillery, including roasting. It is my favourite and by far the least saleable product… It makes the best twist on a Negroni too.
The bottles and design are really advanced for a micro distillery, what was it like to choose a bottle shape and aesthetic – did you always have something set up in your mind or was it a long design process?
The process starts always with random references / images that I put together in a mood board during months. Until the concept has been defined – it’s a bit of a painful process that usually takes around 2 months. For the last gin rebranding for example, after receiving the 3D sample for the new closure, it took 12 weeks plus for the closures arrive.
The ultimate goal is to deliver feelings and emotions, and being able to put ourselves in the customer’s skin and try to understand what the reaction will be to the bottle / label proposition. For small producers any tiny step can be a game changer, making branding the upmost importance.
You also make Liqueurs under a different title – No Name Distillery – why did you chose to put it under a different brand range?
F&S and No Name are two completely different brands. It differs from production methods, concepts, flavours, consumer target, and price range. No Name was created with a very strong commercial purpose, completely different from the F&S ethos.
Talking of it, why ‘No Name’ – what is the inspiration there?
Some of my customers started to ask if I could make some gin liqueurs with specific flavours at an entry level price. The challenge was to make a brand without conflicting with the principles behind F&S. We developed the brand name from the concept of having a range of “white label” products. Normally white label products before rebranding come without name… hence why we decided to call it NO NAME.
As someone with a diverse flavour offering and therefore a wider customer base than many – Where do you see the Gin category going in the next few months?
It’s noticeable the market is becoming more selective, especially for smaller producers despite the category’s overall growth. Educating the consumer will be the key for a healthy longevity in the gin category.
We agree and look forward to seeing you do that with us at Junipalooza – cheers!
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