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Griffin Blumer – Poor Toms Gin

Poor Toms Gin
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Poor Toms Gin 2
Poor Toms Gin 3
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Poor Toms Gin 5
16/10/2018
Written by Gin Foundry

Ahead of Junipalooza Melbourne, we’ve caught up with a few distillers and owners, to talk all things Gin, Australia and what they’ve been up to. Here we speak with Poor Toms Gin maker, Griffin Blumer. With a lot of buzz surrounding their product, mark our words – his (and theirs) is a name you’ll be hearing a lot more in years to come…

Hi Griff – For the non thespians out there… Can you share where the “Poor Toms” name come from? Why did you pick it?

Poor Tom is a folklore character – a wandering madman; a philosopher fool. In King Lear, Edgar casts off his noble identity and assumes the persona of Poor Tom. Thomas also happens to be both Jesse’s and my middle name. We like the idea that our gin and our space enables people to throw away their pretences – to become the philosopher fool.

You mention Jesse, when did the journey towards distilling begin for you both and what was your favourite part of the initial “setting up” process?

Jesse and I were schoolmates and grew up drinking gin together. We both moved to Sydney in 2014, into the same share house. This was at the very beginning of the craft gin movement in Australia, and we were trying all of these incredible new gins from around the world thinking, “why is nobody doing this in Sydney?” My favourite experience has been witnessing an ongoing abstract conversation between two friends evolve into something concrete – a product that you can hold, pour, taste, and smell.

There’s a big difference between talk and action that’s for sure. You used crowd funding to help the start up phase, which was hugely successful for you, were you expecting it to go so well?

Not so much expecting it to go well, as needing it to go well. We were young and broke when we started Poor Toms, and didn’t quite realise what we were getting ourselves into. When we launched the crowdfunding campaign we had no money left. We’re very grateful to the people who contributed to that campaign –  it allowed us to stay in business.

Did you know what kind of gin you wanted to make right from the start or was the recipe something that kind of evolved out flavour trials?

We always start with a clear idea of what we want, which arises naturally from casual conversations. When the idea begins to crystallise, then I sit down and write an A4 page in plain English that describes it, so that any contributor to the process is on the same page, and so that we don’t get lost. In the case of our first gin, Sydney Dry, we wanted to make a fresh, floral gin with a classic juniper backbone. We sat down and distilled every flavour we could think of that met either the fresh or floral profile. Ultimately, you have to trial everything to know whether it’s going to work or not.

And did you know it when you’d nailed your first gin or was it over so many iterations? As in, was there a moment, or was it a case of multiple feedback rounds?

Knowing when to stop requires experience. After a six-month trial period on two litre table-top stills, we eventually up-scaled the recipe to a larger 230 litre Müller still. On first sip, our distilling mentor Marcel said, “it’s ready!’ Being inexperienced, Jesse and I insisted on tweaking it further, thinking that every new addition would improve it. But every step we took seemed to take us further away from that first great result. We stopped: Marcel was right. Our first attempt at distillation on the production still became the recipe.

The second gin is also bottled at a higher ABV. Why make a “Fool’s Strength” as you call it and what inspired that?

We wanted to prove to ourselves that we could make a no-bullshit, tasty, juniper-forward gin. Something that people anywhere in the world would recognise as a well-constructed, classic gin – outside the whims of fashion, or local custom.

Recently, you’ve added a Strawberry edition to the line up – do you think the European Pink craze will hit Aus in the same way?

I didn’t know there was a pink gin craze! I first made the strawberry gin three years ago for my sister’s wedding. More recently we experimented with different ingredients like cardamom, ginger, and hibiscus flower that helped to frame and accentuate the strawberry. We trialled these recipes through our newly opened distillery bar. The response was so positive, we released it! I hope the pink gin craze doesn’t mean a proliferation of sugary pink liqueurs – people are going to get sick of it! It’s fair to say that ours is a real gin, steeped with natural ingredients, that just so happens to be pink.

Fair point. There’s definitely a pink craze here! What do you think the next 18 months looks like for the Gin category in Australia?

I see the feeding frenzy of novelty seasonal gins continuing. People are drinking gin promiscuously, looking for their next outrageous fix. The dust will eventually settle, and people will return to the gins that have long-lasting integrity.

So, in this promiscuous purchasing environment, in today’s crowded market place – if you had to name one thing, what do you think makes your flagship gin stand out?

Because there are so many gins out there jostling for attention, it’s hard to resist latching on to the latest gimmick. Our flagship Sydney Dry Gin is nuanced and mellow, with an unfamiliar but balanced flavour profile. It doesn’t hit you over the head with novelty, it’s confident in its restraint. Sometimes less is more.

There’s such a strong sense of style and aesthetic that surrounds the distillery – a real confidence there too, where do you take your inspiration from?

We’re lucky to know lots of talented people. If you have strong ideas about what you like, and entrust your vision to talented people, beautiful things emerge. Looking back, it seems we’ve been preoccupied with how the sacred and profane interact. The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch is the thematic and aesthetic DNA of Poor Toms.