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James Mackintosh – Mackintosh Gin

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Written by Gin Foundry

This brand spanking new Gin has well and truly been swept up by the online Gin community, and as a hot newcomer and with such buzz we felt we had little choice but to bring them on board with Junipalooza! Ahead of the festival, we had a little chat with the team to see who their inspirations were when first stepping foot inside a distillery…

Hi Jim, let’s go back to the very beginning – what triggered you to take the plunge and start distilling?

We have been gin fans since 2010 after Deborah was introduced to Caorunn. We spent the next couple of years discovering new gins, and by 2016 we were buying a new bottle every month and often travelled for gin festivals and tastings.

Caught up with the atmosphere at The Wee G&T Festival in Perth in September 2016, we jokingly said to each other that we should make our own gin. We admired the passion of some of the brands we spoke to and knew that we wanted to be on their side of the table showing our passion to others.

How long has the journey been for you? Was it quite quick from the moment you decided to give it a go to the first batch coming off the still?

From initial idea to launching was approx. 2 years, but from moment of decision to launching was 6 months. At first, we didn’t commit to anything but talked about it. Throughout 2017 we did some research and began cold compounding at home, so we had an idea of what flavour profile we wanted.

In early 2018 we decided to commit to it and registered the brand in the March. We started flavour profiling in April on a 10 litre still at the Distillutions Distillery in Arbroath and spent a few months deciding on labels and bottle before launching in October.

You launched in 2018 and are now on Batch 3 – what’s it been like getting into the market and selling the gin? Has it been hard work, fun, fast or slow for you guys?

It has been a lot of fun so far, but it is really difficult and needs constant pushing. The first couple of months were very busy with lots of tastings, which led to us being listed in a few independent bottle shops. Distribution with Huffman’s followed quite quickly which led to more stockists taking us on.

Things have slowed down at the 6 month point but we’re still trying to talk to as many retailers as possible. We’re available with Matthew Clark which helps with the on-trade and we’re going through checks with Gordon and MacPhail which we’re excited by!

As you mentioned above, you are currently making it at Distillutions in what seems to be part contract (their kit), part hands on (you distil) – how does it work exactly and how long do you think you will be there before securing your own premises?

We have a fantastic relationship with Distillutions who let us come and go as we please. We’re using their equipment at present and we’re very much hands on when it comes to distilling, bottling and labelling. Lewis is always on hand to keep us right and treats every aspect as a training session.

We had initially planned to be with them for one year before looking to secure our own premises, but we’ll probably stay for a second year as the training we are receiving is invaluable. We’re buying our own still this year which we’ll locate here and use.

It’s a steep learning curve that’s for sure – as a distiller and new brand owner, what are you most proud about having done?

The biggest achievement for me was actually getting a product to market. When we initially talked about creating the brand, we didn’t know how it was going to be received, or if we would be taken seriously. Neither of us have a distilling or drinks background and knew we would have our work cut out from the start.

I said to Deborah before we launched that if we even sold one bottle in our local farm shop then we had at least achieved something. That said farm shop was our first stockist and we still sell well in there today!

Who’s another distiller you admire?

There’s far too many to mention! We love Chrissie and Simon from Persie who were our ultimate inspiration to launch the brand. We spoke with them at many events when they launched and loved their passion.

We love Nick and Emma from Teasmith who have a similar set up as ourselves. I think Bruce from Brentingby is doing really well just now and is getting noticed. I love what Cuckoo Gin are doing, Tom and Will are excellent faces for the brand. I also love Four Pillars for really embracing the bartending and cocktail scene, something we hope to emulate.

What do you feel makes Mackintosh Gin stand out in today’s crowded market?

We hope that the product speaks for itself but appreciate that this is dependent on people getting to taste it first. Our logo stands out on a busy shelf or backbar when surrounded by other gins. Whilst taste and looks are subjective, we hope that our brand-consumer engagement makes us stand out.

We try our best to respond to everyone who contacts us directly or on social media. We want them to feel part of the family and in doing so they ultimately become our brand ambassadors. We wouldn’t be where we are without our gin pals singing our praises.

Some have such clear visions of what they want, others have to finesse it over time – what was it like to choose a bottle shape and aesthetic?

It all came together quite naturally. The logo and label design were Deborah’s vision from the start and other than a few tweaks from our graphic designer, hasn’t changed from initial concept. Future editions will have the same logo but a different colour to retain the brand identity.

There weren’t enough funds in the budget for a bespoke bottle, so we went with a stock option. We sampled lots of bottles and the one we’re using now we fell in love with straight away. Our closure will evolve as we plan to emboss our logo on the top of it.

You’ve talked about starting a crowd funding campaign over the summer – is that something that’s still going ahead?

We were in two minds about this as attitudes have changed towards crowd funding. We mentioned it in our newsletters and received messages of support so we have decided that we will still run with this, kicking off in the summer and running for a month or two.

The funds raised will help go towards our own still which we are purchasing this year and placing in Distillutions Distillery. The rewards will vary from first bottles of new editions/offerings (either our Navy Strength or second gin which we’re flavour profiling now) to a meet the maker tasting and dinner evening.

Ok. Ready for a quick fire finish…. Here we go! Mackintosh Martini – olive or twist?

Lemon peel is one of our botanicals so it has to be a twist!

It’s Friday evening, you’ve smashed the week – G&T or Negroni…?

Depends who you ask, always a G&T for Deborah whereas I’m a Negroni without fail!

Best part of the job?

Engaging with or meeting our gin pals and talking all things gin!

Worst part of the job?

Not having enough time to dedicate to the brand!

And last but not least – what’s the next milestone moment you are working to?

Other than the crowd funding campaign to raise fund for our own still, we’re working towards our 2019 inaugural cocktail competition which will see us release a bartenders edition in 2020.

Good luck with it all and see you at Junipalooza!