Tiago Sanches – GinT Rubro
Having introduced themselves to the Uk market on the Newcomers stand – many Junipalooza festival goers will recognise the name GinT and remember their distinct looking bottle. Now 9 months into their journey, we caught up with the Portuguese gin maker to follow up on their progress and see what they had in store for 2019.
Hi Tiago – It’s been a while that we’ve been tracking your journey here at Gin Foundry, but could you remind us, when did GinT begin as a concept and how long did it take you to go from that idea to having the first bottle completed?
Tiago Sanches: Gin has been in our lives since we remember. For a long time I rejected the new gin wave until Rute introduced me to all this new gins. This got me to buy and try many different gins. My wife gifted me with a simple Gin book which talked about the history of gin and narrated stories of the different gin brands. I was fascinated by gin and all that surround it, so I went on to buy other books, from distilling to chemistry.
It also got me travelling all the way to London to participate in the Gin Foundry “How to Open a Distillery” workshop. Later on it took me back to London again to get the WSET Level 2 Award in Spirts.
Anyway, GinT first emerges as a concept in April 2016 while getting together with close friends at home having some G&Ts. I love these “get together”. I realised that Gin was present in homes and bars where people got together to share friendship and have great memorable moments. These thoughts were bouncing around in my head and suddenly I said – “I´m going to make a Gin”.
From this moment until the first bottle was ready, it was just short of 2 years.
Who distils the gin and what’s your favourite part of the process?
I distil the gin. Usually I take my father with because we both love the whole process. The part we enjoy the most is where the first cut should happen… we always have a debate about minor flavour details, but it always comes out perfect!
Like chefs in a kitchen! What kind of scale are you working on at the moment and how big is a batch for you?
In total, since Junipalooza London, we have produced just over 600 bottles of our gin and hopefully, this month of January we will have to scale up. We work with a 200 litre still and each batch gives us an output of 140 bottles. We are planning to install a 500 litre still within the next months.
Part of that small batch nature is that it is a whopping 58% ABV so a lot of the volume of liquid passes through the still as there is less water being added after distillation to reduce it all to bottling strength. What made you choose to launch at the higher proof for your first offering?
After drinking and getting to know more and more gins, we have become fans of higher strength gins – e.g. Sipsmith V.J.O.P and Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin Cask Strength. We had to make something we loved and at the same time something very different. A friend, bartender, told us – Go Strong. Our intention is to show that high ABV does not mean lack of flavour or difficult to drink. Usually, Navy Strength gins are an addition to an existing range, we wanted to make it our crown jewel.
As far as we know there are no Navy Strength Portuguese gins – GinT Rubro is the first.
Rubro loosely translates as “rosey” for us Brits, what was the inspiration behind that the name for the gin?
Rubro: from the latin ru·bru – hot red, color of blood, color of fire.
Rubro in Portuguese is colour of your cheeks when you blush – you get rosey cheeks. So “Rubro” is perfect to describe the bold 58% ABV, the warm feeling when you drink it, the warmth of friendship and friends having a good time.
And from a flavour profile – Fig tree bark plays an important role in the gin. How would you describe its flavour and what it imparts in the gin?
Fig tree bark is our signature botanical. The fig tree bark is more about the aroma and not so much the flavour!
If you have ever had the chance to walk by or sit under a fig tree in the summer, you will never forget it. It is an aroma that is very particular, I have never come across a fruit, tree, flower or plant which smells alike. The fig tree bark comes out in the aroma of the gin but, as I mentioned before, you need to know what it smells like to be able to distinguish it amongst the others.
I can’t really describe it, people describe it a sweet vanilla, almondy, coconut, woody aroma. The fig tree bark complements the dryness of the gin giving an apparent sweetness and gives the gin long finish.
Agreed, it is a tough combination of aromas all in one, from sticky blossom to gourmand okay backdrop – fig tree bark is complex to say the least. It must have been hard to capture, as a distiller, what are you most proud about having done?
We decided to present our gin for the first time ever at Junipalooza London 2018. What I am most proud of is to have been capable of “WOW”ing people at our stand! Every time someone “WOW”ed after tasting GinT Rubro I got goose bumps. This was when we realised we had a good Gin.
I would really like to thank all those Gin fans who visited us Junipalooza London 2018 and gave us the “OK” to go conquer the gin world.
They certainly loved your gin and we’re sure they will again this year. Outside of serving it neat – do you have a preferred garnish in a G&T, or alternative mixer recommendation?
We have been fortunate to be able to present our gin to many bartenders who have experimented with our Gin. We have tasted G&T with many tonics, Negronis, Gin Sours, Gin Fizz, etc.
To answer your question directly, I love having GinT Rubro with lime and juniper or with no garnish at all. As an alternative way to drink GinT Rubro, there’s a Cocktail Bar in Porto – Bonaparte Downtown – which has created a negroni variant I absolutely love called a Porto Negroni – GinT Rubro, Port Wine & Campari.
We’ll be giving that a try for sure! It’s a striking and unusual bottle with a full blown cork in it too. Did you just come across it as a stock bottle and went from there or were you always set on that as a vision for what you wanted to do?
The bottle has a long story. We started off by designing a bottle but quickly reached the conclusion that there was no budget for it. So we started looking for one that was similar. We look for quite a while and found nothing that would honour the bold 58% ABV and our vision for the gin.
We searched for and consulted many bottle producers and signed up for their newsletters. One day I got a promotional e-mail for our bottle, took a screenshot and sent it to Rute saying – “This is bottle!”
Regarding the cork, we tried many bar tops and again nothing that “WOW” us! So we decided to go local and incorporate one of Portugal’s premium products – CORK. The cork was specifically developed for our bottle and ABV. It is natural cork carrying our brand.
And lastly, what’s the big ambition for 2019?
We plan on installing a second still to go towards future demand and expand our warehouse to facilitate logistics. Commercially our ambitions for 2019 is to have stable presence in Portugal and export to at least 3 different countries. We also have other gins and spirits in mind, but it will all depend on how 2019 evolves!
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