Yvan Vindevogel – Copperhead Gin
Many have seen Copperhead Gin gleaming on the back bar, all shiny and coppery. More recently, it’s been joined by its Black sister edition, so as both grow in both volume and stature around the globe we thought we’d get in touch with founder Yvan Vindevogel to take a peek under the bottle’s glistening facade and see what they’ve been up to of late…
Gin Foundry: Can you tell us the tale of Mr Copperhead. Where did it all start?
I have been a pharmacist for many, many years and once day I was reading about how Gin used to be used in medicine. I own my own hotel in Belgium, so it is not surprising that I had noticed the rise in Gins popularity in contemporary culture all across Europe. A good friend of mine owns one of the oldest distilleries in Belgium, producing Genever so I went to them and I said “hey! why don’t we make a contemporary medicinal gin?” So we combined our careers and came up with the classic Copperhead Gin and their accompanying blends and finally the Black Batch.
Copperhead Black steers away from Copperhead’s recipe. Did you find it impossible to resist playing with other botanicals and how did it come about?
Both the black tea and Sambucas Nigra have played a pivotal role in the remedies and pharmaceuticals I have been producing all through my career. They were very important to be used. That isn’t to say that we didn’t have a play with others though.
Do you have a preference out of the two, Classic or Black? Or is that like asking you to pick a favourite child?
I could never really choose a favourite but I do feel they both have a time and the place. The Classic with the added blends is such a fun thing to serve at a dinner party, being able to create four different gins out of one and also to have the functional side still amazes some of my dinner guests! The black batch for me encompasses some of my favourite flavours and botanicals. I feel we have got the balance exactly right and have made a very versatile product!
Talking about different serves for guests, bartenders play a big part in a gin’s success. If they support your spirit, they’ll push it. What do you do to engage with them?
Internationally we work with distributors who already have a good network within the trade. We encourage cocktail competitions both internally with bars and also run national competitions to help encourage creativity. The UK competition is designed around food and cocktail matching, which we find not only engages bartenders but also chefs from across the country. It was great to have Heston Blumenthal as a judge too! Also, incentives and annual trips to the distillery in Belgium really helps us to tell our story and get some of the best bartenders engaged with our products.
Gin paired with food is a really interesting area – what’s the one pairing / dish that has really stood out for you?
From the 2016 Mr Copperhead’s Cocktails & Canapés competition in the UK- Kisa from Peony in Chinatown who went on to win the competition served a twist on a Negroni served with a small smoked salmon based canapé. The combination of flavours was amazing and I’ve been doing it at home ever since!
Nice – any tips for this at home looking to get creative with their dinner parties?
The blends with the Classic Copperhead make this so easy at dinner parties, just add your gin and then your guests can do the rest by adding their chosen blend, a preferred garnish and the premium tonic water to finish.
You get to travel the world and drink in the best gin joints around. Has anyone ever surprised you with a serve? Something you never throught of that elevates Copperhead in a whole new direction?
When I last visited the Gibson in London, Marian Beke made for me his “Alchemyst’s Brew”. It had more ingredients than I could ever remember but the way he used Belgian beer in a marmalade and garnished it with an Ice Cream was something that I had never expected to see!
Looking back at the Copperhead journey so far, what’s been your absolute highlight moment?
Coming to the UK and seeing my bottle behind the bar at The Connaught, The Dorchester, Gilrays and The Gibson was such an incredible feeling. And hearing how much these bartenders where enjoying using my product was so fantastic to see. I am looking forward to my next trip to see where we have got to now!
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