An industry veteran wants to start a gin brand. Nothing inherently interesting there. Gin is undergoing a resurgence and the smart money is backing new juniper-infused startups. An industry veteran starting a gin distillery in the heart of a thriving metropolis with the dual goals of educating the public and training the next generation of distillers? That's noteworthy and it's what Alex Nicol of Edinburgh Gin has not only created, but also succeeded in doing.
Alex has worked with some of the most successful liquor brands around the world. He worked as marketing director with Glenmorangie for years. In that time, he became fascinated with flavor creation, how the wood and char of a barrel combined with the external climate of Scotland, thereby creating a unique spirit. This fascination brought him around the world, seeking out unique wood combinations barreling and studying how a tree's climate would affect an individual stave and ultimately, the flavor imparted on a whiskey. After leaving the large brands, Alex decided to pursue craft whiskey in Scotland. He acquired several small labels and continues to operate them to this day. However, he wanted to get more involved in flavors. He has never stopped loving whiskey, but the three year wait for a finished product was too long. Edinburgh Gin was born, at least in part, because of the instant feedback the unaged spirit can give its creator.
The Edinburgh Gin Distillery is more than just a new take on the classic London Dry style. The Distillery is Alex's way of giving back. The Distillery and tasting room sit in a very busy neighborhood of Edinburgh. The public is meant to engage with the distillers. Visitors are welcome to not only sample gins and see the process, but to also create and infuse their own gins. For a nominal fee, anyone can bring home their own gin creation the same day they visit. Alex wants people to appreciate and understand all that goes into the creation of a well-crafted spirit.
Guiding visitors through the Edinburgh Gin experience are distillers-in-training. The Edinburgh Gin Distillery is also the only teaching distillery in the UK that is associated with a local university. Students of Heriot-Watt University get hands-on training in the operation and management of a commercial spirits brand, something a classroom can't provide. Edinburgh Gin receives a highly motivated group of students to run the distillery. The partnership between the distillery and Heriot-Watt runs deep: the current master distiller is a student. Alex is putting his money where his heart is: he is training the next generation and also staking his company's future on them.
Being a small distillery with access to innovative young minds allows Edinburgh Gin to do so much more than the larger brands. For example, the Distillery is comfortable doing extremely limited releases. For Valentine’s Day 2015 they created a pink gin, flavored and colored by a unique blend of botanicals, and released only 300 bottles. Next, they are releasing a seaside gin, using the flavors of the Scottish coast. Neither of these experiments is expected to be a major release, but something they can do seasonally and in small batches. If the market demands more, they can create more. If not, then, as Alex says, "we could just put it away and say we've done that." To Alex, the role of a craft distillery isn't to compete with the massive, global brands of the world. Rather, the craft brands are supposed to move fast and innovate. Established brands will continue to make traditional flavors and craft brands will be there for new consumers who want something different.
The vision of Edinburgh Gin is as pleasant as the man behind the operation. It is a high-quality, fast moving, innovative gin company trying to constantly reinterpret what a gin can be. It is an educational resource for the public, who acquire a hands-on experience with how modern spirits are made. It is a training ground for the next generation of distillers, a place for them to learn the craft way of doing things and not just the industrial side of spirit production. It's the way an industry veteran tries to better his trade and prepare the next generation the way he knows how.
To learn more about the Edinburgh Gin Distillery visit its website at: http://www.edinburghgindistillery.co.uk