The Start Up
At the time of writing it has been 220,240 hours since my last paid employment (in a bar), and over 400,000 hours since I last worked behind a desk. In this period, I had over 4,988 sips of gin and pastis, tasting about 100 different brands. I sent and received 8,132 emails, drove 11,001 miles (had one puncture) and grew a beard for 90.6 days, a personal record.
So how did it come about? What brought me here? I can’t say that I followed a conventional route into the drinks trade, because I didn’t.
After studying quite a serious degree at a serious university I ended up working in a job that was equally serious. As I knew something wasn’t quite right, I decided to follow my passion for food, leaving this office job to set up a Thai restaurant in London! (I should mention here that I did study cuisine at Le Cordon Bleu and worked as a cook in France before university). After a trip to Thailand to study the art of balancing salty, sweet and sour flavours – not dissimilar to balancing spirits – I took a bar job in a pub and restaurant that served Thai food to learn the ropes.
It was behind the mahogany of this great establishment, the Walmer Castle in Notting Hill, that I developed my enthusiasm, knowledge and love of the drinks market. I had never worked in a bar before and found it fascinating to see what people ordered, to see what they liked and what they didn’t… and of course I got to taste (and appreciate) all our different beers, wines and spirits. But as I had always been on the other side of the bar, I was amazed to find out pretty much all drinks everywhere are owned by just handful of multinational companies! So when consumers think they’re getting variety, they’re not.
I even discovered that my beloved Plymouth Gin was owned and run by French multinational Pernod Ricard, the world’s second largest spirits company.
When the restaurant no longer seemed feasible (due to a variety of factors), I had that magic moment. Everything clicked, and my plans evolved towards setting up an independent, craft distillery, making fine spirits in tiny quantities by hand. I knew that the quality of most household spirit brands had been sacrificed over the years for profit, and I knew that if I tried hard enough I could make something better. If I could make great-tasting spirits with integrity, then surely people would be happy to buy them and feel happier drinking them.
Quite literally thousands of hours of research later – it is not easy to make great spirits, and recipes are closely guarded secrets – a few phone calls, online payments, hundreds of test batches/blind tastings and I have a gin and pastis that I believe are the most delicious spirits on this Earth. While of course I would think this because I make them, they truly are far superior to your average plonk and are well worth a try, or two. In fact, I am so
proud of these creations that I have put my name on them. If you’d like to know what I’m talking about, pick up a bottle and find out!
[January 24th 2013 by Tarquin]