Meet the MakerAlex Christou, Eight Lands.
Published: 23rd August 2019
In our exclusive Meet the Maker editorial feature series, we speak with Scotland’s Gin makers and brand owners about what inspired them to establish businesses around the world of Scottish Gin and spirits, what hurdles they’ve had to over come and more.
In our latest Meet the Maker we meet the founder of one of Scotland’s newest Scottish distilleries in the heart of whisky country in Speyside, Glenrinnes Distillery. Producing Eight Lands organic Scottish Gin and Vodka, we speak with Alex to discover more about his journey into the wonderful world of Scottish Gin and Scottish spirits.
What’s your name and what’s your role in the business?
Alex Christou, Founder
How did Eight Lands come about?
I’m not sure of the exact moment that we first discussed building a distillery. I had been talking with my parents for a while about making the most of the freshwater springs on the estate, then my mother discovered that we have lots of interesting botanicals growing on the hills. Building a distillery felt like a really exciting way of diversifying the estate away from farming. I spent a long time studying the market, undertaking feasibility studies, water flow rates and botanical surveys. After that, the hard work began on plant design, construction, brand development and the rest. It’s been a fascinating journey already!
What important lessons have you learned on your gin journey so far?
I think the most important thing that this process has taught me is to be patient. I had no idea how long everything would take, though it probably doesn’t help that I am a bit of a perfectionist. What I discovered is that there are always constructive things to be done in one area when something holds you up in another.
What makes Eight Lands Gin different?
I guess the obvious differentiator for Eight Lands is that fact that our products are 100% organic and made using Speyside spring water. Organic is an ever-growing market in the UK and worldwide but there still seems to be very few organic accredited spirits available. Bearing in mind that all our distilling neighbours have been using the water from the hills here to make whisky for generations, it’s really cool to be able to do the same thing. I think people forget that water is the main ingredient in gin and its quality is really important.
We are really at the beginning of the journey. The key focus now is to ensure that our gin and vodka are accessible to people. This means working hard to get into bars, restaurants and shops in the UK and internationally. In the background, we will keep working hard to ensure that everything we put out is of the same high quality. We are also working on developing the visitor experience at Glenrinnes Distillery and plan to have some new options available announced over the coming months.
What’s the biggest highlight of your gin adventure so far?
Definitely the feedback we get from people when they drink Eight Lands gin. It felt like we had to wait a really long time to share the liquid with people. Now that we have, the feedback has exceeded my expectations. My aim was to produce something in which the quality was evident, even if you prefer a different flavour profile. I believe we have achieved that.
Where would you like to see the Eight Lands brand in 5 years time?
There are certain products out there in the market that find their way into the best bars around the world. They are recognised for their quality and bartenders will turn to them time and time again. I would love to see Eight Lands become recognised in a similar way at home and abroad. We expect more than 70% of sales to come from international markets within five years and are now speaking to potential partners in a number of our key target markets.
What’s your personal ‘perfect serve’?
Tough question and likely to change each day! We have a signature serve known as the “Eight Leaf Clover” – a play on the Clover Club. It’s got a few ingredients but they all go in the shaker and then the liquid is strained out, so it’s fairly easy. We use Discarded vermouth, which is a cool product that adds a subtle coffee note to this velvety, raspberry sour serve but any good quality sweet vermouth will do.
Who’s supported you on your Gin journey?
It’s a family business and my step-father (and Co-Founder) Alasdair has been key behind the scenes on the strategic business support, whilst my wife Becky has provided the emotional support! My mother is very involved too. Beyond that, I’ve been really lucky in that the right people seem to have appeared at the right time. So many people have contributed to this journey so far. My production team, Meeghan and Katrina, are a vital part of what we have achieved. Without wanting to make this sound like an out of control Oscars speech, we’ve also had many consultants that have been great – from graphic designers to architects.
What’s the best part of the Gin making process?
Seeing people enjoy the gin and sharing with my friends and family.
What’s the worst part of the Gin making process?
There’s a huge amount of admin involved in running any business. Running a distillery and launching a spirit brand is no different!
You can learn more about Eight Lands here.