Antony Benton, Joseph Flach & Sons

The Gin Cooperative's Spirit of Craft editorial feature series.

Published: 11th July 2019

In our popular Beautiful Botanicals series, we feature some of the many botanicals that can be found in Scottish Gin, such as Tonka Bean, Sea Kelp, Pink Peppercorn, Birch Sap, Cacao Nibs and Icelandic Moss. Thanks to Mother Nature, the range of botanicals available and opportunity to innovate is almost endless when you consider potential flavour combinations. We’re fortunate that Scotland is a natural larder of botanicals for the gin makers to roam and forage from. However, most of the traditional botanicals that go into making gin, such as angelica root, orris root, grains of paradise, coriander and even the vast majority of juniper, don’t come from Scotland. So how do the gin makers get their hands on these key raw ingredients, sourced from all around the world? We talked to Antony Benton from Joseph Flach & Sons, a trusted global supplier of botanicals about precisely that.

What’s your name and what do you do?

Antony Benton, Managing Director, Joseph Flach & Sons Ltd (JFS). The business was founded in 1882 and we are international traders in botanicals. We import them, wholesale them in the UK and export them around the world. Currently around 50% of our sales are overseas.

Tell us about Joseph Flach & Sons (JFS).

We are a family run, privately owned company with over 136 years of history in the botanical trade. Our long merchant history provides us with a depth of knowledge and experience and a very well developed and trusted supplier chain. We have ISO 22000 and quality of product, service and employment are core to what we do. Our people are passionate about what we do, our customers and our business and we pride ourselves on being responsive and flexible.

How many botanicals do you offer?

At any-one time we are carrying at least 600 botanical items in stock in our warehouse facility in Peterborough and through our network of trusted global suppliers we can also source materials as required by our customers. Peterborough is a great national location with excellent road and rail connections to the whole of the UK.

Who are your customers?

JFS supplies raw materials for manufacturers and wholesalers across a number of core markets; drink, food, animal feed, cosmetics and herbal remedies.

How do you source botanicals?

We source our botanicals from a range of trusted suppliers and growers across the globe. Quality, resilience and reliability are our key requirements. Most of our supplier relationships go back decades but we also look for and assess new potential.

How do you ensure the best quality products are available to your customers?

Under our ISO 22000 quality process we have strict supplier evaluation and audit regimes and we take great pains to quality check all products as they are offered and supplied. Samples of all batches undergo QA and are stored for future reference.

What are some of the weirdest botanicals you’ve ever come across?

The natural world is full of amazing things, some of these are poisonous, some are allergens, some smell beautiful and some smell appalling. Devils Claw is an example of an incredible natural design that allows seeds to attach themselves to passing animals so that they can be carried to other areas to grow. A series of sharp curved hooks catch on fur and skin to be carried off to propagate the species elsewhere.

Have you seen an increase for demand in good quality botanicals as the gin category has continued to grow?

The growth of production and sales of Gin has been phenomenal and although the UK market growth may be slowing now, opportunities for exporting are still increasing. As we have been supplying distillers for many, many decades, we have the complete range of botanicals used and we are in a perfect position to offer a “one stop shop” for both the bulk common ingredients as well as the more esoteric and specialised botanicals.

What are the long term plans for JFS?

Our long-term plan is to grow steadily through organic growth, maintaining our focus on top customer service and so we can provide more quality jobs and worthwhile employment.

Which Scottish Gins are you looking forward to trying next?

There are many gins made by our customers that are really fantastic and many we have yet to try. Of those we have sampled Rock Rose Gin from Dunnet Bay is great and we also love the gins from Pickering’s in Edinburgh. We are keen to try many more. One of the great things about gin is they can have such different styles and so be used in different drinks from a straight sip, through a classic G&T to a much more sophisticated cocktail.

Joseph Flach & Sons is an official sponsor of International Scottish Gin Day 2019. Learn more here.

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