Women of Gin

Jasmine Wheelhouse, The Gin Fayre.

Published: 3rd August 2018

Jasmine Wheelhouse, the founder of The Gin Fayre, a gin events company, is not only a well respected figure in the world of gin, she’s also an innovator and entrepreneur. The Gin Fayre events are amongst some of the most popular gin events on the gin calendar. With a hearty mix of fantastic gins, masterclasses and something for everyone, we wanted to help share Jasmine’s story and introduce you to another fantastic woman of gin.

What’s your name and what do you do?

My name is Jasmine Wheelhouse and I am the founder of The Gin Fayre; an event which brings together craft distilleries from across the world. I organise and host events around the UK so that gin lovers and newbies alike can try, buy and find their new favourite tipple. 

The Gin Fayre has worked so well because it is a direct route-to-market for gin brands and a try-before-you-buy opportunity for customers. 

The origins of the event lie in the small coastal Scottish town of St Andrews. I have since expanded The Gin Fayre to other parts of the UK.  

When did you realise you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Running events has always been a passion of mine; whilst at university I set up a publishing company – and when that failed, I set up the Very Vintage Events, which turned into one of the largest vintage fairs in Scotland. After graduating, I realised that life is too short not to do what you love and so, I left my full-time job in education to launch my business. 

I suppose that it’s always been in my blood to be an entrepreneur; I remember selling sweets at school and going up and down my street as a child offering to wash people’s cars! In each of my “traditional” jobs, I have always been the one to find holes in the current way of doing things. I try to make improvements and to get things done more efficiently; it’s a great skill to have as an entrepreneur. 

How did you get into gin?

Gin has been my drink of choice for quite some time, though I’m not quite sure how I discovered my love of it! I think I might have made the transition from vodka to gin sometime during my university days… 

The Gin Fayre was established at a time when the gin-revolution was bubbling away in the background; with new distilleries and brands entering the market frequently. I, like many, found I was purchasing bottles regularly just so I could try them and discover my new favourite. 

Whilst I was doing this, I recognised that there was an untapped market of gin fans across smaller towns in the UK. With large scale gin events often taking place in the big cities, I felt that consumers in the smaller districts had been overlooked. 

Do you think more could be done to encourage women entrepreneurs?

When it comes to starting a business, there still remains a notable disparity between the sexes, but the gap can also be seen within other minority groups as well – BAME, LGBT or those with disabilities. Encouragingly, the gender gap is closing in the UK, but we still have a long way to go – and a lot farther to go when it comes to supporting other minority groups.

I don’t actually see myself as a female entrepreneur, rather just an entrepreneur that happens to be female. If you have a great idea, the skills and passion to make it work, then I think that there should be support structures in place to allow that business to flourish.

Starting a new business is a risk for anyone, but it is one that is certainly worth taking if you have the determination to see it through. Being an entrepreneur is a rollercoaster ride. There are highs and lows for all start-ups, but it’s important to seek out support where you can. I’ve found that building relationships and making new contacts is one of the most valuable assets for anyone looking to set up on their own. 

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

Initially taking the leap from a stable corporate job to running my own business was one of the biggest challenges. There have of course been other obstacles since, but I believe in myself and thankfully, I have a great support network that has really helped me when things don’t go to plan.  

What does the term Scottish Gin mean to you?

Scotland is a massive producer of gin, which I think is truly incredible. Personally, I think we are yet to scrape the surface with the product offerings and brands throughout Scotland – but we are well on our way. 

For me, Scottish gin in defined as ‘grain to bottle’; which means that the grain is grown in Scotland and then the gin is made in a Scottish distillery. There are currently only a few gin brands that actually follow this process. 

That said, I do recognise that for those brands who are just starting out, it is not always financially possible to do it this way and so I appreciate that contract distilling (using distillers in England or other locations) or buying in neutral grain spirit that hasn’t been distilled in Scotland is the only possibility to get their company off the ground. 

The number of gin brands in Scotland currently and heightened gin sales just goes to show the potential that Scottish gin has in a worldwide market place, and so I can only hope that in a few years time, we will see a higher percentage of gins distilled in the country and an increasing number of distilleries to match.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give to women who are starting off their career in event management?

Get experience! Before I set up The Gin Fayre, I worked in a range of different organisations and events companies – from conference producing to bar and festival work, as well as my experience at university. 

Never stop learning and find the positives in every situation, if you can. Be confident in your own abilities and don’t be afraid to take on responsibilities; this will help you to develop and grow in your event management career. 

What do you think is the ‘next big thing’ in the world of Gin?

We recently conducted some research that found gin consumers are more likely to drink gin at home and that 1 in 16 people drink gin on a daily basis. This is fantastic news for The Gin Fayre, which continues to grow and cater to this market. 

Distilleries are also becoming increasingly inventive with their botanicals, meaning there are more choices than ever for people to try. It’s such a versatile drink, which I think is the reason for its growing popularity.  

We provide people with the opportunity to try an array of these different brands, without having to commit to spending lots of money.

We do have a few exciting ideas in the pipeline for The Gin Fayre and can’t say much else right now… you’ll just have to watch this space! 

What is unique about your place of work?

On a day-to-day basis I actually work from home; it’s not that exciting but does mean I am not constrained by the office – some days I start work at 6am and work until 3pm and some days I start at 10am! It’s very flexible. 

My favourite part though is actually the diverse array of venues that we use. From hotels to grand town halls, every city, town and venue is different. I really enjoy visiting them and seeing how we can adapt the set-up of The Gin Fayre to suit the particular venue and I love watching it all fit into place on the day. 

We’re a dynamic team and there’s a lot of pressure; event management is very fast-paced but pulling off a successful event is so rewarding. 

No day is the same working with The Gin Fayre and we’re certainly not a traditional 9 to 5!

What are the long-term plans for The Gin Fayre?

Long term, we hope to continue delivering events across the UK and possibly further afield, as well as heighten our reach across Scotland. We have a few plans in the pipeline, but it’s too early to reveal exactly what these are. 

Find your nearest The Gin Fayre event in our directory here.

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