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For the Love of Gin

Jo Brydie & Emma Bouglet, Fidra Gin.

Published: 15th August 2020

For The Love of Gin takes a lighthearted look at what it takes to work with someone you know and love. What are the ups and downs of working with your best friend? Who also happens to be your business partner… and co-founder. It adds a whole new dynamic to any business. 

You can make plans until you’re blue in the face and sometimes a chance meeting here, a lucky break there can lead people down a path that they perhaps would never have predicted. Friends Jo Brydie and Emma Bouglet had an idea for a business that would provide them with a chance to get creative, build something to call their own and grow a business around something they both love.

Who are the people behind Fidra Gin?

Jo Brydie and Emma Bouglet.

How did you start your gin making journey together?

Jo – Emma and I have been friends for about 8 years – we met because we both live in a small hamlet in East Lothian and we have sons who are the same age. It also turned out that I used to work at Musselburgh Racecourse with Emma’s husband Richard several years earlier! In 2017 Emma and I realised we were both looking for a new challenge workwise (I am a podiatrist and Emma is a childminder) and this was really where our gin adventure started. I contacted my friend Kirsten Speirs to see if we could meet to pick her brains about all things gin and she invited us along to the 2017 Scottish Gin Awards, which she organises. It was there we met Walter Micklethwait from Inshriach Distillery, who helped us scale up our recipe and who has made Fidra Gin for us ever since!

Emma – In 2017 I was teaching French to Jo and a small group of ladies around my kitchen table and Jo and I used to chat about starting up a new venture. We were both keen to work together and gin seemed like the perfect idea! My husband Richard owns a wine merchants business and supplies many restaurants and on trade places in and around Scotland and the North East of England so we knew we would have good contacts to start up a gin business along with help from Kirsten and Walter.

What does it mean to work with your friend?

Jo – Working with a friend has been a lot of fun so far – we spent the winter of 2017 developing our recipe on a tiny 5-litre still so there were a lot of tasting sessions with us and other neighbours – particularly when we were snowed in for several days during the Beast from the East! It has also been really nice to be working with someone you know pretty well and can have a good laugh with at events like the Royal Highland Show, which is 4 full on days of gin flogging!

Emma – It has been great working with Jo and we have had good times making the final recipe and experimenting as well as bouncing ideas off of each other. Luckily Jo is also very patient whereas I am a bit more fiery and less tolerant! 

What particular attributes do you each bring to the business?

Jo – The division of labour has kind of happened quite naturally – Emma is really good with social media and handles the vast majority of that side of things whilst I’m happier dealing with the more operational side of things like sorting out bottles, botanicals, labels etc – and I seem to have become the HMRC/licensing person, which is maybe not the most fun job in the world!!

Emma – I think Jo secretly loves the HMRC role!! Ha ha!! I enjoy the social media side of the business, which Jo is not that keen on, so it works well.

What are the pros and cons of working together?

Jo – The pros of working together outweigh the cons! We share a passion for Fidra Gin and a drive to make a good go of our business. Emma might say one of the cons of working with me is that I am quite pernickety where she’d be more relaxed but you probably need a bit of both to run a business so it’s maybe not a bad thing. I guess it can be harder to come to decisions when it’s not just you who has to make your mind up but it’s also good to have someone to bounce ideas off.

Emma – I love working with Jo. She brings a very clam aspect to the business and has forged extremely close working relationships with the operations side of the business. Jo is very fair and also very thorough in all aspects!! Due to my previous life in investment banking where deadlines approached fast and furious during the day, I tend to work quickly and rush things, so I think that probably drives Jo slightly bonkers!! 

What topics cause the most arguments in the business?!

Jo – We’ve managed to not argue very much but I would say that I am probably infuriatingly cautious in my approach to things sometimes!

Emma – we definitely do not argue as we both value each others opinions. Jo is cautious whereas I am a bit more frivolous so it’s great we can discuss things and balance each other out!

What advice do you have for other friends considering making gin together?

Jo – I would say that we have found the gin industry a really open and friendly place – people like Walter and also the guys at Kinrara Distillery have been so good to us – so my advice would definitely be to go for it. Do your research beforehand – there is a lot of admin as well as the fun stuff! And be sure you are happy and have time to work super hard…

Emma – I would say go for it! It’s been a learning curve of balancing life, jobs and gin and the first year we worked very hard sacrificing family time and making a good go of raising Fidra Gin’s profile! It isn’t a walk in the park and you need to be dedicated and expect lots of ups and a few downs along the way!

How do you escape the topic (or making) of gin?

Jo – Holidays and sport are generally involved – I love to run, bike, ski, hillwalk, swim and if I can combine some of these with a campervan trip in the Alps with the family in our trusty VW then I’m pretty happy! Also love a meal out with a few glasses of wine (and often no gin)!!

Emma – Lots of family time and walking in the woods and the beach. We are keen cooks so I like a bit of foraging and then cooking a lovely meal to enjoy. Even when we have get togethers with Jo and Andy and a couple of other neighbours, we actually hardly talk about the gin!

What does the term Scottish Gin mean to you?

Jo – I think it means just that – gin made in Scotland and, for us, using as much locally foraged or homegrown ingredients as possible.

Emma – a gin made in Scotland using as many local botanicals as possible. And we believe companies need to be 100% honest where their gin is made.

What’s next for Fidra Gin?

Jo – Lockdown has kind of changed everything for us – sadly sales to the trade dried up overnight – we really feel for all the bars and restaurants who are having a terrible time and hopefully we’ll see them back in business as soon as possible. For us though, online sales have kept us pretty busy so I hope that we can work hard to maintain as many of these customers as possible post lockdown and we look forward to getting back to supplying the trade when the bars and restaurants are able to open their doors again.

Emma – Lockdown has totally affected our gin business but we have been so grateful to every internet sale we have made and also the businesses that were forced to close but still supported us in the way that they could. From the social media side, we have been so grateful for every new follow, share or post about our gin. It has kept us ticking over and if we come out of this stronger then it can only be a good, positive thing. We are devastated for our customers in the trade that have suffered greatly from closure and it will be so interesting to see how the way we do business has evolved over the last few months. I think we have all realised that the reset button has been pressed.

You can learn more about Fidra Gin here.

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