For the Love of Gin

Gordon & Vanessa Quinn, Badachro Distillery.

Published: 10th August 2018

For The Love of Gin takes a lighthearted look at what it takes to work with your better half when you’re in the business of Scottish Gin. With a large number of husband and wife Scottish Gin businesses, we wanted to find out how they met and how they literally fell in love… with Scottish Gin! What are the ups and downs of working with your spouse? Who also happens to be your business partner… and co-founder. Who makes the tea… fetches the chocolate biscuits… who puts out the wheelie bins? What does it take to build a life together and take the bold and brave step to make Scottish Gin together? 

The first couple to take part in the series were Gordon and Vanessa Quinn of Badachro Distillery. We loved learning the story of how they met and their honest and positive outlook on running a business together.

Who are the people behind Badachro Gin?

Vanessa: We are Gordon and Vanessa Quinn and we started Badachro Distillery, officially, in January of 2017. However, the journey started long before then, as did life in Badachro.

How did you meet and how did you come to start your gin making journey together?

Gordon: It’s a tale of fate that brought myself and Vanessa together… many years ago, 32 in fact. I was living in Edinburgh but was a keen hillwalker and had always wanted to explore the Torridons. I set off with my pal and upon arriving we found a wet, cold and windy scene and decided it was best to hunker down at the small village of Badachro. We ended up spending the afternoon and evening in the Badachro Inn enjoying a few drinks and the company of bar staff and locals who were also there seeking shelter from the weather.

The weather just got worse as evening rolled around. By the end of the night, the Inn’s owner suggested that we sleep on the benches in the Inn as the weather and we hadn’t put our tent up yet, so we took him up on his offer. We made some great new pals that evening and had a few laughs. Our visit should have been a disaster, what with the bad weather, but we had such a good time that we went back a few weeks later and caught up with our new friends who gave us beds for the night. I really fell for Badachro and kept visiting every few weeks from then on.

Five years on and at that time unrelated… Vanessa, who is originally from Munich, visited Badachro on a sixth year school trip, where she met some locals, who welcomed the school group to the area and were given a great send off when they left for home. It would be some time before our paths would finally cross. But for the next 5 years Vanessa and I would both visit Badachro and never meet. Over this period Vanessa became friends with the same crowd and I would hear Vanessa’s name mentioned or she would hear my name in conversation and yet we still hadn’t met! One fateful weekend we both visited Badachro at the same time and were introduced… and we married 12 weeks later!

Work took us to the Middle East where we spent 5 years working and building a life together before we decided to relocate back to London where we had been previously based. It was here we decided to start a family and we eventually moved back to my home of Edinburgh in 2002. We decided to completely change our life around in 2007, when we both packed in our careers, sold our house in Edinburgh and moved to Badachro where we lived in a caravan with our 5 year old son Sean, our one year old daughter Ashley, a grumpy old cat and a boisterous puppy. We lived in the caravan whilst our house was being built and once we’d officially moved in, we set-up our own business – Aird Hill B&B and Little Aird Hill holiday cottage.

Our guests would often ask “What souvenir should we take away from Badachro?” The local shellfish are magnificent but as far as souvenirs go, it’s not really something you can take home in your suitcase! Vanessa and I started to hatch a plan to make a scent from local botanicals and then realising what was available, thought we could make a liqueur. On experimenting with recipes, that idea morphed into a gin and so Badachro Gin was born. We developed the recipe over time until we’d created what we felt was a flavour profile that captured the local botanicals and landscape of the place we both love.

What does it mean to work with your significant other?

Vanessa: Where to start! There’s lots of talk about the business and gin and lots of shared interests. It’s great having total trust in your business partner’s motivation knowing they just want the best for the business and that what we achieve, we achieve together and when things don’t go to plan we regroup. Both myself and Gordon are totally invested in the business and share the same level of commitment.

It’s also been great getting our children involved in the business and we’ve been able to guide them and help them understand the importance of hard work and doing something you’re passionate about. We believe these life skills will help them in later life. Our son Sean and daughter Ashley also help us with the business, whether it be moving bottles, bottling, labelling, packing, IT, co-presenting at events and more.

Which particular attributes do you each bring to the gin making business?

Vanessa: Gordon is the distiller, marketing strategist and business guy. He’s more technical and sales and business orientated. Gordon brings drive, persistence and promotes confidence.

Gordon: I’d say Vanessa has a great aesthetic sense along with a well trained and experienced palette. She has a real creative intelligence and is fantastic at handling our social media. She also ensures that the regulatory and quality systems are kept on track and recorded. Vanessa brings patience and is open minded. She has ‘taste’ and brings consideration to the business.

What are the pros and cons of working and living together?

Gordon: Pros – we can co-ordinate easily, discuss issues fully and honestly (fight and resolve) and fully support each other’s efforts. We talk about business a lot, but we like it. We’re both totally invested in the business, brand and process… and committed. We can enjoy business trips together sometimes. And we have complete trust in one another.

Vanessa: Cons – it’s not so easy to get away together, on non-business trips. We talk about business a lot, but we like it! It can be tricky to give ‘constructive criticism’ to each other.

Which topics cause the most arguments in the business?!

Gordon: None really. In the beginning, the label design caused a few moments of creative differences, which we soon resolved. Sometimes we think our rate of growth can feel like it’s going too fast, but we want to ensure we grow the business in a strategic and manageable way that lets us keep making high quality gin without having to compromise. Also the work/life balance can be a talking point. 

Vanessa: When you run your own business it can be hard to switch off. Even when you do have some time off planned, there’s always something business related that crops up when you should be relaxing and recharging the batteries away from work. Unfortunately sometimes as a business owner you just have to deal with things whether you’re on a break from work or not.

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

Gordon: It sounds like fun and can be rewarding, but the market is very busy and margins are not what one might hope. Investment in terms of time, effort and money is quite considerable, both at start up and throughout growth, so have a second income stream available!

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

Vanessa: By drinking something that isn’t gin, haha. Gordon enjoys a nice beer and I’m partial to a nice glass of wine. But seriously, we don’t escape the subject much, we don’t want to! We’re totally invested in the Badachro Distillery project. We love the distillation process and there’s always an exciting buzz in the air when we’re working. It’s a business that lets us enjoy something we’re passionate about – gin and crafted quality spirits that we hope will eventually provide us with a modest income. 

Gordon: Making gin, and other spirits in our case, is something we’ve grown into as a couple and as a business. It really does let us be creative when it comes to all aspects of the business – from experimenting with new flavour profiles and development of new products to how we market these products and get them to market. Every aspect of the business requires strategic and creative thinking to make it work. Making Scottish Gin is now a cornerstone of our life and something we love. We do try and find time for sailing, horse riding and travelling along with raising our family here in Badachro. On top of all the gin stuff, we still run our B&B and self-catering businesses and try to socialise with our friends as much as possible.

What does the term Scottish Gin mean to you?

Gordon: For us, a gin should a juniper-led, high quality spirit. For it to be a Scottish Gin, it should have been distilled here in Scotland and use some, if not all, of it’s key botanicals from Scotland, which might include the base spirit or botanicals.

Vanessa: A Scottish Gin should also be honest and transparent in how it’s marketed, in terms of branding and provide the consumer with reassurance that if it says Scotland on the bottle then it should have been made here in Scotland. It’s these brand truths and integrity that we feel is a big part of how successful the story and future of Scottish Gin will be.

What’s next for Badachro Gin?

Gordon: Cliché’d but… this project is about the journey rather than the destination, so we really want to stay open-minded, enjoy the journey and make decisions on what to do next as opportunities arise. We export to Germany, France and London already and would like to add another European country or two to that list, along, perhaps, with a US state or two.

Vanessa: As for recipes or products, we’re experimenting all the time and might release new ones as and when we get them right, but there’s no rush.

You can learn more about Badachro Distillery here.

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