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Meet the Blogger

Gin On The Tyne.

Published: 24th June 2021

There are as many gin bloggers as there are brands. Individuals who have a passion for the juniper spirit that share that passion through their website amd social media channels. The types of gin bloggers varies greatly too. Some shoot amazing photos for their Instagram channels whilst others provide in-depth reviews and tasting notes on the latest gins. In ‘Meet The Blogger’, we chat with some of the most respected gin communicators and bloggers talking about gin to learn more about their own journey into the world of gin and what Scottish Gin means to them.

In this feature we meet not one but three gin bloggers who have all been on a shared gin journey through friendship and a shared love of gin; husband and wife Ian and Sophia MacGilp and long time friend Rachel Fenwick, who use their dedicated Instagram account and social media accounts to share their love and views about the gins they’ve tried and champion the brands they’ve come to know. They’re all active members of various gin and cocktails clubs, along with attending events and actively contributing to the wider gin community.

When and where was your first Gin & Tonic?

Ian: Growing up, I’ve always done a lot of sailing with my family, and I remember my first G&T really well: I was sitting on a boat in Tobermory harbour on a summer evening, when I was maybe 18. Fairly sure the G&T was Gordon’s with no ice, own-brand tonic and a slightly dodgy lemon, but it still tasted great.

Sophia and Rachel: Nowhere near as glamorous as Ian’s! There’s a bar called ‘Sinners’ in Newcastle that’s a real student dive, but was the place to be during our Uni years. We enjoyed three house trebles for a fiver… The tonic was almost always flat, and it’s probably best we don’t know what gin we were drinking!

What started you off on your blogging gin journey together?

Ian: It was Rachel’s idea. I’m blaming Rachel.

Sophia: Ian and I were already going out and enjoying gin together, and we’d started a bit of sharing what we were drinking on our own social media accounts. Rachel was doing the same, and she suggested starting up an account for the three of us, and the rest is history!

What do you do to stay abreast of the latest gin news?

Rachel: We try and attend plenty of live gin events. Before Covid that obviously meant going to gin fairs and festivals, but during lockdown there have been some fantastic live events, distiller interviews and cocktail classes run by people like The Gin To My Tonic, the Martini and Negroni Clubs, and you guys, The Gin Cooperative of course! 

Sophia: More recently we’ve been able to attend a number of online events, due to Covid. Instagram has also been amazing for weekly live events run by the distillers themselves. We also subscribe to a lot of distilleries’ mailing lists, which is great for news, serving suggestions and upcoming events.

Who are some of your favourite gin bloggers?

Sophia: Too many to mention, so don’t be offended if we haven’t mentioned you! But Andy Trilby (@GinAndTrilby) is an absolute legend, and the whole gang at @MartiniClubUK and @NegroniClubUK are so knowledgeable and have inspired us a lot. And we can’t ignore the lovely Scottish Alchemists  (@thescottishalchemists), whose awesome gin podcast really brightened up some tough lockdown moments for us.

Tell us something about yourselves outside the world of gin…

Sophia: I’m a proud supporter of mental health charities like MIND, and I raise money for them with running events. I’ve run the London Marathon twice, and the Great North Run seven times. Not sure I could manage it after lockdown though!

Rachel: I’m a big community-spirited person and enjoy volunteering in my spare time. I’m currently a Civilian Instructor in the Royal Air Force Air Cadets, and I can’t wait to be back in uniform so I can give back to an organisation which really helped shape me when I was younger.  I’m also a part-time crafter, wannabe-star-baker and a mum to the most wonderful/mischievous little toddler!

Ian: I sing in a choir and rehearse with them every week – even via Zoom during lockdown! We mostly sing classical music, but the highlight for me was singing the national anthems at the Rugby World Cup matches in Newcastle back in 2015. Anyone want to hear the Samoan anthem? Give me two martinis and I’m there.

Would you admit to having a favourite gin?

Rachel: For me, it really does depend on my day and mood, but some of my favourite brands include: Darnley’s, Isle of Bute and Rock Rose. Although they all offer something different among their core ranges, for me I can think of a time and place for each and every one of them – that makes a great rounded brand. Also, anything with notes of tea or elderflower tend to be my day to day gins.

Sophia: I love coastal gins, and anything that has an element of seaweed or maritime notes will grab my attention. So I love Isle of Harris and Isle of Bute’s Oyster gin, and I’m also enjoying LBD’s Latitude Strength.

Ian: I definitely have some gins I keep coming back to like Achroous by Electric Spirit Company, Inshriach Gin, and Biggar Strength by Biggar Gin. But my ‘favourite’ usually depends on the season and how I want to serve the gin at that particular moment.

What’s your personal perfect serve?

Ian: We’re all dodging this one… a perfect serve depends on the gin, the occasion and the time of day. So depending on how we’re feeling, it could be a gin with lots of tonic and fresh berries in the garden, or a strong negroni by the fire on a winter evening. The best thing about gin is that you get to experiment to find your own perfect serve!

What’s the best and worst thing about being gin bloggers?

Sophia: We’ve met some lovely people through our love of gin. Downside? Constant fear of missing out – I’m blaming you, Negroni and Martini Clubs!

Ian: I love hearing about the technical aspects of distilling, which distillers are usually happy to chat about. My embarrassing downside is that I love nerding out with the history and engineering in our reviews, and usually break Instagram’s damned character limit! We really should start a blog…

Rachel: As enthusiasts, we get to try a wide range of gins over the course of the year, so it’s kind of ruined going into a regular bar for me! However, it’s great to see more and more bars reaching out to champion different brands, especially from the local area. Positives wise, just as the other two have said, I love meeting the people on the road at events and distilleries. For me, as a marketeer, the people and the story are just as important as the spirit itself – getting to know the brands is my best bit.

Who’s supported you on your gin journey?

Rachel: There are some brilliant distillers that we’ve become good friends with, like LBD Spirits, Arbikie, Divine, Locksley, Mackintosh, and they’ve been so supportive in our journey. We also love Ally from Craft 56 and Andrew from Cushiedoos tonic. They’re all good for a chat as well! You guys are pretty cool too.

What Scottish Gins are you looking forward to trying out next?

Rachel: Rock Rose’s Citrus Coastal, Teasmith, and (though it’s not a gin) the new Isle of Harris Meadowsweet Tincture.

Sophia: Sutors Flora and Kinrara Wild Juniper Gin.

Ian: Kirkjuvagr Harpa and Garden Shed’s Côte-Rôtie aged gin.

What plans do you have next for Gin On The Tyne?

Ian: This year we’ll be running our third ‘Tour De Scotland’ in August to lead up to International Scottish Gin Day 2021. Hopefully we’ll get other friendly bloggers to join us on the Tour!

Sophia: With lockdown hopefully easing, we have a long list of distilleries, particularly in the North East and Scotland, that we’re keen to go and visit, plus lots of Instagram friends that we want to actually meet in person.  We’re also planning a team trip to the Isle of Mull in July to catch up with Ian’s extended family and do some on-location photography!

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