Meet the DistillerIain Brown, Lundin Distilling.
Published: 2nd March 2019
In our Meet The Distiller editorial feature series, we speak with Scotland’s Gin makers and discover what it takes to make great Scottish Gin. Next in the series, we meet Iain Brown, owner and distiller at Lundin Distilling. Iain is passionate about distillation and Fife’s thriving food and drinks sector. Having met Iain on a few occasions, we know he’s focused on creating fantastic, quality Scottish spirits that capture some of the Fife landscape. Established in 2015, Iain, along with his partner Roxy, has spent the last 3 years working hard to grow their business and brand. With some exciting things in store for 2019, we caught up with Iain to learn a bit more about his gin journey so far.
How did Gorse Gin come about?
If you look at my swing now, it seems unbelievable, but I used to play decent golf (three kids and a gin business don’t do wonders for a handicap). I play at Lundin golf course in Fife. The course and the surrounding coastline are one of my favourite places in the world. In late spring you get a huge bloom of the gorse blossom on the course and when the sun shines the air fills with the most incredible aroma. Just the thought now takes me back to good times on those rare warm days that we sometimes get in a Scottish spring. Gorse Gin is a small homage to my favourite time in the Scottish calendar.
What important lessons have you learned on your Gin journey?
Starting any business isn’t easy! This market in particular is incredibly competitive and fast-moving. One of the toughest things to get my head around is how the idea of “gin” has changed over the last few years. It’s great that boundaries are being pushed and this has led to some outstanding new products and an increasing expectation of quality which is good for the industry. At the same time, however, we’ve all seen things which may be too far removed from what we know as ‘gin’ and which risk jeopardising the premium quality that most distillers are working hard to protect. As far as I know, there’s never been a unicorn tears colour-changing whisky. It’s totally cool that consumers want different drinks but some kind of formal regulation around what is and isn’t gin is probably overdue!
What makes Gorse Gin different?
I think for me and many of the small-scale distillers who are just trying to make great gin, the truth is that we have more things in common than differences. Back-stories are great but as a drinks consumer, I buy on the basis of quality, personal taste, looks and, ever-increasingly, provenance. When I started, I believed the norm was that small-batch meant individual distillers making quality products on their own equipment. I have no issue with contract distilling (it’s a great way for individuals with great ideas to get their products into the market) but it does seem slightly strange that us guys who distil with their own equipment using their own process feel like we now have to shout about it. I guess ultimately because our gin is made on our own still (there’s only two like it – the other one’s in Canada!) and we currently don’t make gin for anyone else, then our spirit will always be totally unique. I can also guarantee we have the highest splinter to bottle ratio in the world (picking gorse petals is not an easy job!).
What’s next for Lundin Distilling?
Lundin Distilling is a Fife-centric business. Importantly, the business is inspired by Fife as a whole – Fife’s rich history of industry and craftsmanship are just as important as Fife’s incredible coastline in Lundin Distilling’s story. On this basis we are using Fife to promote our brand but equally as our brand grows, we will look to promote Fife itself. At the minute we distil about 9 miles away from Lundin Links in a not-so attractive industrial unit but we are in the formative stages of moving our premises, as part of a community project, to our originally planned location. Opening the doors of the distillery as part of a wider community hub will help reinvigorate the local area, attracting visitors and hopefully creating jobs.
What’s the biggest highlight of your gin adventure so far?
There wasn’t a better feeling than seeing the first drop of gin coming off of our ‘big’ still. Getting a couple of international awards was a bit of icing on the cake but really seeing and hearing from delighted customers is what it’s all about. Even if our little distillery remains small, knowing we’ve made a gin that’s made our customers happy, is something I’ll always be proud of.
Where would you like to see Lundin Distilling in 5 years time?
My ambitions for the business are modest. I love distilling and I love the drinks industry. I’m fortunate that I’ve not had to take on external investment or funding to start the business and so, in some ways, Lundin Distilling can continue for the foreseeable as a bit of a labour of love driven purely by passion for the product and the satisfaction of our customers. That being said, I think our products are great and so the nasty little competitive part of me wants to see the business continue to grow. The UK is probably getting close to “peak gin”, so looking at exporting is important. We are hugely lucky that Scotland continues to be a by-word for quality in the world-wide drinks industry so the prospect of Scottish gin following Scotch whisky in that respect is not unimaginable.
What’s your personal ‘perfect serve’?
Wow, this changes on a weekly if not daily basis – check out our website for my current favourites. At the minute I’m rocking a Raspberry Gin Ramos – it’s properly ‘Gram’-able, you get top bar-tender points and, even better, it tastes incredible. If you can nail one of these, you’re winning at drinks! For simple serves though a negroni or G&T (Mediterranean tonic and slice of orange) won’t ever fall out of my top 3.
Who’s supported you on your Gin journey?
Obviously Roxy, my long-suffering other half, has been there throughout the whole journey. She’s shared every smile (and tear shed!) in the business and done more than her fair share of standing around in the cold and rain at markets! I’m also blessed with some great friends and family who’ve been awesome with impromptu child-care and selling duties; who have helped keep the plates spinning when everything’s been close to toppling over!! Love you guys!
What’s the best part of the Gin making process?
Developing a product. Going through the challenge of putting together a new product is exhilarating. Using your palette critically, tweaking the recipe and adjusting the variables of the process is like being a chef and mad-scientist all at once. Perfecting it is unbelievably satisfying!
What’s the worst part of the Gin making process?
Developing a product. It’s great when it works but sometimes things don’t always go as expected – it’s definitely a game of fine margins! Holding up your “amazing” new spirit proudly only to fling it down the drain after the first sip is never a fun experience.
You can learn more about Lundin Distilling here.