Meet the DistillerJack Smith, Cairngorm Gin Company.
Published: 11th June 2020
Located in whisky country, Speyside, and encompassing the Cairngorms National Park, Cairngorm Gin Company is one of Scotland’s newest Scottish Gin distilleries and brands. Launched at the end of 2019 by Jack Smith in his hometown of Carrbridge, the distillery is home to a bespoke 50 litre still that produces Cairngorm Scottish Highland Gin. We recently caught up with Jack to learn more about how his local landscape, family and background have helped shaped his business, brand and gin.
What’s your name and what do you do?
My full name is Jack Alan Smith (Jack after an uncle on my father’s side and Alan after my grandfather who was a real character). Sadly he passed away before the launch of Cairngorm Gin but it’s true to say that, had he still been around, he would have loved nothing more than being in amongst it and he’d certainly have been my biggest supporter! Hence the reason our still “Ginger” is named after him.
What’s your background?
I’m a chef to trade and I’ve loved every minute of it! I still continue to keep my hand in, working part-time locally. My background has always been catering. Since a very early age, I was passionate about cooking and loved to experiment in the kitchen. I also helped out in the family catering business before starting my first real job at 15 in a local 2Star AA Rosette restaurant. From there, I went on to serve an apprenticeship in Edinburgh with Michelin chef Martin Wishart. This was extremely long hours and very hard work but so rewarding; to be so creative using the very best ingredients – skills which have been passed to my gin-making. As well as my time at Restaurant Martin Wishart, I was lucky enough to cook in kitchens at Andrew Fairlie’s at Gleneagles Hotel, Per Sè in New York and Ashford Castle in County Mayo, Ireland. Such wonderful opportunities for which I will always be grateful.
What spirits are you involved in making?
I’m only involved in making gin and for me this is more than enough!
What kind of research went into making Cairngorm Gin?
Endless research went into making Cairngorm Gin. We live in such a beautiful part of Scotland and there are many quality producers here on our doorstep so it was important to get it right from the outset. It is so important to source and use the very best ingredients and this takes time and we wanted to do something a bit different, hence our use of cloudberries, which is truly unique to us as a gin producer in Scotland but has a reference to the Cairngorms National Park. Our gin certainly is “inspired by the land we live in” and a truly wonderful land it is indeed. One which I have come to appreciate all the more since these difficult times we find ourselves in during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Do you get the opportunity to experiment?
Unfortunately, I’ve not had a lot of time to experiment yet. Since the launch of Cairngorm Gin at the end of November 2019, we have hit the ground running! Even throughout the current lockdown, I have been inundated with distributing donations and sales of alcohol-based sanitiser as well as offering a contactless doorstep drop locally of Gin & Tonic Bundles and continuing online sales.
What’s your No.1 rule when making spirits?
My No.1 rule when making gin is to use the very best ingredients and take your time….perfection cannot be rushed!
What’s the best part of the gin making process?
You need to ask?… The tasting of course!
What’s the worst part of the gin making process?
Probably collecting and filtering the River Spey Water.
What’s your ultimate drink?
Ultimate drink? Mmm that’s a difficult one. Take today as an example, it’s 19 degrees so it’s a Pimm’s kinda day… hence a jug currently frosting in the freezer, the cucumber, strawberries and mint all prepared ready to add the final touches and when the BBQ is fired up later, we’ll sit outside and enjoy a long Pimm’s Cocktail. Earlier in the week it was Mojitos and on a Steak night it’s a good bottle of red wine, where as it would be an ice-cold beer with fajitas, but nothing is more versatile than enjoying a quality Scottish Gin & Tonic with friends at any time!
Tell us something we might not know about Cairngorm Gin Company?
I am officially the youngest Scottish Gin owner and distiller!
You can learn more about Cairngorm Gin Company here.