Meet the Distiller

Phil Cox, Pentland Hills Gin.

Published: 25th June 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 Phil Cox, distiller and one half of Pentland Hills Gin. This is a relatively new Scottish Gin business but owners Phil and Tabatha are working hard to create a sustainable distillery and do their bit for the environment, including generating power through solar and other renewable sources. The couple, working with Scottish Woodlands, have also invested in replanting juniper alongside a broader programme of woodland regeneration. As part of their commitment to reducing waste, they also offer a gin refill service, the etched bottles and packing are all designed to be returned, refilled and sent back. Seven months into their gin journey, we caught up with Phil to find out more.

How did Pentland Hills Gin come about?

Tabatha and I had a deep and meaningful conversation just after Hogmanay in 2016/17 whilst sitting in the hot tub. The conclusion was to seek a way out from working for everybody else and the idea of making gin emerged. From a very basic ‘shall we think about this’, the plan to create the gin began to emerge and I undertook to examine how the gin would be made and Tabatha looked into how the business plan to support gin distillation needed to be shaped. After many months of work, the gin began to emerge, the final recipe and taste was agreed (by the many friends and family who tested it) in June 2018. The hard work of building the necessary facilities and preparing the governance around how to advertise and sell the gin, was completed in October and first sales began in November 2018.

What important lessons have you learned on your Gin journey so far?

Cleanliness in the distillery is vital. Only by accepting the highest standards can you deliver effectively. You should always seek advice and never be too proud to think you know all the answers. You need to talk, laugh and think about the long game – the rewards will come! You should also never be afraid to go your own way – our return/refill service is unique and a real challenge to current thinking on gin drinking (well not just gin!)

What makes Pentland Hills Gin different?

The hand crafted nature of our distillation gives Pentland Hills Gin a standout taste, with hints of mint, orange and cocoa, the gin has received very favourable comments from those who have enjoyed it. It is also supplied in an etched bottle, which is designed to be returned to the distillery and then refilled and sent back. Our family ethos is based upon sustainability, all we do is designed to work in empathy with the land and ingredients that we use to craft our gin. It is this passion that gives our gin its unique signature taste.

What’s next for Pentland Hills Gin?

We have only been selling for 7 months, the next big step is to bring ‘on-line’ a new still with a 200 litre capacity later this year.

What’s the biggest highlight of your gin adventure so far?

Selling our first bottle!

Where would you like to see Pentland Hills Gin in 5 years time?

Still selling gin………!

What’s your personal ‘perfect serve’?

Pentland Hills Gin poured over ice with a light (even low sugar) tonic and garnished with pink grapefruit and mint (this should be slightly bruised before dropping it in the glass).

Who’s supported you on your Gin journey?

The list is endless… friends and family in the main. However, this endeavour is our vision and we have both lent on one another during the ‘downs’ and danced with one another on the ‘ups’.

What’s the best part of the Gin making process?

Just as the ‘heart’ begins to occur there is a wonderful change in smell from the gin, lovely citrus and slightly sweet aromas begin to emerge. Also our Still, Douglas, begins to make a slightly different noise and the gin runs in a slightly different manner… sublime.

Also, meeting the many wonderful people who have enjoyed our gin at the Festivals we have attended.

What’s the worst part of the Gin making process?

Having the patience to let the tails draw though. Distilling is a long process and sometimes the final stages of distillation never seem to want to happen.

The hard work to ensure absolute quality but of course it’s also immensely satisfying. The sealing, labelling, boxing and preparing for posting all takes time and must be right.

You can learn more about Pentland Hills Gin here.

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