Meet the FounderPeter Sim, Raven Spirits.
Published: 20th August 2018
Raven Spirits was established in Aberdeenshire by brothers Peter and Callum Sim. Their signature gin, Hrafn Gin Thought & Memory, along with their limited edition, Hrafn Gin Founder’s Edition, were launched in May 2018 and only a few short months later Hrafn Gin Thought & Memory was awarded a Gold at The Spirit Business Gin Masters. We recently met with Peter to discuss mandarins, gin and how they came up with their name.
How did Raven Spirits come about?
On a trip to Bruichladdich on Islay back in 2017, Callum and I managed to get one of the first Gin Tours around Bruichladdich Distillery, home to The Botanist Islay Dry Gin. It was here we saw their gin still ‘Ugly Betty’. They had just emptied the still and the smell of botanicals in the air was remarkable.
Later that night in our camper van, Callum and I were sitting taking in the views and enjoying a glass of Laphroaig, a whisky with a deep taste and lingering finish. Callum turned to me and asked, “if you were to make a gin with such depth and finish as good as The Botanist, how would you go about making it?”
We found ourselves talking late into the night about making our own gin, what botanicals we would use, what we would leave out, what it would be called. Our visit to the Bruichladdich Distillery was the spark that set us on our gin making journey – this is where the fun began.
People also ask why we called our gin Hrafn (pronounced Ra-vn) meaning Raven in Old Norse. Callum has always been interested in Norse mythology and he even wanted to be a Viking when he was 4 years old! The clincher was when we were at Bruichladdich, a raven landed close to Callum as we looked at the botanicals from ‘Ugly Betty’ and the raven just stared at him, and so a brand was born.
What important lessons have you learned on your gin journey?
A few of the important lessons we learned were getting to know the distillation processes. Something you think would taste amazing in a gin might lose a great deal of flavour and essence during the distillation process. The same can be said for botanicals that you might not expect to find in a gin but work really well once distilled and add something special to the flavour profile.
Have an idea of how you want your gin to taste and what botanicals you think you’ll have to use to achieve this. Setting out to make a gin is a long, complex, time consuming process and if at the start of that process you have a good idea of how you would like your gin to taste, this will be a big step in the right direction. It’s from here you’ll find yourself building various flavour profiles for botanicals and experimenting with quantities and distillation processes.
Always be open to experimentation and new tastes. To create your gin, you’ll go through a number of recipes and some of these will taste amazing and some not, but don’t be afraid to try new botanicals and always keep in mind what it is you want to achieve with your gin. It can be easy to get side tracked or lose sight of your goals when you’re in the development stage of creating your gin but accept things do and will go wrong but remain focused and try to enjoy the process – making gin should be fun!
What makes Hrafn Gin different?
Hrafn Gin is different for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is the use of mandarin as one of our botanicals, it gives Hrafn a deep and resonant citrus that overlays the juniper. Then, there is the warming spice that develops into a tingling sensation in the mouth.
The combination of these two gives the depth of taste and then there is the long lingering finish. This gives Hrafn Gin a taste that holds up very well with tonic allowing you to experience a refreshing G&T with a fulsome taste. The smoothness of the spirit also makes Hrafn Gin ideal to sip over ice.
What’s the best part of the gin making process?
There are so many! Holding a bottle of your gin and getting the pleasure of knowing you have created something people love to drink. Learning new things, meeting new people and experimenting with new methods and botanicals.
The best part of setting-up Raven Spirits is it means I get to work with my brother Callum. We instinctively know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We trust each other absolutely and so can disagree constructively and so never need to compromise – we tend to push each other to greater heights.
What’s the worst part of the gin making process?
That’s an easy one – washing up after and doing the accounts. Running Raven Spirits means we all do a bit of everything, so if there is something you don’t like it won’t last long and then you move onto something else.
What’s your biggest highlight of the Raven Spirits adventure so far?
I have two standout moments. There was the time when Callum and I were working on the original recipes for Hrafn Gin and we cracked the recipe and then the method, and I’ll never forget tasting the prototype Hrafn Gin for the first time.
Then there was the moment I discovered we’d won the Gin Masters Gold. It was early in the morning and I had stayed over at Callum’s house the night before when I got an email to say Thought & Memory had won a Gold Medal at the Gin Masters 2018. I was maybe a tad over eager to tell Callum who was still fast asleep in his bedroom. I burst in, switched on the light and gave a dazed and confused Callum my phone with the email. We were both totally speechless initially. Callum probably more so partly due to the rude awaking but also that our gin, which was only a few months old had a Gold. I’ll never forget the look on Callum’s face once he realised we had won, it made the ups and downs of the last year and a bit totally worth it for that moment alone. We may, or may not, have gone on to celebrate in our pyjamas!
Who’s supported you on your gin journey?
We have been really lucky on our Gin journey and there are a lot of people who helped and were supportive. Mike Bain at Deeside Brewery and Distillery was a huge support from the start with facilities to experiment and perfect Hrafn. The guys at FortyTwo Studio who did our branding were great too. They were patient and guided us through the process of branding.
We also cannot forget the help of our family and friends who supported us and also acted as focus groups and sounding boards.
Where would you like to see Raven Spirits in 5 years time?
We would be delighted if in 5 years from now Raven Spirits was an established, premium spirits brand and we have a few spirit editions in our product range. We would also like it to be available across the UK and perhaps available in a few other countries.
What’s next for Raven Spirits?
We are already working on our next edition and about to start experimenting with other gin processes to see what else we can come up with. I am always mindful of something Olivier Ward of the Gin Foundry said to me, “Peter, there are many ways to make gin”. This motivates me to see what else can be achieved. Whatever we do we will do it with care, dedication, heart and plenty of focus on creating the very best spirits we can. Callum has his name on the bottle and it’s important to him and me that everything we do with Raven Spirits is of a high standard, tastes amazing and shows the time and effort that we put into our business.
What’s your personal ‘perfect serve’?
You know us well and know we do not approve of ‘Perfect Pours’ and such like. Our preferences are not perfect, but ones that we personally enjoy.
We both love a Hrafn Gin & Tonic, on a 1:1 ratio with a small piece of lemon peel. If we are making cocktails, then for Callum it would be a double measure Gimlet and for me it would be our take on the Breakfast Martini using our Hrafn Gin Mandarin Marmalade.
You can learn more about Raven Spirits here.