Meet the SponsorAnthony Benton, MD, Joseph Flach & Sons.
Published: 6th October 2020
They are at the heart of every gin and when used carefully they can take your palate on a wondrous journey of smell, taste and even sight. They are of course, the distiller’s friend (and sometimes worst enemy); they are botanicals. A single botanical can transform a great gin into a spectacular sensory experience that leaves the drinker thinking “wow – I never expected that”. Some botanicals have the most exotic history and names like blue butterfly pea, calamansi, green sansho, devil’s claw, along with more classic gin botanicals like juniper, cardamom, coriander seed, angelica and citrus peel. You might say botanicals make the world of gin go round.
A business that knows more about botanicals than most, with a history stretching back close to 140 years is Joseph Flach & Sons, a global botanical merchant that works with a number of leading gin makers and brands. We recently caught up with Anthony Benton, MD of Joseph Flach & Sons to learn more about the history of the business, plans for the future and more.
What’s your name and what do you do?
My name is Anthony Benton, although everyone calls me Ben. I am the Managing Director and principal shareholder of Joseph Flach & Sons Limited (JFS). I bought the business back in late 2015. I graduated as a mechanical engineer and then spent my early working years in IT sales before moving into management where my background was mainly in running software development business, both small and large. At one stage in my corporate career, I was COO of a one thousand strong Technology Division of a PLC.
I bought JFS because I had become disenchanted with corporate behaviour, particularly the disconnect between those with power and those that were expected to make things happen. I saw lots of acquisitions and mergers where intrinsic value was bled away by top management just not understanding where the real value was nor how to harness it.
What exactly does Joseph Flach & Sons do?
JFS is a magical business that was formed back in 1882 and until I purchased it, it had remained in the same family since its birth. I was lucky enough to be in the right place and right time and although I knew nothing of the sector specifics, my decades of broad general business experience told me that it was a gem and this experience has helped me protect and then grow and develop the business. My number one first objective was not to wreck the gem I had bought and the first couple of years was about bringing in systems and building capacity. We quickly realised that we needed more warehouse space and so moved, giving us more than 3 times the storage capacity plus more offices.
Can you give us a brief history of the business?
Joseph Flach founded the business in London in 1882 after he came over from Germany to develop the herb trade, the business was incorporated in 1927. It has survived both world wars and countless recessions. In essence, we are a global merchant, we import, stock and wholesale botanicals and related products in the UK and across the rest of the world. We have customers on all 6 main continents, some of whom have been with us for over 70 years. Joseph passed on the business to family and it remained in the Flach family until they had no interested offspring to carry it on.
Because we have been in broadly the same business for nearly 140 years we have an incredibly well developed, trusted and robust supply chain and even through the current pandemic we have had little negative effect on our ability to source and supply high quality botanicals.
We currently stock around 600 normal stock lines and of these there are some 100 in various forms that we supply to gin distilleries all over the globe. Naturally we supply the basics and staple botanical ingredients but also some more exotic and unusual ones. Master Distillers are constantly looking for a new secret ingredient and new distilleries are being set up everywhere and we are often involved in connecting Master Distillers to help fledgling distillers create new recipes as well as supply samples for experimenting and crafting.
What does it mean to be a sponsor of International Scottish Gin Day?
Across Scotland we have many distilleries and we were delighted to get involved in supporting The Gin Cooperative and International Scottish Gin Day. Gin distilling is such a lovely community where, what would be seen as rivals in almost any other sector, are seen as friends and advisors. It just feels like there cannot be too much good gin and we are delighted to play a small part in helping to promote the sector and help create employment in it. Many distilleries are small local affairs and as such they help not only create their own economic activity and employment but also attract footfall and revenue into the wider local community. Quite often in remote areas where other traditional employment has diminished over time and a new distillery can kindle a new local resurgence. Not to mention that many of our distilleries are also very successfully exporting their amazing products and so helping the balance of payments to boot.
What are some of the most exciting projects you’ve ever worked on?
Successfully developing JFS has been a fantastically exciting and rewarding project for me personally because creating sustainable and enjoyable employment is such an essential and in many ways desperate requirement of society. We also export more than half of our sales including to gin distilleries as far away as Africa, America, Australia, India, New Zealand, Peru and many, many more. By their very nature botanicals are such amazing materials to work with, natural, sustainable and with so many wonderful positive properties for humans. It is no wonder that humans have been harvesting plants to survive and thrive since their beginnings.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Our basic plan over the next 12 months or so is to ride out this terrible storm we are all having to deal with and continue to build the business to provide more jobs and add more satisfied customers.
How will you be celebrating International Scottish Gin Day on Saturday 24th October?
Thankfully the 24th of October is a Saturday and so we will be able to hold a Scottish Gin tasting festival here at home to showcase to family and friends (socially distanced of course) some of Scotland’s finest.