My Scottish Gin JourneyAlexander 'Fred' Stockton, Alexander's Gin.
Published: 22nd February 2020
You have a great idea for a gin but don’t own a gin still or distillery so how do you make your dream a reality? In My Scottish Gin Journey, we speak with the Scottish Gin brand owners who have created their own Scottish Gin brand and established a business but have collaborated with others to help bring their gin to life. Often this includes seeking the help and guidance of a distiller and use of a gin still for distillation, advice on legal regulations surrounding the production and sale of gin and a whole lot more.
Next in the series we meet Alexander Stockton, founder of Alexander’s Gin. Originally from Orkney, Alexander (his friends call him Fred) has called the small coastal town of Stonehaven in the North East of Scotland home for a number of years now. With a marine and subsea background and a passion for brewing beers, ales and more, Alexander’s Gin was launched in December 2018. We caught up with Fred to learn more about his journey into the world of Scottish Gin, what’s it like to work with a contract distiller, what inspired him and more.
When did you first have the idea to make a gin?
Since 2002 I have been brewing beer as Bigfish Brewing Company and over the years many non-beer drinkers joked “ I wish you made gin too…”. This made the grey matter spark into life and a chance meeting with Peter and Richard from Lost Loch Spirits made my ideas a reality.
What was your process for creating the flavour profile?
I was on a Caribbean trip drinking a local ‘unrefined’ spirit which had the potential of greatness, once the burning went away! I articulated this (the good bits) to the guys at Lost Loch and we began making many, many versions of my verbal description. It took over a year and after lots of fine tuning… ‘Alexander’s’ was born.
What’s your role in the distillation and production aspects of your gin?
I’m present throughout the process, weighing out the botanicals and filling the still. The Lost Loch guys have been very understanding and helpful ensuring I’m involved. Heads, hearts and tails to bottling, sealing and boxing.
Can you tell us a bit more about your business name, packaging and branding?
The business is Bigfish Brewing Company and the gin name came from a joke in the Caribbean where we met the distiller but did not get his name, so we called him ‘Alexander’. Back in Scotland we knew we needed a strong name and after some trademark checking, Alexander’s was confirmed. Originally the logo was going to be two simple X’s on top of one another, which is norse for “where there’s a will there’s a way” but my daughter added more, to make it look more like an ‘A’ and when it’s on its side, it looks like a fish. She had a hand in naming the brewing company too!
What are some of the benefits of having a contract distilled gin?
Honestly? I can’t afford a distillery. But also the passion shown by Lost Loch Spirits to produce quality in all of their products made the decision easier. It’s not always been a smooth process for them, but we’ve supported one another along the way. And of course their knowledge helped me get to market quicker.
What are some of the disadvantages of having a contract distilled gin?
Not many with my contract. Lost Lost Spirits Distillery is in a beautiful local location and we have a productive and constructive working relationship. Although I’m there for all production aspects, one disadvantage would be not having a distillery for tours and tastings… maybe one day.
What have been some of the business challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Other ‘small batch’ contracted gins, making claims like ‘Distilled in Scotland’ for example, when they’re not. Pricing competitively can be a real challenge too, especially as a small business. Also finding the time between a full time job and family. What started out as a hobby has turned into a very time consuming business!
What are some of your business highlights?
Watching people drinking Alexander’s in my favourite pub not knowing I made it and the local off licences in Stonehaven calling me because it had sold out, again! General feedback on the final product has been a great boost.
What are the long term goals for your gin, business and brand?
One day I would like to produce in Stonehaven, but sustainable growth is key. Quality not quantity. And to hear Idris Elba would like to endorse it!
Do you think the consumer cares where the gin they’re buying is made?
I hope so? Some will, some won’t and I can’t change that.
Do you think more could be done to help Scottish Gin makers and brands?
The Gin Cooperative has been a great help categorising fellow gins and getting the names out there. Further regulations for branding ‘Scottish Gin’ would be good. Not just printed on the bottle because you can.
Would you like to open and operate your own distillery one day?
A Brewery come Distillery in Stonehaven, absolutely yes. But it’s not something I can fund at the moment. Stonehaven has some very talented breweries currently and adding to this already high quality hotbed of beverages would be a dream come true.
Where do you think Scottish Gin as a drinks category will be in 10 years?
I hope as well regarded and protected as Scottish Whisky, Caribbean rum etc. But that means weeding out the charlatans distilled elsewhere, which is no mean feat.
Why do think gin has become so popular?
The boom has sparked a variety of quality products and options to enjoy gin, which has made it very versatile. I believe there’s a gin out there for everyone.
So what’s next for your brand and business?
More of the same for 2020 – keep selling Alexander’s Gin. More specifically, in the not too distant future, I would like to produce some miniatures and review the branding and packaging.
You can learn more about Alexander’s Gin here.