Women of Gin

Carol Jackson, Ellis Gin.

Published: 7th February 2019

In our latest instalment of Women of Gin, we meet Carol Jackson, owner and founder of Ellis Gin and Gin&Mix. Nearly 3 years ago, Carol established Gin&Mix, a premium ready-to-drink gin cocktail range, which involved creating base gin, pressed fruit and root mixes and cocktails from scratch. Using the Gin&Mix gin recipe as the base, in 2018, Carol decided to create her own colour changing Scottish Gins, Butterfly Pea and Scottish Bramble, with the help of Illicit Spirits Distillery in Glasgow. With a number of special editions due for release this year, it looks like 2019 will be another exciting year for the brand.

What’s your name and what do you do?

My name is Carol Jackson and I run ELJ drinks.  We make Ellis Gin and the very popular Ready to Drink gin cocktails – Gin&Mix.

When did you realise you wanted to make gin?

Ever since the day I watched Casablanca and Humphrey Boggart uttered “of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine”! More seriously, I have loved watching the explosion of the gin market. Not only has gin changed dramatically since Casablanca, but the innovation and investment in the branding and marketing is so interesting.  Also, the increase in popularity of Fever-Tree has again caused another shake up of the gin drinking population.  It was in 2014, as Fever-Tree introduced further new flavours I recognised a gap in the market for premium gin ready-to-drink cocktails.  And this is when I decided I wanted to create my own gin as the base.

Tell us about your gin journey so far.

In 2016, I decided to take the leap from the corporate world and create my own product and brand. I set about creating the recipe for what would become Ellis Gin. I wanted to create gin cocktails that would be low in calories, would offer an alternative to the traditional G&T and would be a Vegan friendly product. I didn’t want gin in a can so I went about sourcing a glass cylindrical bottle style from Germany and added the quirky ring pull caps from Finland. Using pressed fruits and roots in the mixers – Gin&Mix was created!

Then in September 2018 (a little later than planned), I launched Ellis Gin. With the ever increasing popularity of Pink Gin, I wanted to create a coloured and flavoured gin but not pink! After much deliberation and experimenting, I decided on two flavours.  Both these flavours have the added feature that they change colour when mixers were added. I’m very excited to be the only Scottish Gin that uses the Butterfly Pea botanical and Ellis Gin is also the only Scottish Bramble Gin (both gins are 40% ABV).

Do you think more could be done to encourage women to seek a career in spirits and distillation?

Distillation is still very male dominated, however there has been an increase in women entering the market, which has been great. I have also seen a shift change in the way brands are now being marketed, with more ‘feminine’ twists. This is really important because we as an industry must realise that over half of our customers are women. There is certainly room for many more females and I hope that articles like this might help encourage more females to enter the market in all types of roles.

What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?

Biggest challenge was actually entering the market. With hindsight, I should have introduced Ellis Gin ahead of my ready-to-drink cocktails. I made things more difficult for myself by creating 3 different products – Ellis Gin, pressed fruit and roots mixes and the gin cocktail. Alongside this, I focussed all my attention on design and product development and didn’t pay enough attention to having a sales pipeline when the first batch completed! This was a costly mistake!!

What’s the best piece of advice you could give to women who are starting off their career in spirits and distillation?

Follow your instinct and your vision. Always include your target audience during the design and build and don’t let others steer you off track.

What does the term Scottish Gin mean to you?

That is a controversial question but my interpretation is a Scottish Gin is gin that is distilled and bottled in Scotland.

What do you think are the big issues facing Scottish Gin at the moment?

Market saturation is the primary issue. There are new gins popping up all the time – how many more can be sustained? Also we need to recognise that Scottish Gin needs to move with the times and with the customer demands. Gin is ‘trendy’ and customer demographics have changed over the years – we need to make sure that we stay ahead of the curve.

Which other gin makers do you admire?

I love the branding and marketing of Harris Gin. I particularly love what they have done to boost tourism for the Isle of Harris and I love their distribution model – very innovative.

Where do you see Ellis Gin and Scottish Gin in 10 years time?

I would love to see Ellis Gin as an award-winning gin which is widely respected as a premium Scottish Gin. Over the next few years I plan to introduce more special editions of Ellis and of course Spring and Winter flavours for a revamped ready-to-drink range.  2019 is going to be a very interesting year!

You can learn more about Ellis Gin here.

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