Martin Miller, a publisher, concert promoter and hotelier, got in the gin business in 1999 with two friends after being served a lackluster gin and tonic in a pint beer glass at a London pub.
“I was looking at it and thinking, ‘This is our national drink? What’s happened to gin? Where’s our pride?’” Miller recalls. “We talked a bit and decided we should make a great gin for ourselves. The worse thing that could happen is we’d have a lifetime supply of gin.”
Miller said in making Martin Miller’s Gin they decided to go back to using a pot still and macerate the botanicals to release the oils. The process took two years to find the right combination of ingredients. “We actually do two separate distillations, one that is earthy and the other that has a citrus character. Then we marry them,” Miller says. “It gives you clarity of flavor. There is a distinctive citrus note without being overpowering.”
Miller says the company started making Westbourne Gin in 2003 when the “mixology scene took off and people started making more complex cocktails.” He says it competes with artisanal gins that tend to be slightly higher in alcohol and have more intense flavors.
“Gin people are promiscuous,” Miller says. “There are 50 different ways to drink gin and lots of different brands and different styles with unique flavor profiles.” But he also stresses that unlike vodka, where diverse flavors are added, people view gin as a specific drink with a certain flavor profile. “Deviate at your own risk.”
When Jeff Lindauer was a young boy, his father purchased some remote land in northern Colorado. Little did he know that someday it would lead to Spring 44 Artisan Spirits. In fact, Lindauer says his distilling career started out as a “gigantic accident.” He built a home at the site, about 25 miles from Loveland, in 2004. A friend tasted water from a spring on the property and started pushing Lindauer to go into the water business. The only problem was that Lindauer researched the high-end water business and realized no one was ready to plunk down $15 for a 750-milliliter bottle of Colorado spring water. “It was a stupid idea,” he says.
Lindauer did not give up on the idea of using the spring water in a business venture and realized that water is key to making good spirits. “I became a hard-core student of the spirits business and found that it is pretty much split 50-50 between imports and domestics,” Lindauer says. “But in the $12 billion premium white spirits category. It is around 97 percent imports. There was room for quality domestic vodkas and gins.”
Spring 44 makes a couple of varieties of vodka and adds agave to its traditional juniper-based mix of botanicals in its gin. Lindauer says there is a tension between the juniper and the agave. “It softens the juniper and allows the nutmeg and coriander to express themselves.” Spring 44 is also working on a whiskey and a “mountain-strength” barrel-aged Old Tom-style gin. Lindauer says the return of classic craft cocktails is the driver behind gin’s growth.
“The re-emergence of the real barman who is focused on making great drinks and takes their craft very seriously is so important to craft gin,” Lindauer says. “A third of our business is gin, which surprised me. Bars and restaurants are building programs around gin cocktails. They see great cocktails as part of their brands.”
James Bond would certainly feel right at home.