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Ian Spink - Pink Pepper Gin

Written by Gin Foundry

Pink Pepper Gin is a highly unusual interpretation of the spirit, with a rich, creamy vanilla profile offset by a light, bright pepper. It was never meant to be a stand alone product, rather it was made so that its creators, Ian Spink and Miko Abouaf, could showcase their distilling skills in order to launch a service in which they would make spirits for other people. We caught up with Ian to find out how the duo plan to grow the Pink Pepper Gin brand…

Pink Pepper Gin was made as something of a promotional tool for your distilling services, but its popularity took off. Did this come as a surprise?

Yes - it absolutely did come as a surprise! Not coming from a ‘front of house’ drinks background meant we did not have the network of collaborators and customers we do today. Back then - it was a matter of pounding the streets and giving barmen in Paris something relatively experimental to try. It did not pass any independent testing, nor did we have an industry expert to rely on for direction. It was born from its producer’s tastebuds. It was only when the bottle started to be handed around from barmen, industry experts and distributors did we get any sort of commercial validation.

What do you think it is about the spirit that appeals so much to people?

Feedback tends to focus on the smoothness and complexity of the spirit, but people are often surprised by it - the way that it evolves on the palette and the way that each botanical is present and definable.

Now that it’s boomed, do you have time to do any third party distilling?

A little bit, but admittedly the focus has definitely been oriented towards building our own brand and portfolio. The desire to do third party distilling came from wanting to continue elaborating, experimenting and being creative - producing just one product wasn’t really the idea. So we adapt, do a bit of third party distilling, but the real enjoyment is working on small and interesting projects which allow for a creative release.

What’s 2016 been like for you personally, it seems like a huge year of growth?

Well - there are still two of us at work here, and I think we’ve experienced things differently to an extent. Back at base it’s been challenging at times - making sure we’re on top of production, thinking about future growth, plus all the ‘boring’ stuff - the bookwork, logistics etc. At the same time, it’s exhilarating to see our baby grow and develop a real following, and to be a part of a movement which is happening not only in the UK - but also in the small town and area of Cognac. When we’re ‘On-tour’ in the UK (and slowly but surely in other countries), it’s been really rewarding to get to work with some amazing bars and restaurants, and to feel the ‘Pink Pepper Love‘ first hand from customers.

Talking of production, why do you infuse, rather than distil the vanilla and tonka beans?

The very essence of distillation is separation, keeping certain elements - aromas - but removing other things, such as tannins or residual sugar. The vanilla and tonka work almost as bitters work in a martini - they’re not crucial to the cocktail - but when they’re added (in the most minute of doses) it’s a whole different ball game. These two elements add complexity and aromatic depth that simply isn’t possible with distillates, as, when we distill, we remove too much of their intensity of flavour.

Old Ma’s was released earlier this year - How did your barrel aged version go down?

It went down brilliantly! It was a test that we took from a batch called ‘Maaa’s Melange’ dedicated to Miko’s mum, which was left to age for several months in an old port barrel. The resulting liquid has the core of Pink Pepper Gin, but is enveloped by a lovely tannic ‘portiness’ (for lack of a better description). It’s a stunning gin to sip or drink in a martinez twist. We’re lucky it came out well, as to be honest it was the first empirical test we’d done risking so much liquid!

Do you plan to create any more variants?

We put another batch of gin in the same barrel - but this time we’re waiting quite a bit longer for the ageing to complete. We’re still not sure if it will be Old Ma’s again, or perhaps something completely different.

Other than this - we are releasing quite a few small, exclusive batches of really interesting products; not only gin - but other drinks too. You’ll have to follow us on Instagram to see where we’re at!

What’s the big milestone you are working towards for 2017?

To share some Pink Pepper Love with some new markets in Europe, and grown the as steadily and as passionately as we have in the UK. And to keep experimenting with new ideas, new products, limited editions - everything that drove the passion in the first place!