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Iboyla Bakos-Tonner - Caorunn

Caorunn Gin Iby Bakos Interview
Written by Gin Foundry

When it launched in 2009, Caorunn’s incredibly localised, apple-heavy recipe pegged it as a slightly peculiar drink. Since then Gin has evolved into a whole new beast, with weirder and more wonderful expressions released every day. In this ever-changing world, the former outsider kid is an anchor, with its distinctive juniper tastes staying closer to classic than many modern releases. We caught up with Global Brand Manager Iboyla Bakos-Tanner to see how the world’s been treating Caorunn of late…

Scotland is responsible for an astounding 70% of the UK’s gin exports. What do you think makers in the country have to offer over those that dwell south of the border and what does it mean for your gin?

Scotland’s offering of unique natural resources mean that their food and drink industry is second to none. In Caorunn we infuse five locally foraged gin botanicals (rowan berries, heather, coul blush apples, dandelion and bog myrtle) that are hand picked from the hills surrounding the Balmenach Distillery by our very own Gin Master, Simon Buley.

What a great resource to have at your doorstep. Yet, with all those plants flourishing all around you, you’ve never created any variants. Was this a conscious decision from the start?

Yes, definitely. We wanted to create a product that truly reflects the ethos of the brand and the age-old craftsmanship.

But… Do you think you’ll end up going down that path one day?

Maybe, however it is not something we are considering at the moment.

The market has become plenty crowded since you launched in 2009. There’s a lot of attention on “new” that’ can be tricky to combat, What are you doing to keep gin drinkers engaged with Caorunn?

We emphasise the importance of education at masterclasses and tasting events to introduce Caorunn and the many ways in which it can be enjoyed to a wider market. Going forward, we will continue to work with key influencers within the food and drink industry to introduce both Caorunn’s rich story and the natural resources of the Highlands to Gin lovers south of the Scottish border.

Gin drinkers have certainly become much more informed and enlightened from when you started out. What do you think the biggest difference or the biggest change in people’s perception of Gin has been, between then and now?

Gin is now widely viewed as a sophisticated drink, attracting a younger audience than ever before. Consumers are also becoming drinks connoisseurs and like investigating the different tastes that different brands can deliver. This has particularly been the case with Gin and has led to an increase in people that are choosing it as their go-to drink.

They’re an increasingly picky bunch, too, and often call for a signature serve in a bar. How do you recommend serving Caorunn?

We recommend enjoying Caorunn with tonic and red apple, which truly compliments the unique blend of Scottish botanicals. However, the versatility of its aromatic flavours means it also works perfectly in any classic or contemporary cocktail.

We agree, for example the foraging trips you have taken bartenders on over the past years have lead to a huge variety of cocktail ideas, which showcase the gin’s versatility. What’s the next big milestone for you as a brand and what are you working towards?

We have recently secured listings in 500 Tesco and 390 Asda stores nationwide, joining Waitrose and Sainsbury’s as stockists, which is something we are excited about.

Congratulations, that’s massive - UK domination soon! And finally, how is Caorunn fairing internationally?

Caorunn is available in 42 countries; among the latest achievements are UAE, Japan, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominican Republic and Gibraltar. Travel Retail, the US and some European gin markets are the key target, however Caorunn has enjoyed initial success in some Asian countries as well.