Once upon a time, there was a little juniper bush, the very last of its kind on the Isle of Man.
It lived up high at the top Glen Auldyn in the north of the Island where it was reputedly discovered and well-meaningly transplanted to the Milntown Estate at the bottom of the glen, where it promptly died…
Fear not friends! Thankfully this story doesn’t end there…
Fast forward 70 years and who would have thought that that tiny little bush would go on to inspire the creation of a brand new distillery here on the Isle of Man, and in turn, be one of two distilleries to help inspire the launch of IOM Gin Fest!
Juniper is the primary ingredient in gin and it was while reading online articles about the re-introduction of Juniper to the Island by the ‘Manx Wildlife Trust’ that local couple Paul and Tiffany Kerruish discovered the story of “Kitty Kerruish and the Fynoderee”, a Manx folklore story that went on to inspire their brand identity and name of The Fynoderee Distillery which launched last November 2017 in outbuildings and a garage at the back of their home in Ramsey, here in the Isle of Man.
The idea of a Manx gin distillery had been a pipe-dream of Paul and Tiffany’s for many years…
Tiffany explains; “Being very enthusiastic and knowledgeable Gin drinkers, we had become increasingly frustrated that there was no small-batch gin producer on the Island. The botanical landscape and “Biosphere” is so well suited to producing an original and high-quality product featuring locally foraged ingredient. Our private Gin collection was ever-expanding with new and original gins from all corners of the British Isles – why wasn’t the Isle of Man on the Gin map!?”
Gradually recognising the opportunity and deciding to take matters in to their own hands, the couple vowed to create a Gin that they themselves would enjoy drinking and be proud to promote as a premium Manx product.
Plans and ideas were put in to motion, but it wasn’t until a chance introduction to Gerard Macluskey, a Scottish Master Distiller that things really started to take off.
Gerard learnt his trade at Tanqueray Gordon & Co. where he worked on famous brands such as Gordons, Tanqueray, Pimms, Smirnoff Black Vodka and Tanqueray 10. He then joined Crouch Vale Brewery where he developed his skills in craft beer making, winning several awards.
More latterly and before becoming a founding member of Fynoderee he was with Masons Yorkshire Gin where he developed for the owners a multi award-winning range of Gins and Vodka.
Having convinced Gerard to join them in their Gin adventures and excited that they now had the perfect team, the now three co-founders set about sourcing their first still (a 300 litre copper pot still named ‘Kitty’) and designing their first offering; Fynoderee Manx Dry Gin Winter Edition and a new distillery was born!
Luckily for Fynoderee it seems our fair Isle was very ready indeed for its own Manx Dry Gin and the distillery hasn’t looked back.
Fresh from the launch of Fynoderee Manx Dry Gin – Spring Edition last week, we caught up with Master Distiller Gerard Macluskey get the low down on distilling seasonal Gins, what attracted him to The Island and to taste his wares… Of course!
What was it that attracted you to join Paul and Tiffany in launching the Fynoderee Distillery here on the Island?
From my very first meeting with them, it was clear they had a passion for this industry and particularly Gin at that time which matched my own. Talking me through their ideas for a truly premium Manx inspired and made Gin I immediately knew I wanted to be part of that journey and story.
With so many new distilleries opening these days, the ones that will be successful need to have a unique backstory and branding proposition as well as nailing the taste and quality of the spirit inside the bottle – I truly believe that with its unique geographical location, fascinating folklore inspired branding and hopefully what people are telling me is an excellent Gin, we can really make some noise in a busy marketplace.
Coming from the Dumfries and Galloway region of Scotland, the Island has very many similarities, so I feel very much at home here – especially the weather! Being a classic motorbike fan I’m also so excited to experience the TT and to play our small part in the event’s festivities.
You decided to launch with Seasonal Gins. What was the reason for this and the inspiration behind the choice of botanicals for the Winter Edition?
By launching with seasonal gins, it gives us an opportunity to explore, discover and experiment with different local botanical ingredients during different times of the year.
Paul and Tiifany were adamant that we should feature Manx grown or locally foraged ingredients wherever possible and this meant that when we were ready to launch last autumn that the botanicals around at that time of year were mainly ‘hedgerow’ variety.
That is why our Winter Edition features Manx foraged blackberries, sloes and elderberries. These have been combined with traditional gin botanicals including juniper, coriander seed, citrus peels and winter spices to create the final Winter recipe.
How does the Spring Edition differ to the last recipe?
For Spring we wanted to create something totally different with clean, crisp and zesty tones. Still made using our ‘Manx Dry’ method, we distil our core gin botanicals with fresh coriander, lemon verbena, fresh mint, lemon peels and fresh local gorse.
Foraging at this time of year has been particularly challenging – it’s been a long hard winter here on the island and its been practically impossible to forage a variety of ingredients in the quantities we need to make the number of batches required to meet our growing demand. Therefore we decided to make a real feature out of the one local botanical that is readily available, being gorse flower.
Gorse is a particularly delicious botanical in gin and imparts a fresh grassy nose. It’s not overtly ‘coconut’ like the scent from the bushes….but it brings a fresh herbaceous note and a subtle hint of vanilla that builds over the course of a “Perfect Serve” Spring “Fyn & Tonic.”
How do you see Fynoderee developing – will you be looking at producing other spirits?
2018 is going to be very exciting here at Fynoderee – we have our future seasonal Gins to look forward to as well as a Vodka launching before TT.
Once we have moved in to our new bigger premises out at Jurby later this month we will be putting in to action plans to distil our own alcohol, so much bigger stills will be needed in respect of which we are in discussions with specialist manufacturers and with luck we should be in a position to start work on a Manx Rum and laying down some other cask-aged spirits later this year.
Sounds like you’re going to be pretty damn busy! Any plans to expand the team?
Indeed – we have already recently appointed Kevin Quayle as our Head Forager; Kevin knows the north of Island like the back of his hand and knows all the best spots for foraging our botanicals – he will be gathering extra pairs of hands to help him out this spring so keep an eye out for Fynoderee Foraging days coming soon.
We are also welcoming Ryan Corlett to the team next week. Ryan joins us from a bartending background and also possesses a real passion for distilling. We had some great applicants for the role we recently advertised and we are hoping that down the road we may be able to offer more opportunities in this exciting sector. I am also looking to recruit a distilling apprentice in the near future so watch this space!
Ryan will be helping out Tiffany with managing our growing on-trade relationships on and off the island as well as managing our mobile ‘Fyn Bar’! Ryan will be able to show-off his mixing and shaking skills serving a range of bespoke Fynoderee cocktails. The Fyn Bar will allow us to attend a variety of private and public events, not least the new Bushy’s TT arena at the Villa Marina this year where Fynoderee will also be the ‘Premium House Pour’ at their super-sized event bar for both Gin and Vodka – truly exciting times!