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 the Island’s very first Gin Festival back in March!
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 launching their Autumn gin at this year’s Isle of Man Food & Drink Festival, we caught up with Master Distiller Gerard Macluskey to 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?
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.
You’ve been a busy boy since we last spoke Gerard, not only launching two further seasonal gins but a vodka as well?! How have the last six months been for you?
The last 6 months have been a bit of a blur! What we’ve achieved in such a short time frame is pretty unheard of for a craft start-up distillery. 10 months in and we’re nearing the 15k bottle mark now and each one has been hand-filled, hand-labelled and individually hand-signed….Hard work but all very exciting too!
How does the Autumn differ to the rest of the Fynoderee portfolio?
All of our Seasonal editions feature am unique recipe and flavour profile – Winter was complex, warming and spicy, Spring was light and zesty with Summer featuring Manx grown strawberries giving a slightly sweeter profile. Thanks to such an amazing summer, the hedge-row harvest has come early and in abundance this year. Our Autumn Edition therefore contains the most number of Manx botanicals; Apple, Crab-apple, Rowanberry, Rosehip and Wild Plum. This particular edition is the driest, with crisp apple tones on the nose, earthy flavours coming through on the palate and the ‘plumminess’ providing very subtle hint of sweetness towards the end. It’s a very soft and elegant gin – in my humble opinion
Now you’re at the end of the seasonal gins, how does the future of Fynoderee look? Will you be expanding the range further?
We will indeed! The plan is to maintain our seasonal Gins, but we also have a very exciting “collaboration Gin” in the pipeline with another local company – all to be revealed after Christmas on that. We are also starting to develop our aged-spirit product line including a fascinating rum, as well as laying down a Fynoderee Manx Malt / whisky which being a true Scot, I am very excited about. 2019 will also see us have fun with some small batch products such as eau de vies and gin liqueurs – It’s fair to say we never suffer from lack of imagination here at Fynoderee!
We’ve noticed your wares popping up all over the place; well respected booze websites, Junipalooza and even on TV?! How does that feel?
It feels great to be part of a team that’s putting The Isle of Man on the spirits map in such a premium way. Having one of our products appear on national TV has always been an ambition throughout my career in this industry, so to achieve that with Fynoderee was very special.
Sounds like you’re even busier than last time we spoke!! Any plans to expand the team further?
Team Fyn is growing fast – It’s hard to believe we only launched last November with the three co-founders, myself, Paul & Tiffany! With the imminent start of an Assistant Distiller there will soon be 8 of us, plus a growing team of flexible event staff. The administrative team are in the process of moving to a ‘proper office’ and the Distillery is now operating from Jurby for the time-being, pending the search for our ultimate dream location!
Catch the Fynoderee team at the Isle of Man Food & Drink Festival this weekend, where they’ll be serving up their brand new Autumn edition!