You’ve probably already heard, but in case not and you’ve been living on the Calf of Man for the past month, we’ll indulge you…
We’ve teamed up with our pals Roots Bev Co, lewislewis and a whole horde of local legends to host the Isle of Man’s very first Gin Festival! In the lead up to the festival, we’ll be shining the spotlight on our bands, businesses and individuals that are bringing the party!
Now, we couldn’t very well call ourselves Isle of Man Gin Fest, if we didn’t have a selection of Manx gins to compliment Roots Bev Co’s delicious range of tonic waters, now could we?
Being a purveyor of all things boozy – and the only person we could think of that could handle a G+T at 10am – Jamie lewislewis popped over to Seven Kingdom Distillery to catch up with their Distiller, Ian Warbon-Jones.
So Ian, can you set the record straight. Who are Seven Kingdom, where did the idea come from and what’s the plan?
To cut a long story short, Seven Kingdom Distillery was born from the notion that it was about bloody time that the Isle of Man had itself a world-class distillery. From the get go, the plan was to produce an interesting and high quality spirit of which the island could be proud of.
As with all new businesses – particularly being the island’s first gin distillery and thus a completely new industry for the island – there were delays in opening.
However, in early 2017, we ironed out any problems and swung open the doors. We really wanted to showcase our beautiful location, on Douglas’ North Quay, so the decision was made early on that the site would also include a heavily stocked bar and a first rate restaurant. From both the bar and restaurant guests have a front row seat to the heart of the operation, our distillery.
Talk to me about Seven Kingdom? What’s in a name?
We take our name from the seven kingdoms that you can see from atop Snaefell Mountain; Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, Heaven, the Sea and Mann.
So, what’s your background? And how’d you end up here on the isle, making gin?!
As with most careers in the booze industry, it’s one of those things that just kind of happened. I actually started out training as a teacher, travelling around the world teaching English as a foreign language.
For the sake of prudence, and to gain experience I signed up teach at a two-month
summer school for Spanish kids at a school in Surrey where I’m from. I did not like teaching one bit, in fact, I hated it. I went home that first weekend, sank a couple bottles of wine, got pissed and as I’m sure all good teachers do moaned to my friends and family… Then it hit me, why don’t I just do wine instead?!
I finished the placement, and took employment with Majestic Wines, driving a delivery van for their Guilford store. I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by a brilliant team of people that taught me a huge amount about wines and spirits. I knew that this was the right industry for me.
I stayed with Majestic for a year and half, before starting a degree in wine production at Plumpton College in Sussex. It was during this course that I realised I was particulary apt at tasting and in 2015 I was asked to be a judge at the 2015 International Wine and Spirits Competition.
Following a couple of years working in the wine trade in London, the opportunity arose to come to the Isle of Man and take on Seven Kingdom Distillery, and I thought why not?! The nature of distilling is not too far removed from the production of wine, with an emphasis on cleanliness and rigour in the processes, and, above all, the taste of the final product!
What inspires you? And I guess, what inspired Douglas Dry Gin?
I’m a firm believer in being influenced by my surroundings. My plan all along has been to create a gin that was true to its place.
The island we live on is a complex nation; a place of incredible natural beauty, long maritime heritage, with an interesting history of settlement and peoples, and a burgeoningfood and drink scene. Bottling this was sure going to be a challenge!
I aimed to take elements from my favourite gins, Plymouth and Silent Pool, and transpose them into a Manx setting. We use gorse which pick ourselves from the north of the island, which gives us subtle tropical notes.
We use bay leaf from a farm in Kirk Michael, which brings a nice savoury touch to the aroma. Finally Manx heather honey, which as well as the complex aroma, gives our gin a wonderful texture and mouthfeel.
The elements alongside our citrus profile of orange, grapefruit and lime, and a touch of black pepper gives a unique personality, good enough to drink neat!
Aside from gin, we are in advance stages of rum trials and hope to have a white rum commercially available later in the year, with a portion going to barrel for maturation to produce a golden rum.
As well as this, we’re incredibly excited to be collaborating with our friends at Foraging Vintners to produce a vermouth style aperitif wine from their rhubarb fizz, which we hope you’ll be able to turn into the a fully Manx martini, a Mann-tini if you will!
I’m also technically a Swede, so I’ve been working on a recipe for an Akavit using Manx herbs, following a recipe of my great grandmother’s! We’ll be launching this with a traditional Swedish Midsommar party at the bar and restaurant next year.