The founder of Welsh company Pembrokeshire Gin discusses plans for a new distillery and an ambition to produce whisky.
What is your background in the drinks industry?
I had my own speciality spirits shop for six years and we sold upwards of 500 different brands. It seemed like the next step to create my own gin and a natural progression after having the shop. I just loved spirits and was passionate about it. I closed the store in February 2021; Covid gave me the opportunity to get out of the lease. Two months after, we opened a new store for our gin in Tenby.
Why did you decide to launch a gin?
Gin was just the in thing at the time, I could see that from my own sales in the store. There was an opportunity for a different bottle. No one is using the same bottle as us. We use rosemary and citrus for the gin. The second gin is Welsh Cake Gin, which is a teatime gin. We also have a navy strength gin, a 57% ABV version of the Rosemary and Citrus Gin, created in homage to the HMS Tenby. Every product has a tie-back to Wales and Tenby.
What makes the gin different from others?
The bottle is square and short, so when we go to the bars we stock it in it is always at the front of the shelf because you can’t put it at the back. It’s eye catching. We also hand-wax all our seals on the gin. The labels are made of zero-waste cotton and feel embroidered.
Do you have any new products in the pipeline?
We have got a new gin in the pipeline, a collaborative gin for this year, but we can’t say anything yet. We are focusing on our three core expressions at the moment.
What do you have planned for the year ahead?
We’re opening a distillery in Pembrokeshire, in partnership with the In the Welsh Wind distillery. They saw how the company’s progressed and how sales have increased and offered to initially come in on a consultancy basis, but then they wanted to come in 50/50 on the business with me. So, we’ll be making custom spirits and opening a gin school. The site will be in a listed building that has a lot of heritage. It will have a visitor centre so people can come and make their own gins and host events.
Would you like to move into any other spirits categories?
Vodka is heading up to become the next big thing, so that’s a possibility this year. We’re looking into whisky production too. In the Welsh Wind grows its own wheat and barley on site, so we’ll have access to be able to produce Welsh whisky.
What challenges face the gin industry?
Hospitality is going through a lot at the moment, so getting new accounts is quite difficult currently. This year will be the pick-up for us. We’d like to get a distributor to help us get over the hurdle of getting into new places.
How did the company adapt during the pandemic?
We had to adapt by concentrating more on direct-to-consumer sales, as everyone was shopping from home. Our web sales were up but we lost the wholesale side of the business. We lost all our tourist trade too but things are picking up again. People aren’t going abroad, which is a plus for us. We had to keep our shop fully stocked and added merchandise such as hoodies and T-shirts to keep us going.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Getting the Young Achiever of the Year award at The Spirits Business Awards  was massive for me; I was really chuffed. All three of the gins walked away with a Gold at The Global Spirits Masters. These are big achievements for me personally and for the company. We had our first TV ad go out in September 2021, which was a big achievement. We were given that by Ad Smart, which was huge.