Given the unusual nature of this gin botanical, it’s only natural that its story begins a little differently to many of those we bring you at Gin Lane.
Hemp Gin is what we would classify as an ‘independently bottled’ gin, that is, it’s not owned by the distillery who produces it, but is made on contract for the owner of Hemp Gin, Andrew Kerrigan.
Originally from the UK, Andrew’s background is in food and more specifically baking. Most recently working for a large bread manufacturer, Andrew’s focus has been on new product development (NPD). This work allowed him a lot of flexibility to experiment with new ingredients, flavours and recipes.
Looking to develop both personally and professionally, Andrew began a business management degree. A fortuitous assignment (never thought we’d see those words in the same sentence!) on the course set students the task of ‘building a business’. Thinking back on his career and wondering what he would do differently if he had the chance to do it over again was an interesting exercise for Andrew. Unsurprisingly the lure of something to do with gin was too strong to resist.
Given his background, Andrew proved to be a diligent student and set out to conduct some extensive… research… on the gin industry in Australia. Numerous bar, distillery, bottle shop visits and tastings later led Andrew to a decision between a full distillery set up, or the chance to work with an existing distillery to produce a product to his desired specification.
Having conducted much of this same research ourselves over our time with Gin Lane, we more than understand and applaud Andrew’s approach. Rather than setting up his own distillery, which demands high investments of money, time and resources, Andrew considered the 2nd option to be the most practical for him at this stage of his life.
Fast forward past some of the complex intricacies of working with alcohol in Australia (the joys of legals, excise and more!), we come to Andrew’s product development phase. Like the majority of distillers, Andrew began work on the kitchen counter with a mini still and here’s where his background in product development came to the fore. Playing with different botanicals and flavour profiles takes time and diligence. A botanical tastes one way on its own, and becomes very different once combined with other botanicals, and again once distilled on a larger production scale.
As an Englishman in Australia, Andrew didn’t feel it would be authentic for him to set about making an ‘Australian’ gin as we’ve come to know them. Pink finger limes, lemon myrtle and other local botanicals, didn’t form part of his food education from the UK. The opportunity as he saw it, was to bring something new to the table, that could have its place in Australia, without being typically Australian.
Working in the food industry, Andrew was aware of moves being made to legalise the use of hemp for food production. He was aware of the qualities that hemp brings, being high in protein, amino acids, vitamins and rich in omega oils.
Once he began to see where his vision for hemp gin was heading, Andrew set about finding a distillery that would be able to bring it to life on a commercial scale. The integrity of his product was important for Andrew and wanting to produce an Australian gin, meant working with a craft Australian distillery.
Some development work with Ironbark (one of our favourite Australian distilleries) led Andrew on to Karu distillery, not too far down the road. As one of Australia’s newest distilleries, this was a perfect opportunity to be involved in the development and production of a new and unique gin to the market. Keep the name of Karu distillery in your mind, you’ll hear more about them at Gin Lane!
A takeaway from Andrew’s story, is understanding that there are many different paths to achieving the same goal. It’s clear that at Gin Lane we have the utmost respect for the dedication, investment, skill and craft that goes in to setting up and running a craft distillery. It’s also fantastic to see there are other ways of tapping into this knowledge. After all, its mutually beneficial to the distillery and the brand to work together in delivering new, exciting and quality gins to the market for our tasting pleasure!