I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Jonathan Mitchell about the brand-new Frankie and Eileen’s Gin; the product of a small-scale, family-run, independent craft distillery based just outside of Randalstown, County Antrim, Northern Ireland. While the quality of the spirit speaks volumes by itself, the story of the two women who inspired Jonathan not only to make the gin, but in the way he leads his life, is one I was delighted to discover – and it’s one I’m equally delighted to share with you…
First things first – who are Frankie and Eileen?
Frankie and Eileen are my two grandmothers. Frankie grew up in Belfast City and Eileen grew up in the Glens of Antrim near the Giants Causeway. So, our designer took inspiration from the areas they grew up in and they form the beautiful artwork that we have on our bottle. Because the gin is named after my two grandmothers, it’s very close to my heart and I wanted to do them proud.
We talk about Frankie and Eileen’s as a story of hope, determination and a little compromise, all with an underlying tone of love that stems from our upbringing.
My parents and grandparents grew up during the height of the troubles in Northern Ireland. In many ways, our generation caught the tail end of it, but they lived through the worst of it. Not wanting to make a political statement, we wanted to highlight a story of love when our parents from two different community backgrounds got together and didn’t let any of the religious issues of the troubles get in the way.
My grandmothers are two iconic women in my eyes. They both raised large families who have done them proud. Granny Frankie is still alive and in her 90s and very much still a guiding light in the family circle, albeit she has slowed down a little, she is still very much a support for me and the family. Sadly, my Granny Eileen isn’t with us anymore, but she helped mould my values and for that, I am very grateful. So, these two women are the inspiration for Frankie and Eileen’s Gin. We spent a long time on the quality of the liquid so wanted to present it well, so the bottle is printed directly onto the glass and we place a cork and wood stopper into the bottle and then individually wax dip each bottle by hand.
Are there any parts of the journey, from idea to bottled spirit, that you remember fondly or would rather forget?
We are brewers really and had to learn the art of distillation, so the time taken to learn was a steep learning curve and sometimes frustrating; it took a year of recipe development before we got a liquid that we were happy with. Then we brought in some industry experts to help us refine the liquid to create something unique. We wanted the Frankie and Eileen’s Gin to taste good neat and we also wanted to add a unique Irish twist so we built earthy layers into the gin using potato and pea pods.
Being able to have our copper still manufactured in Ireland was something very special. Our distillery overlooks Lough Neagh and a local talent from Toome allowed us to build our distillery just a few minutes from its new home. A truly hand built copper pot still, the copper contributes to the fruity esters in the finished liquid.
Can you talk me through the flavour profile for your gin and how you decided which flavours to target?
The gin is a smooth juniper and citrus led liquid with earthy layers. The gin is beautiful sipped neat and is genuinely packed full of aroma and avour. You will appreciate the e ort put into the creation of this well-balanced gin, which boasts a mixture of 13 botanicals. The avour pro le was decided upon by finding a balance between the exotic and local ingredients; we use English coriander and Irish potato and pea pods that work in harmony with the Macedonian juniper berries and Spanish fruit peels, amongst other botanicals.
Can you tell Flavourly readers about what the future holds for Frankie and Eileen’s?
We just recently launched so initially our focus will be on the UK market so we can establish ourselves at home and then we want to look at suitable export markets. We have been working on some limited-edition specials so keep an eye out for those!
What is your perfect personal serve?
My favourite way to enjoy this gin is with soda water and a nice big wedge of lime or grapefruit. I nd that the soda water lets all the flavours of the gin shine through but another favourite way to savour this gin, if you have more of a sweet tooth, is with hibiscus tonic.