Claire speaks to the owner and distiller of ILLICIT Spirits Darran Edmond
ILLICIT SPIRITS are an urban craft distillery established in 2017, producing small-batch spirits using truly traditional methods. ILLICIT Spirits is hidden under an archway in Glasgow where illegal raves used to take place. Read on to find out more about this underground distillery…
Can you explain the story behind ILLICIT Spirits, from the moment the idea came to you, until now?
I had been working as a distiller for a few years, for a couple of different companies. My favourite part of the job was always coming up with new recipes and products, anything which gave me the opportunity to be creative – which, also, is what I like about working with the Flavourly Gin Discovery Club; the chance to try something different. I decided to start my own distillery using the knowledge and experience I’d gained as it would give me free reign to work on any ideas I had.
How did you come up with the name ILLICIT Spirits?
When looking at developing something new, I always try and take inspiration from the old – looking back at old distilling manuals and recipe books. Many of the spirits we distil today were developed and invented by so-called “Illicit” distillers, and I liked the sound of that as a brand name. The space we’ve found – a repurposed railway arch in the Southside of Glasgow – is hidden away, and was once used for illegal raves, so that cemented the name choice. We then decided to use equipment, which was as traditional as possible, and acquired a simple, direct-fired copper pot still. I like the idea of using the traditional to create something modern. This reflected in our label design too – a vintage background with a contrasting fluorescent overlay.
What was the first gin that you made?
The first gin was a traditional London Dry Gin. It has a juniper lead flavour profile that has a pine fresh taste, a hint of spice and citrus with a smooth, dry finish. ILLICIT Gin was created so it could be enjoyed as a sipping gin or enjoyed with tonic.
We also make an Old Tom, which came before London Dry in the history of gin. it is a sweeter gin closer to the original Dutch Genever. We have added our own twist to this classic calling it ‘New Tom’ and by adding pink peppercorns, tonka beans, rosehips and nasturtium flowers, and then sweetening post distillation with Scottish blossom honey and bee pollen. The result is a sweet, smooth and fresh gin bursting with floral and citrus notes.
Can you talk me through the flavour profile for this month’s Gin Discovery Club gin, and how you decided on it?
The gin we have made for the Discovery Club takes inspiration from Japan – a country I lived in for two years. While there, I loved exploring Japanese cuisine and flavours, and had been planning on incorporating them into a gin for a while. We have used yuzu peel, green tea, shiso leaf and cherry blossoms as botanicals. In Japan, they have a festival called “Hanami”, which celebrates the arrival of the cherry blossoms each year. It is marked by sitting under the cherry trees in full bloom, drinking sake, and contemplating the ephemeral nature of existence. It is a far more civilised affair than drinking in the park usually is in the U.K, and I thought it made good inspiration for a limited release gin!
What would you say is the perfect serve?
In terms of the perfect serve, we usually encourage our customers to experiment and come up with something they like themselves. But, a nice light, crisp, citrusy tonic would pair great. A shiso leaf garnish would also work well… but that’s a bit hard to find! Mint or coriander leaves would be a fine substitute.
What does the future hold for ILLICIT gin?
In the future, we’ll be looking to continue experimenting with new flavours and techniques. We’ll also be looking at creating other spirits as well as gin, we currently have some rum lying in casks that I’m quite excited about…