Size. Does it REALLY matter?…
In a society that preaches that ‘bigger is ALWAYS better’, it can leave those of us who sit within the ‘small but perfectly formed’ camp feeling slightly isolated.
Sure. I’ll occasionally try to kid myself and join in the locker room style banter, swapping tall tales of grandeur with the ‘big boys’, overcompensating for what I really know to be true. But no matter how hard I try, i’m only ever one ‘small’ step from my reality.
As my mom has always reassured me over the years, it’s what you do with it that counts. And I couldn’t agree more…In the ‘cold’ (that’s my excuse anyway) light of day, when you’re holding it in your hand and you look down, ‘smaller’ really can mean better.
‘Small Batch’ gin that is.
‘Small Batch’. It’s a term that gets banded around far too often, and far too loosely. I was tempted to say ‘willy-nilly’, but I guess you can only push a double entendre blog opening so far.
In a society that has become obsessed with ‘boutique’ and ‘artisan’ experiences, ‘Small Batch’ seems to have become THE buzzword that we all look out for on our fancy bottles.
Unfortunately, a growing trend seems to be the interchangeable nature of the terms ‘Small Batch’ & ‘Craft’, leading to a controversial minefield of ‘so what does Small Batch even mean anyway?!’. With no real legislation in place to help, this isn’t the time or place to debate the legitimacy of either term. An entire blog could be dedicated to the subject on its own! In fact, others have already done an incredible job of doing so – check out the Gin Foundry’s excellent musings on the very subject here:
Having said all that, and as I alluded to in my introduction…I’m a sucker for a genuine ‘Small Batch’ gin.
I think the reason that the term ‘Small Batch’ has developed such stature within our gin terminology comes down to what we’re looking for when choosing a gin. In a market that can at times feel like it’s reaching saturation point, we all want to know that we’re getting something special – something unique, with a nice story behind it. We want to make a connection with the brand. There’s a romance to picturing a small operation, where an intrepid hero battles against the odds to turn an idea in to a bottled masterpiece.
And so my attention was particularly tickled when I noticed a bottle that had decided to take its scale to even smaller proportions. ‘Nano Batch’ you say?! Let’s say a BIG hello to ‘Graveney Gin’.
Having recently announced Graveney Gin as an exhibitor for Junipalooza 2019 (a huge honour!) this is as classic a tale of ‘quit your day job in the banking sector & open up a gin distillery’ story as you’re going to come across. What do you mean that’s not classic?! Oh. Ok. I guess I better start from the beginning then…
Meet Victoria Christie (Vic), Graveney Gins Master Distiller…And Bottle Labeller…And Delivery Woman…And Marketeer…And Saleswoman. Ok, ok. Perhaps it’s best we just accept that Vic is a one-woman whirlwind and the driving force behind a small gin with a big attitude and an even bigger heart!
It was following a Birthday trip to Portobello Roads ‘Ginstitute’, where she and her then boyfriend (now husband) had the opportunity to make their own gin, that Vic decided that if there was one thing in the world that she could choose to do, making gin would be her dream job! And having thought this a little bit too out loud, she was surprised to be greeted with her boyfriends response of ‘why don’t you then?!’.
Whilst Christie acknowledges that her husband is “an incredibly smart man”, she remembers thinking that his suggestion of asking other gin distillers to show her how to make gin “was the stupidest thing ever!”. In sitting down to chat with Vic, she went on to say “I thought that nobody would share their ideas with me. But I did contact them, and they did open their doors to me. And I was totally surprised by how friendly and welcoming everybody was! They all had a genuine pride and passion for their gin…and I instantly fell in love with the people behind the gin as much as the actual liquid itself”.
So with the seed well and truly planted, evenings of home experimentation ensued, though Vic is keen to press that it was all done using a 5 litre Still “from the kitchen and not (using) the bathtub as everyone makes out”.
The step from ‘home brew distilling’ to being a full blown gin distiller was very much a happy accident. Indeed, Vic still has an element of surprise in her tone at how far things have come in such a short space of time. Once she had started to share her journey on Social Media, people had made the fair assumption that some big gin operation must have started out of Tooting. But there was no planning for the demand and support that Graveney Gin was about to receive at its debut outing and launch at the local annual festival ‘Tootopia’ 2015.
Vic had mentally prepared herself for selling a grand total of 5 bottles of gin at the event; one to herself, three ‘pity buys’ from friends planning to visit her stall and one to her brother (who didn’t have a choice in the matter). She was therefore more than a little taken back when the sales total hit 120 bottles in that one afternoon! So much so that her husband had to shuttle himself back and forth 400m down the road to their flat with a backpack to grab extra bottles!
The brave decision was made to make Graveney Gin the day job, and turn her back on her career in banking, when Tooting Market came calling with the opportunity of a permanent residence in the market. “The criteria for having the space on the market was that you had to be there Monday to Sunday during the day” tells Vic – the opportunity was too good to turn down, and despite the anxiety of making the life changing move, Graveney Gin had found its new home.
Despite originally having the intention to use the space as a gin distillery, full of bottles and pallets, increasing customer visits and a growing demand for drinks have since seen the space turn in to more of a bar, serving Graveney G&T’s and Cocktails. Meanwhile, Vic now bases herself out of slightly larger (though still very intimate) premises in Colliers Wood, one tube stop away from Tooting Market. There she, and two of the hardest working 30 litre Stills you’re ever likely to meet, kick out around 120 bottles of gin a week for her Tooting bar, local watering holes and postal deliveries. Legislation or not, 30 bottles per Still, per batch, sounds pretty ‘Nano’ to me.
It took 10 months to create the final Graveney Gin recipe, with a split decision on which of her final two recipes should make the cut being decided by a social media campaign. The lack of pressure and being able to experiment and create something that was initially a pure hobby & passion allowed Vic to really hone the flavour profile she was looking for. In identifying the botanicals she liked in her favourite gins, Graveney was narrowed down to 7 key ingredients; juniper (of course), angelica, orris root, fresh orange (yes, fresh orange!), pink grapefruit peel and the more unusual inclusion of goji berries and baobab fruit (a link to the time Vic spent growing up in Africa). Not only are the ingredients a mix of all of the things that Vic knew would work deliciously well together, but they’re also 100% organic, with some ‘super food’ qualities to boot! A great example of the clean and environmentally friendly ethos that underpins the brand.
Which leads me nicely on to another key USP of Graveney Gin. This is a gin with a heart and soul – a gin that fundamentally puts purpose ahead of profit. For every bottle of Graveney Gin purchased, 10% of the profit goes to ‘Gearing Up 4 Gorillas’; a 100% not for profit charity supporting orphaned Gorillas (described by Vic as being her “spirit animal”), and the rangers who care for them, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s a passion that’s clear to see, with Vic stating that she knew she wanted to make a difference to the world “rather than just power through and make money – that’s not what drives me…it’s something I’m really proud of. Every gin I produce will always have a charity attached to it”.
And if that’s not enough to warm the spirit, then the spirit itself will certainly do the job!
Pretty as a picture
But before I crack this bad boy open, let’s spend a minute gawping at the bottle. It’s flipping lovely!
But it wasn’t always the case…
In fact, after a glowing 2017 review on the gin itself, written by Gin Foundry, the only negative that they were pained to have to point out was the bottle; “…the bottle is a washout. The shape is lovely, but the two clear stickers front to back mean the bottle becomes an anonymous affair on a dimly lit back bar. While not entirely cheap in it’s overall look and feel, Graveney Gin has much room to improve” (ginfoundry.com).
And, thankfully, it seems like the feedback has been taken onboard, and then some!
An ocean background of turquoise blue is now adorned with the imagery of the botanicals you’re set to discover inside, portraying a vibrancy and freshness. Oh, and there’s a Gorilla on the label too. Though I must stress that Gorillas are not a botanical, and this is more of a nod to Graveney’s charitable credentials – no Gorillas were harmed in the making of this gin (literally, quite the opposite)!
Front and centre sits the Graveney name, proudly acknowledging its Tooting birthplace beneath an iconic looking London street lamp.
Each bottle is hand labelled & batch numbered by Vic herself (I felt honoured to be drinking ‘Batch No. Matt’!).
The brass looking button that hugs the rounded glass is a classy reminder that this really is ‘Nano Batch’, adding to the excitement and drinking experience of knowing you’re about to indulge in something more limited and from the heart.
The tag line along the bottom of label sums this gin up perfectly; ‘inspired by the pure love of gin’.
And with a satisfying ‘pop’ at the removal of the stopper, equalling the aesthetics, I was going in…
Graveney Gin to taste
On the nose, the first scents I picked up gave the impression of seaweed, with an almost salty quality. I also picked up a slight chamomile, calming backdrop. There’s almost a mossy, wet grass feel, with a suggestion of red fruits. It’s strange, because 90% of what I pick up initially definitely isn’t in the gin!
On second inspection, as the gin opens up, the initial nose is replaced by a brightness, with the zing of those fresh oranges playing off the tangy citrus burst of the baobab fruit. Whilst coriander and liquorice don’t appear in Graveney, there’s a sense of the herbal heat of the former, with a sweet suggestion of pink peppercorns wafting from the glass. The earthier botanicals provide luxurious liquorice-esq notes to the tail end of the vapours.
To taste, there’s an intital tang and far more whizz of red berries across the pallet than I’d anticipated. There’s a longevity and ferociousness to the heat that carries through long after the first sip, but not in an unpleasant way – the after taste & mouth feel is warming, spiced and lively. The tongue is left tingling, with far more fruit on display than the scent would have had you expect. The chamomile profile remains in tact, seemingly a feature of the baobab fruit.
The fruit seems to be weighted in favour of the red berry route, with very little citrus initially present to my taste. However, orange does catch the back of the throat and grows in strength on the after taste. There’s also a pithy grapefruit kick, like biting in to the peel, rather than the pink fruit itself. It provides a bitterness and bite that cuts through and gives a cleanliness to the spirit.
The orris root provides an earthy sweet liquorice like sensation, giving a generous sweet warmth, suggestive of pink peppercorns. It works brilliantly with the slight tang of the goji berries, which help to provide a slight savoury characteristic to the gin, with an almost Mediterranean feel in certain lights.
And then there’s the juniper. It’s there alright. It’s ALWAYS there. It’s not aggressive, or overpowering. It’s not screaming in your face. Rather, it’s whispering gently in your ear. It’s masterfully and beautifully balanced across every sip, providing a delicate pine kiss on the cheek.
This gin is screaming out to be served with a tonic! And who am I to argue?! Going for the perfect serve of a Graveney G&T, with a fresh pink grapefruit garnish, it is simply divine. The gin presents itself as being sweeter, with far more tang & citrus appeal.
The pink grapefruit pizazz becomes far more evident and is pulled forwards by the garnish, adding a new dimension to the experience. There’s also a ton more of that sweet orange as the gin interlinks with the quinine – it’s a juice bomb!
The goji berries are also emphasised by the addition of tonic, with plump red fruits imprinted in my mind. It’s fresh, lively and bright, with a dry crispness to the finish. It’s delicious.
Small but mighty…
There’s something very British and classic to the gin, yet also almost exotic given its African botanical influences. For me, this is a warm weather gin and is absolutely perfect for summer heat of the impending Junipalooza 2019!
After having first attended the ‘Gin Festival to end all Gin Festivals’ in her brands infancy back in 2017, this is a showcasing opportunity that Vic can barely contain her excitement for and can’t wait to see and hear people’s feedback on Graveney Gin! (and neither can I!).
With suggestions of two new gins in the offing, a herbaceous gin that will lend charity support to St.Georges Hospital (think 24 Hours in A&E) and a modern take on a fruit based Old Tom (with a charity link still to be confirmed), it’s the hope that there could well be a couple of Tooting based debuts on offer at the Graveney stand! And with stunning glassware and copper mugs recently launched, you’ll be able to pick up the perfect accompaniments to boot!
So there you have it. Here’s a brand that may be small in stature, but it more than makes up for it in its passion, drive and heart. Graveney Gin is not only a brand doing gin right, it is also concrete proof that size doesn’t matter one jot; bigger isn’t always better.
Huge thanks to Victoria Christie of Graveney Gin for my complementary bottle of gin & Copa glass, and for taking the time to record a full length interview for me! A full ‘Meet the Distiller’ Q&A will be posted via The Gin Shelf very soon, so you too can get to know the friendly face behind the gin.
Vic will be exhibiting Graveney Gin at Gin Foundry’s Junipalooza 2019 at London’s Tobacco Dock on Saturday 8th & Sunday 9th June! Snap up your tickets whilst they last & pop over to say ‘Hi!’, whilst snagging you’re very own bottle!:
Be sure to follow the growing Graveney Gin story across their website & Social Media Pages. And it would be remiss of me not to point you in the direction of ‘Gearing Up 4 Gorillas’, who Vic would love you to learn more about & to donate to if you can:
Gearing Up 4 Gorillas: http://www.g4g.co.uk
And don’t forget to stop by @theginshelf across all social media platforms for more blogs & event updates. Come and say ‘Hi’ & chat gin!
As always a great write up Matt! It’s great to see how Victoria has made a success of Graveney gin. I first met her at Think Gin and found out that we had a similar background (ex banking, but I went travelling instead of creating my own gin!). I love the charity ethos and the way Victoria has built support in the community too.
I did have a question about the ‘Organic’ on the label. Does this mean that all the ingredients for Graveney gin are organic? (I’ve heard it’s difficult to guarantee sources of organic botanicals for example).
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Thanks a lot! Always appreciate and respect your opinion, so the feedback means a lot : )
In terms of the organic element, it’s all botanicals. The key details are on the website, which states; “Graveney Gin is certified Organic GB-ORG-04 by Organic Food Federation”.
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