The juniper genius at Avalon Distillery in Dorset talks teatime temptations, top-notch tipples and the future of gin distilling
Early food memory?
When I was a child we went on holiday to America and visited a diner called Polly’s Pies in Long Beach, California. I had a slice of cherry pie like nothing I’d ever eaten in England; I’ll always remember it. I spoke to my mum the other day and she told me the cafe is still there.
Guilty food pleasure?
Homemade scones topped with cream and jam, and a cup of tea.
Where do you like to eat out?
I like Seasons at The Eastbury Hotel – it’s just down the road and Matt [Street, exec chef] is a good friend of mine. The food is imaginative and uses lots of locally sourced ingredients. Further afield, I like the unpressured dining you find in France and Italy – especially on a summer’s evening with a glass of wine and good friends.
Wish you’d known 10 years ago?
When you get opportunities, go for them; don’t hesitate because life is short. When you own a business you’ve got to keep applying that principle.
How do you take your G&T?
With elderflower tonic, a slice of Granny Smith apple and a piece of star anise.
Next big thing in drinks?
English whisky. There are lots of gin distilleries now – people make money quickly because you can bottle and sell it within three weeks. But you need income to start a whisky distillery as the results aren’t instant. Gin distillers should look to the future and use revenue from their gin to start looking into distilling whisky.
Most memorable day of your career so far?
When Avalon Distillery received a one star Great Taste award from The Guild of Fine Food after just a month in business. We’d only sold to two or three shops.
We’re entering again after a year’s worth of feedback, having tweaked our recipe and upped our ABV to 43 per cent, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.
Another highlight was the 3am arrival of our 120 litre still, Guinevere, just before Christmas.
What’s hot at the moment?
Environmentally conscious food and drink businesses. As well as sourcing botanicals locally, we’re starting to grow our own herbs and peppercorns in our allotment and garden – with plans to do more. We’re also looking into supplying pubs with gin in refillable containers.
Food trend you’d rather forget?
Disposable products. Consumerism is always dictated by price but people seem to be slowly moving towards spending money on things that are more thoughtfully produced.
Pet hates when eating out?