A bit of background [Nov 2020]
TL;DR? - "Hi I'm Ben, I like to mess around with stuff, I really like gin, and I aimed to make a classic-style gin that would do the area after which the company is named proud!"
Hi - I'm Ben, the owner of Tweed Valley Distilling Co.
I thought it would be a good idea to introduce myself, given that I'm basically asking you for a measure of your trust that what I am selling on this site is worth your considering spending some of your hard-earned money on!
I'm originally from Troon in Ayrshire, but have been living here in Peebles in the beautiful Scottish Borders with my wife and young family after moving here from Edinburgh in the Spring of 2013.
In short - because it's something quite really quite different from what I have done in my professional life so far!
Since the start of my career, the day-job - meaning "what I do other than being a husband, father to two lively little boys, and owner of an also very lively 1 year old cocker spaniel" - is IT and business project management, and have enjoyed the 15+ years of doing that kind of stuff to date.
That said, I've always been curious and willing to try my hand at exploring new things and taking on challenges, which ultimately has culminated in the launch of Tweed Valley Distilling Co. in Autumn 2020 with our inaugural spirit, Meldon Dry Gin.
When some good friends (John and Fiona at Tollhouse Spirits) started their own gin brand a few years ago I was immediately interested in the journey that they had take in bringing their first product (Redcastle Gin, which by the way is a superb drop, please go check it out!) I was really excited for them, and really quite intrigued by their journey to what has since become a business with an ever-growing range of top-notch spirits products.
So, I decided to explore gin beyond simply being a consumer of the product, and check out what was going on in the (then-booming, and still remains the case) craft spirits industry in Scotland, and to see what opportunities presented within Peebles in particular, where at the time there were no craft gin producers.
More on that later...
"Bloke In A Shed"
That 'maybe I could have a go at that' notion in my hind-brain developed to the point that I joined the many home enthusiasts the length and breadth of the country who cold-compound their own gin recipes at home, by using a vodka base infused with different combinations of botanicals.
I'm not going to lie - some of those earlier efforts were definitely the products of enthusiasm over ability, particularly this very first dark and ominous batch (I still went ahead and drank it though, obviously!)
Taking my sweet time, and learning by trial and error as to what worked well and what didn't, I turned out iterations of cold-compound gin until I was able to bring the overall flavour-profile to something that ultimately managed to pass that toughest of challenges, the "Friday Night G&T wife-test."
It also fit my bill of creating an old-fashioned, accessible juniper-led 'drinker' of a gin, which still had its own character on the palate.
It was at that point that I decided I would need to use a proper still to really get an idea as to how the botanicals would behave when using a more refined process.
2018/2019 - "Still Game"
With a small still (27 litre capacity, which sounds a lot, but is quite small!) designed by West Linton-based engineering design guru Dave, and built for me from a customised copper hot-water cylinder supplied by McDonald Water Storage in Fife, plus an array of standard copper pipe and jointing sundries by local plumber Jacko I proceeded to spend a good few evenings and weekends in the garden shed with the contents of the still bubbling away and condensed vapours tinkling satisfyingly in to awaiting demijohns.
Eventually, after plenty of refinement, the botanical composition and ratios had finally settled at something I was quite happy with in shed terms, and so I commissioned the services of a master distiller, Lewis at Distillutions, to produce the first 10 litres of test distillate to what is now the established recipe for Meldon Dry Gin.
Samples of the test batch were tried in-house (of course!) but also shared with friends, family and neighbours, including some very discerning gin drinkers, and non-gin fans alike. Positive feedback (and, importantly, no howls of outrage) resulted in my deciding to take the leap and to bring my first gin to market.
2020 and COVID-19
The advent of COVID-19 in early 2020 resulted in my day job being worked from home 100% of the time.
So, the time of an evening that I'd normally have previously spent commuting by train and car back from work in Glasgow (in the order of 7-8 hours a week) was put to good effect by using it it push ahead with setup of the business.
As well as the opportunity to accelerate, 2020 also brought with it a couple of speed-bumps and so some delay in bringing Tweed Valley Distilling Co. to the point of launch, some from a personal perspective, others due to delays to the likes of local authority permit approvals processes as they too adjusted to a "new normal" under COVID.
Eventually however all relevant regulatory permissions were in hand, and I was able to formally launch Meldon Dry Gin in November 2020, fittingly with a stall at the local Peebles Saturday Market, which was great fun and very well supported by local customers and visitors to the town alike!
Peebles and gin
A lot has changed since I first took the notion to experiment with some botanicals for my amusement in 2017 - at the time, there were no established commercial gin distilleries in the town, and only a handful across the wider Borders.
Since then, things have pushed on apace, and Peebles itself is now able to boast top-notch distilleries in the form of 1881 Distillery (2019) and Bloodline Spirits (2020) who are both doing very well and have a classy line-up of craft gins to their names.
So, despite being a small town and the short time-frames, Peebles now punches pretty hard in the gin stakes, and believe me when I say that as a result launching a gin start-up here comes with no small level of trepidation, as the immediate neighbours' offerings are so impressive, let alone those of other towns across the Borders.
As we're now finally up and running now, I've no plans to slow down!
So, in short what's next is... more gin!
As well as working to broaden the reach of Meldon Dry Gin across Scotland and beyond, I'm planning to bring at least two more Tweed Valley Distilling Co. products to market in 2021, with at least one of those being a gin that is quite different in character to that of Meldon Dry.
Thanks for taking the time out to read this, and please do check out Meldon Dry Gin - I hope that the enjoyment you take from it matches that which I've had in bringing it to life for you.