Meet the Maker: Marcus Pickering & Matthew Gammell, Co-founders, Pickering’s Gin

Q: Where do you work?

A: (Marcus & Matt) Summerhall Distillery, which is located in the former animal kennels of Edinburgh’s old Royal (Dick) Veterinary School. From our 400 square foot nook in Summerhall we distil, bottle, label and wax our range of Pickering’s gins.

Q: How long have you worked with Pickering’s and how did you start?

A: (Matt) We’ve been working on it ever since Marcus received a scrap of brown paper in January 2013. Sadly, in late 2012 Marcus’s father passed away. An old family friend – Gopal – called Marcus up to offer his condolences as well as a rather intriguing artefact. He had acquired an original Bombay gin recipe, scribbled down on July 17, 1947 at Mount Mary, Bombay. Gopal and Pickering Senior had thought to try out distilling the gin one day, but never got around to it. So, Gopal sent the scrap of paper over and, Marcus being Marcus, was immediately hooked on the idea and convinced me to help him build a distillery.

Q: Describe the Pickering’s production process.

A: (Marcus) We consider ourselves very lucky to have an old, original Bombay gin recipe. This has influenced almost every gin we have ever made. We built our distillery on a shoe-string budget, so came up with some clever solutions to save money, which ultimately improved the quality of our spirit. We built our own Bain Marie systems around 500-litre Alembic copper pot stills. The system, which uses less energy and therefore has a lesser environmental impact, allows us to macerate our botanicals at exactly the right temperature, ensuring a consistent, even heat while we steep the botanicals and at the point of distillation.

Q: What’s a typical working day like?

A: (Matt) There’s very little that’s typical about our days. Marcus is getting ready for the launch of our first gin bar, which happens to be Beijing’s first gin bar, too. I’m not long back from a tour of Australia and New Zealand, hosting sampling sessions at the Whisky Live festivals. And now I’m back in the distillery making improvements to our production processes to keep the gin flowing!

Q: Describe Pickering’s Gin.

A: (Matt) Our gins certainly vary, but they all have a signature spice; not nippy, hot spice – but warm, aromatic, soft spice. It comes in on the finish of our flagship, juniper and citrus-forward gin. In the Original 1947 Gin that spice really takes the lead.

Q: What would you say sets Pickering’s apart?

A: (Matt) We have something genuinely unique within the gin category. That’s not an easy statement to make these days, but as we understand it, we are the only distillery with an authentic Bombay gin recipe; we offer a gin style almost completely lost to history. Aside from the recipe, well – we’d say Pickering’s is pretty good fun! We, and our senior management team, had no prior experience in the production and branding of alcoholic drinks, which means we’re coming at it from a different angle.

Q: What one fact should bartenders know about Pickering’s?

A: (Marcus) Our dual heritage. Heritage and provenance are so important to the consumer. Our gins are craft, and we mean it. Our bottling and waxing is done by hand. We employ 17 people to do the full-time process from Summerhall Distillery. Our Bombay recipe’s heritage is incredibly rich and evocative. We want to be known as the gin that is handwritten in India, handmade in Edinburgh.

Q: What’s your favourite part of the job?

A: (Marcus) For me, taking a concept to fruition. Working with our team here on new and exciting ideas. For Matt, ensuring our customers receive the best products and service that we can give. From designing new recipes, to working with label manufacturers – the whole process.

Q: What’s your favourite way to drink Pickering’s Gin?

A: (Marcus & Matt) With any Pickering’s variant it’s got to be a Negroni.

Q: What’s your career highlight so far?

A: (Marcus & Matt) Having all of our friends and family at our launch party in Summerhall, drinking Pickering’s Gin for the very first time was something else.

Q: Who do you admire in the industry and why?

A: (Marcus) Lenny Russell of Ian Macleod Distillers – he’s old school drinks industry. A very funny chap who’s always had time for us and offered to help Pickering’s, even though we are a competitor.

(Matt) Desmond Payne, Beefeater’s master distiller for over 40 years. Having sat beside him at a dinner when we were less than a year old and being able to share some of his wisdom and knowledge was amazing.

Q: How do you relax outside of work?

A: (Marcus & Matt) With Negronis, preferably on water (a boat, that is).

Q: If you could invite anyone for a drink who would you ask, where would you go and what would you drink?

A: (Marcus & Matt) We’d drink the one, the negr-only – Pickering’s Gin Negroni – on a boat in Hawaii wearing colourful Hawaiian shirts with Robin Williams – that would be hilarious!

(Marcus) And my Dad so I could say: “Hey Dad, look what we did with that recipe!” He would be very proud.