Chris Gillan, Managing Director of Heroes Drinks Company talks to SLTN
Q: Name of the brand you produce.
A: Heroes Vodka.
Q: Where do you work?
A: We’re based in Edinburgh and Fife, however, due to our commitment to supporting Britain’s military community we offer remote working opportunities to our staff. Military spouses, for example, are often disadvantaged in their careers by having to move every few years; our head of marketing currently works remotely.
Q: How long have you worked on the brand and how did you start?
A: I founded Heroes Drinks Company seven years ago after an injury I received working alongside the SAS ended my military career. I became interested in the distillation of spirits after some Polish friends shared stories of how their family made vodka back home. Inspired by the support I received from military charities during a difficult period in my life, I was motivated to find a way to give back and I decided to create a premium vodka that would help raise funds to support Britain’s military community.
Q: Describe the production process.
A: We use the best of British wheat and pure filtered Scottish water to give our vodka its exceptional clarity and smooth texture. We distil at least seven times until we achieve a minimum of 96% pure alcohol, before diluting to 40%.
Q: What’s a typical working day like?
A: I spend most days in our office in Rosyth overseeing all aspects of the business but I frequently travel around the UK meeting customers and attending charity events. I’m currently focusing on preparing to launch our new fundraising project to support our ambitions to scale up production and introduce new products. This will offer more opportunities for veterans and military spouses.
Q: Please provide brief tasting notes for your products.
A: Beautifully smooth, slightly sweet on the palate all the way through with a nice peppery warmth building towards the end.
There is the faintest taste of aniseed and the finish is delicately warm with a light creamy finish and slight vanilla notes.
Q: What would you say sets your product apart?
A: Heroes Vodka is the world’s first non-profit spirit and we have worked hard to create a perfect blend of quality and compassion. I believe Heroes Vodka to be the best quality vodka in the market for the price. What’s more, this is a product that is helping to positively change the lives of disadvantaged servicemen and women.
Q: What’s your favourite part of the job?
A: Running a social impact business that makes a genuine difference to people’s lives has to be top of the list. However, I also enjoy working with bartenders to identify trends and showcase our vodka in creative cocktails, especially our Christmas cocktails; it’s become a tradition to replicate them at home with my family on Christmas Eve.
Q: What’s your favourite way to drink your brand?
A: It depends on the time of year. In summer I keep it simple and enjoy Heroes Vodka over ice, topped with ginger beer and a slice of lime. In winter I like to experiment with different cocktails, usually with a chocolate liqueur base. This year we have used a sloe gin liqueur in one of our festive cocktails, which tastes great.
Q: What’s your career highlight so far?
A: We have been on an amazing journey with Heroes Vodka over the last few years and it has been great for the team to be recognised for all their hard work, winning awards from the International Wine and Spirits Competition and spirits producer of the year from Lux Life, but also being shortlisted for design at the Drum Awards for the great work produced by RRD Creative. However, it has been a huge honour to gain support from a variety of celebrities and especially to have support from the royal family. This month you will also see Heroes Vodka take pride of place behind Jamie Oliver in Channel 4’s Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, which is fantastic.
Q: Who do you admire in the industry and why?
A: I’ve met a lot of fantastic people since joining the drinks industry but if I had to pick one person, it would be Gillian Murray from Tennent’s Wholesale. She really understood our brand and mission from the outset and was one of the first people to list our vodka. Her knowledge and support has been invaluable and we owe her a great deal of gratitude.
Q: How do you relax outside of work?
A: You’ll find me in the gym, taking a dip in the pool or walking in Edinburgh’s beautiful countryside. I also find the occasional movie is a good way to switch off.
Q: If you could invite anyone for a drink who would you ask, where would you go and what would you drink?
A: Starting a business requires a lot of personal sacrifice and my partner Ana has been understanding and very supportive over the years, so I would take her to Venice Beach in LA. We’d drink a refreshing Heroes cocktail produced by Gaucho restaurants, called the Gaucho Salute, made with Heroes Vodka and rosemary syrup, topped with blood orange San Pellegrino and garnished with fresh rosemary – a perfect serve to sip whilst relaxing and watching the world go by.