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Podcast

Drinking Gin By Moonlight With Hendrick's Lunar

We talk to Lesley Gracie, master distiller at Hendrick’s Gin, about their new expression Lunar which captures night time floral aromas in a Juniper liquid

By: Tiff Christie|April 26,2021

While you might think of the effect of moonlight as being subtle, it is now believed that its rays penetrate the soil and affect plant life, from germination to harvest.

With the release of its limited-edition Lunar Gin, Hendrick’s Gin believes this same effect can be seen in the gin that you drink. To understand this better.

We talked to Hendrick’s Gin, Master Distiller, Lesley Gracie about moonlight botanicals, floral gins, and celestial contemplation.

 

For more information go to hendricksgin.com or connect with the brand via @hendricksgin on social

 

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Interviewer:
While you might think of the effect of moonlight as being subtle, it is now believed that its rays penetrate the soil and affect plant life, from germination to harvest. With the release of its limited-edition Lunar Gin, Hendrick's Gin believes this same effect can be seen in the gin that you drink. To understand this better. We talked to Hendrick's Gin, Master Distiller, Lesley Gracie about moonlight botanicals, floral gins, and celestial contemplation.

Thank you for joining us, Lesley.

Lesley Gracie:
No problem. Delighted to be here.

Interviewer:
Now, what is it that you most enjoy about creating gin?

Lesley Gracie:
It's just the ability to be able to take all of the different plants and flowers that there are, and try them together. And there are no rules for making gin, apart from the fact we've got to have obviously, the King Juniper in there. But there are no rules as to what else you can or can't use, as long as it's not poisonous, of course, it does affect the consumer figures.
But you can look at different plants, different parts of the plant and see how the aromas and the flavours come together from those and work as a whole base underneath the gin, to allow the Juniper to shine through, but all of the other flavours working with each other, to give us something totally different every time you do a different type of gin. So it's a fascinating area to work in, the limited rules, which mean, you can basically, do anything you want, which is good.

Interviewer:
If you can do anything, what is it that specifically, inspires your creations?

Lesley Gracie:
It's always plants. I'm a great plant lover and my family are all great plant lovers, as well. So all through my childhood plants played great role in my life. And the difference between the plants and the aromas of the plants has always fascinated me. And if you smell something, it always takes me back to a particular time or a particular person or a memory. And it's building in those memories as well, of different things. It's just an amazing place to work, that you can do that.
You can think of something, smell something, and you're immediately back a particular place in time, or with a particular person, that just fascinates me. I can remember being very small, about four or five years old, when I was out with my family one time and we were in a park and there was a huge pond and it was covered in waterlilies, they were all in-flower. There was just a gentle breeze blown across the water, and I can still smell those waterlilies till this day. And the smell just has that amazing power about it, that it could just remind you of so many things. And that's what I really like about gin, is that you can try and build those memories into drinks.

Interviewer:
With that in mind, why was it important to create the Lunar Gin?

Lesley Gracie:
The Lunar Gin, I was sitting in my garden at home. And I'm very lucky in that, my back garden overlooks, just fields and hills all around it, so I've got no light pollution. And I was sitting in the garden one evening, probably with a gin and tonic in my hand, just sitting, as the sun was starting to go down, the Moon was coming up and I was sitting next to one of my big flower beds. And as your reliance on sight starts to drop, you become more reliant on hearing and also on your sense of smell. And as I was sitting next to those plants, I realized that I could suddenly smell them much more than I could when I was sitting there during the day. And the smell was different, as well.
And it was that change over, from sight being the important thing and suddenly smell was so important and all of the different plants, they smell so different at night. And it was that kind of, "Wow, look at the change in these at nighttime." That I really wanted to get into a gin and which is why we've gone with the Luna. Is that, it's got the deep floral notes, but you also get a deep, warm, soft, comfortable spice vapour aroma coming off the plants, as well. And it's that, that I've tried to build into this liquid. It's just that feel, like the comfortable, sitting in the garden, no pressure, it's that kind of feeling that I wanted to get into this gin.

Interviewer:
So it's not so much the plants that particularly flower at night, it's just the difference in smell that everyday plants have at that time, is it?

Lesley Gracie:
There are plants in it, that do have a particular night scent, yes, so there are elements of that in it, as well. But it's just the changeover obviously, the volatility of the essential oils and things like that, will change slightly, but it's just that evening aroma of special evening plants that come through. And I see it as well with the two greenhouses that I have here, that you can walk into them during the day and if you walk into them at night, there is a subtle difference in the aroma that you pick up, and it's a much deeper, much warmer aroma to it. And that was just amazing sort of, "Wow, what a feeling." And that's what I tried to capture. So yes, there are flowers that are night scented, but it's the overall totality of the aroma, that is given by the night sort of feeling.

Interviewer:
A lot of your gins have quite a mystical edge to their themes. Is that intentional?

Lesley Gracie:
I think, that right from the start, Hendrick's has always been really different to everybody else. And we've always continued along that kind of path, that it's different and it's just different to what other people are doing.

Interviewer:
We've spoken about the fact that it's quite a floral gin.

Lesley Gracie:
Yeah.

Interviewer:
What to your mind, makes floral gins more interesting.

Lesley Gracie:
You've got a whole range of different aromas in flowers and plants, and it's how they come together. You can take two plants that smell totally different, but built into the essential oils from those plants, there may be similarities. So if you put the two together, it can highlight certain elements and it's that highlighting of different things all coming together, that just give you something different. That you can smell something and think, "Oh yes, that is very, whatever plant like, but there's something else in there as well." And it's the way that these things combine with each other, that makes them so special. And I'm a great plant lover, as I said, and just the differences between them, even the same type of plant, the flowers all smell different. And it's trying to pull those differences together, to give something that is different, but yet, really alluring, that I strive for.

Interviewer:
Hendrick's last release, Midsummer Solstice, that was also a deeply floral gin.

Lesley Gracie:
Yeah.

Interviewer:
How would you describe the difference between Lunar and Midsummer?

Lesley Gracie:
Midsummer was a bright floral gin. The occasions that you would drink the Midsummer would be totally different to how he would drink the Lunar. The Midsummer is bright and really soft, almost got like a party feel to it. Whereas the Lunar, because it's got the more depth and complexity to it, it's more of a comfortable type gin. One that you would sit in a group of friends, calmly, a really nice evening, probably in the garden. Whereas, Midsummer had much more of a, almost like a party atmosphere to it. So although we've got flowers, obviously in both of them, they are both different and both give a much different feel to them, to me.

Interviewer:
Talk about Luna, bringing out the aromas of flowers at night? How appropriate is gin for celestial contemplation?

Lesleey Gracie:
I think it's an interesting area to get into. That sitting underneath the night sky, I find really therapeutic and I really like it. As I say, I'm very lucky, I can see the Moon and all the stars, as well. And I just love sitting there and just contemplating that, "Here we are, this tiny being in amongst all of these stars." And it's just a different feel to it somehow, that it's just that warm feeling. And just the contemplation of the Moon, I think is amazing as you see it, as it moves through the sky every night and it changes and changes, I'm just fascinated by it, absolutely fascinated.

Interviewer:
Is Lunar, a gin that you could drink during the day, just as well as at night?

Lesley Gracie:
Oh, I think so, yes. Yes, I think so. It's warm, floral and yes, you could drink it during the day, there's lots of different ways to drink it. Personally, I would drink it just as a gin and tonic, but there are so many different cocktails that our fantastic, brand ambassadors have made with Luna. I have to say at this point, I don't make cocktails. I am more than happy to do the quality control on the ones that they've done for me.
But I don't particularly, make cocktails. I like a gins that you can pour, put tonic in it and just drink it. And so for me, the class of a gin, is how well it sits with tonic. That's not to say, that some of the cocktails that the brand ambassadors have made are absolutely amazing. But as I say, I don't make cocktails, I just drink them when given them. But the things that they've come up with are just amazing. And for the Lunar, the moonlight bouquet where they add in lemon, so you've got that citrus element coming through and then the warm from ginger ale with it, as well, it just sits really well. So it makes a nice long drink, but still gives you that warm, comfortable feeling with it, as well.

Interviewer:
What other flavours do you think work really well with that gin? You mentioned lemon and ginger?

Lesley Gracie:
Lemon and ginger, yeah. One of the bars over here, I've come up with a Yorkshire punch with the Lunar Gin, which is quite funny. I think they've put tea in it, elderflower, which I love, I love elderflower cordial, again, we're back to the flowers. They put some sort of berry liquor and apple and rhubarb juice, but again, lemon juice and ginger beer. And it makes it an amazing flavour, but the gin really shines through it, as well.
Because you've got the tea, which when you look at some of the ingredients that are in the house Hendricks, the original house style of Hendricks, one of the ingredients, when you smell it dry, it's got a very soft tea aroma to it. We've got elderflower in the Hendricks recipe. So, there's all sorts of tie-ins between the recipe for Hendrick's and this particular punch, and it's a really nice drink. So, it's all complementing everything that we've got in Hendricks in any case. So it's good, it's good.

Interviewer:
Can you talk us through the significance of some of the botanicals that you've used in the Lunar?

Lesley Gracie:
For the actual, extra ingredients that we've added into Hendricks, we really like to talk about it, as appreciating it as a whole, much as you would if somebody gave you a bouquet of flowers. You would appreciate it as the whole entity and not pick out the individual things. And we like to talk about our gins that way, that appreciate the whole thing. If you say to somebody, "I'm giving you this bouquet and it's got these flowers in it." And you think, "I don't like those flowers, therefore, I don't like the bouquet." It defeats it, just appreciate it as the whole aroma from that bouquet of flowers that you've been given.
And that's what we like to think about for our Hendrick's variants, as well as, just look at them as a whole and try not to think, "Oh, it's got that in it. It's got that in it." Just appreciate the combination of everything coming together. Now sitting on the Hendrick's house style, obviously still shines through, but just how the difference with the different ingredients have changed it slightly, rather than looking at individual bits, just look at the thing as a whole entity.

Interviewer:
How would you describe the whole entity then, in the case of Lunar, to someone who may not have tried it yet?

Lesley Gracie:
In the case of Lunar, I would say, that obviously it's Hendrick's house style, but we've got accentuation in the warm, spicy character and the deep floral character, and that highlights it and just adds that extra warmth to the whole flavour. But you still obviously, got the Juniper standing out nice and bright. But the Juniper and spice work really well together because of the natural ingredients that are in both of those two types of elements. And then we've got flowers in Hendrick's and that sings alongside the extra flowers that we're putting into Lunar. So the whole thing is just accentuated with the warm spice and the deep floral.

Interviewer:
Now, I believe you have quite an impressive hothouse in Scotland?

Lesley Gracie:
We certainly have, yes. Yes, I have indeed.

Interviewer:
How important has the hothouse been to the development of your experiments?

Lesley Gracie:
Very important. In 2018, when our original gin palace was too small, we were needing extra distillation capacity and it was decided that we would build a new gin palace and was asked, what did I want? And I immediately asked for greenhouses, so I could grow things for innovation, basically. And we've got one of the greenhouses, which is set to the Mediterranean climate, so I've got lots of citrus type elements in there. So I've got lots of different citrus plants, lots of different types of oranges and lemons and limes and all sorts of things.
The idea being that, I can take the fruits from the greenhouse, fetch it up to my lab here, and dry the peel, do an extraction and the distillation, and just see what the oil from that particular type of say, orange or lemon is, and compare that to others. And if we really like that particular one, then I can potentially, source that particular one commercially. I don't have enough space in my greenhouses to grow it on the scale that I would need to be able to use it in a Hendrick's, but it gives us that absolute, definition of, "That's what I want." So from the innovation point of view, the greenhouses are amazing.
The other greenhouse is set to a tropical environment, following my trip to Southwest Venezuela in 2013, looking at different botanicals and different plants and things. And we've got the tropical one set to the Rainforest climate as it was in Venezuela. And I've got amazing things in there. And the year before last, I've got banana plants in there and I managed to get three full hands of bananas growing on the trees. Now, these must be the first ever bananas that grew in the Southwest of Scotland, ever, and they were amazing.
Yes, yes. They were lovely. They didn't make it to distillation I'm afraid, we ate them, because they were so good. It was lovely. So I've got all sorts of things in there. I've got peppers, different types of climbing plants, hibiscus, all sorts of things growing in there. I've got cocoa, coffee or sorts, so again, great space for innovation. And round the whole distillery, I've got a big walled garden, as well. So I've got things growing in the garden that I can fetch in and do experimentation on, as well. So for the new gin palace, in terms of innovation, is a fantastic space. I've got typical, UK environment, Mediterranean and Rainforest environment, so I've got nothing holding me up, in tens of innovation, at all.

Interviewer:
How do you choose what plants to bring into each of those environments?

Lesley Gracie:
Some that is based on obviously, Mediterranean, is very good for the citrus plants and most gins, and certainly Hendrick's, we have citrus peels in our Hendrick's recipe. So citrus is a really interesting group of plants that you can get so much diversity from them. We've got things like Buddha's hand's growing in there as well, an amazing aroma, and that fits really well with other types of plants, it fits well with deep, warm spice, as well. So it's understanding how they all sit together that it gives us the innovation side. And so we put different things in just to try them.
The tropical side, is plants in there, that we saw when we was in Venezuela, the different types of things that were growing there. So we've planted a lot of those in there and taking the different, all sorts of peppers and things, taking those and doing distillations. Flowers as well, we've got hibiscus and things. So it's just looking at, how different we can make things when we start to combine them. It's always the combination that is the magic in making a gin, really.

Interviewer:
Do you think we'll be seeing more of the tropical elements? So the hibiscus and banana, even that you mentioned earlier, coming through in variations, in the future?

Lesleey Gracie:
There's nothing to stop it, at all. I mean, we're always experimenting and sitting in front of my cabinet of curiosities in the laboratory at the moment. And there are all sorts of things in there that I've made, distilled, so yeah. I mean, there's nothing to say, that anything couldn't end up in a Hendrick's Gin to be quite honest, we're just permanently experimenting and seeing how things fit together. I've got a great job. Right? It's good fun.

Interviewer:
It sounds like you do, very much.

Lesley Gracie:
Yes, yes, it is good. It is good. It's great fun.

Interviewer:
Coming back to the Lunar, is it aimed towards connoisseurs or is it a gin that beginner gin drinkers can also enjoy?

Lesley Gracie:
Oh, I think anybody can enjoy it, yes. Yes. It's just, I mean, a nicely rounded, good flavoursome gin, that anybody could enjoy. I mean, I meet people when I'm talking to them and they say, "Oh, I don't like gin." And it's, you've just not found the right one yet. It's not anything that, "Gin, I don't like." Put a cross next to it, it's just finding the right one. So yeah, I think anybody could enjoy this gin. It's got lots of depth in there, lots of character, works well as a simple gin and tonic, and it also works well in lots and lots of different cocktails. So it works well for everybody. So I don't see it as being just a connoisseur, I think anybody can enjoy it, definitely.

Interviewer:
What has the reaction to the Lunar Gin been so far?

Lesley Gracie:
It's been very good. It's been very good. Yes, everybody that I know that has tried it, really likes it, which is always good. It's good to know that people like what you're doing. So I've not heard anybody say that they don't like it and it's certainly, the volumes are picking up and everything. Obviously, COVID hasn't helped anybody's cause over the last year or so, but it's doing really well. We're really happy with it.

Interviewer:
What do you want people to take away from the experience of drinking the Lunar Gin?

Lesley Gracie:
I just want them to have enjoyed it and to sit and think, "Yes, I enjoyed that gin." And to remember it when they think back in a few years time, think, "Yeah. I remember that. I was sitting there drinking that Lunar." To remember it as the experience, from which the experience that created it, really. Just remember it and enjoy it.

Interviewer:
Now, if someone were to buy a bottle, how would you want them to first experience it?

Lesley Gracie:
For me, I would simply do a gin and tonic. Just simple, try it as you would, one part gin and three parts of tonic and just enjoy it and just allow the flavours to come through. And just taste it and to understand what's in there and just appreciate the flavours and everything coming through. Just enjoy it for what it is.

Interviewer:
Now, the Lunar has been created as a limited edition.

Lesley Gracie:
Yes.

Interviewer:
Why is that? Why haven't you put this gin as part of an ongoing range with Hendrick's?

Lesley Gracie:
We have the idea, where we'll do a gin for a limited amount of time, take it off and replace it with another one. And we like the idea of doing that, that way of rolling on with different liquids, all the time, rather than sticking to lots of them. Take one out, do a new one, take that one out after a limited amount of time and do another one. That's how Hendrick's likes to do it, that's what we do.

Interviewer:
Are you able to give us any hints on what will be rolling out next?

Lesley Gracie:
Not really. No. They'll shoot me if I tell you that, I'm afraid.

Interviewer:
Right.

Lesley Gracie:
Either that or they'll cut off my chocolate supply, which is not good. Definitely not good.

Interviewer:
Now obviously, if people want more information on the Lunar Gin or any of your other Hendrick's creations, they can go to the website.

Lesley Gracie:
Yes.

Interviewer:
Which is www.hendricksgin.com or connect with the brand on social.

Lesley Gracie:
Yes.

Interviewer:
Which is Hendrick's Gin across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

Lesley Gracie:
I believe so.

Interviewer:
Well, thank you very much for taking the time to join us, to talk about the Lunar.

Lesley Gracie:
Absolutely, not a problem. Absolutely, not a problem. I hope you enjoy it.

Interviewer:
And when you are sipping it this evening, what will you be contemplating?

Lesley Gracie:
I'm just looking forward to being able to get all of my family back together again, I'm looking forward to that. And I think that's what I miss the most and because I've got so many memories built into the Lunar, that I think that's what I'm missing and hopefully, that's what I'll be contemplating.

Interviewer:
Excellent. Lou, thank you again for your time.

Lesley Gracie:
Absolutely, not a problem.

Interviewer:
And we'd also like to thank you for listening. Be sure to visit cocktailsdistilled.com to access the show notes. And if you like what you've heard, we'd love you to subscribe, rate, or give a review on iTunes. Until next time, cheers.

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