Think whiskey, and you’re hard pressed not to think of William Grant and Sons. Since their beginnings in 1887, the company has grown exponentially. Just five years after launching the Glennfidich distillery, the Balvenie distillery was built; Grant’s Blended Scotch Whisky joined the family in 1898; they survived a brief shutdown during World War I, as well as Prohibition; they coined the term ‘Single Malt’ in 1964; and instituted quite a few distillery upgrades. They launched a most curious Gin with Hendrick’s, Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum and eventually acquired the historic Drambuie liquer. William Grant and Sons remains family owned to this day, continuing founder William Grant’s quest to make the best dram of whiskey and adding to that dream with its other brands.
Each brand ambassador at William Grant and Sons is carefully selected to ensure they live up to the family ideals of the company, and each one is certainly a character in their own right. I was fortunate enough to sit down with a few of these unique personalities during this year's San Antonio Cocktail Conference. First up was Mattias Horseman, brand ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin.
Launched to the public in 1999, Hendrick’s Gin certainly feels as if it’s been around since William Grant built his first distillery. When they set out to create Hendrick’s, the idea was to think outside of the traditional London Dry box and create a truly unique gin. “The key is to start out with an amazing base spirit,” says Horseman “then blend the two gins from our Carter-Head still built in 1948 and our Bennet still built in 1860.” Rounding out the 11 botanicals vapor infused into the base spirit, are cucumber and rose pedals, two not so common flavors that help to create a unique and curious gin.
Distilled in 500 liter, or 132-gallon batches, Hendrick’s takes on the role of small batch despite its large market penetration. Hendrick’s was crafted by master distiller Lesly Gracie, who was enlisted by William Grant’s great-grandson Charles Grant Gordon to help create a gin with the two unique stills he had purchased. Numerous batches were done before the current recipe was settled on and upon trying the gin for the first time, it reminded Gordon of the family gardener, Hendrick, who kept their garden beautiful and immaculate. Hendrick’s Gin was born with the goal to ‘embody the ethos of that Victorian style’ says Horseman.
The curiosity of Hendrick’s and its unique use of cucumber as a botanical has been embraced by many and Hendrick’s themselves are happy to play up to it. Visit the distillery’s website and you’ll see sections on the Society of the Unusual; The Marvelous Tiny Tales contest; and the Collection of Cinematic Oddities, a collection of videos tell all about Hendrick’s. Perhaps the most curious of all is the aptly named ‘Curiosity Tea Cup,’ a traditional British tea-cup intended only for gin and also the traveling companion of Mattias Horseman. In fact, Horseman’s Curiosity Cup is always close to him, residing in a custom leather holster on his hip. You can follow the cup’s adventures on Instagram at @thecuriositeacup, as well as Horseman himself @thebarpoet.
With Gin making a huge comeback in recent years, how does a well established, yet young gin compete in the world of artisan gins using local botanicals? “Though we won’t deviate from our core recipe, small batch variants have surfaced” states Horseman. To this end, 30 high-end bars in London, received Hendrick’s gin infused with Quinine and blue lotus flowers. With innovations such as these, yet still maintaining their roots, Hendrick’s brand should endure for quite a long time.