Hayman’s Distillers, just in case you weren’t aware, are the creator of the much beloved, super oldschool range of Hayman’s Gins. The family actually has over 150 years of distilling history, dating back to Victorian days (that golden age of gin?) – tracing their lineage to James Burrough, who founded the distillery in 1863. Today the family is still involved in the business, and Miranda, who we’re chatting to today is actually James’ granddaughter.
To me, that’s pretty cool, considering I have no idea who my great granddad even was. All I know is that he was Irish, and that he probably didn’t distill gin…
Aaaanyway, less about my lineage (or lack of)…
Full name: Miranda Hayman
Role: Marketing Director
Fun Fact: Terrible habit of failing to read a whole book without looking at the end before I have finished it…
J: Inheriting the family business, does this create a sense of responsibility from early days? Were you always destined to assume the mantle, or did you consider alternatives at some point? How did it affect your life, growing up? is it like being in the Royal Family or something? (not that I’d know, hah…)
M: Both my brother James and I grew up with Dad working at the family distillery so it has always been familiar. We both vividly remember going to visit the distillery in the school holidays and the intensity of the botanicals aromas as well as giving our opinion on the range of gins in the tasting room! There was never any pressure to join and initially I worked in the wine trade to gain experience elsewhere as I knew that when the opportunity arose I would at some point join the family business.
Speaking of that, when did you start at Hayman’s, what was your ‘first day’ like and how has the experience been so far?
I started at Hayman Distillers in 2005 and initially I was based in Hong Kong as I looked to develop exports in Asia Pacific. I am lucky as both James and I get on well and I guess you would have to given that we have worked together for over 9 years…. Working at Hayman’s is interesting, fun, sometimes challenging and frustrating but you cannot beat the sense of pride you feel when you see a bottle of Hayman’s in a shop or bar! It is all worth it!
The Victorian style branding is a great touch, and as far as I know you guys go well back. Has there been much modification to the production process, design of your gins or many other things (asides from distribution!) since your Great Grandfather got this thing going??
We are really proud of our heritage and to be the only British family of gin distillers in the UK is a wonderful position to be in. Last year, we rebottled three of our gins and added new branding to the labels retaining some of the traditional cues. Similarly the new bottles still have a throw back to an original bottle with raised glass writing.
I assume that you guys use some really old recipes. Is there much development of/tweaking of existing ones? Do you develop new ones often?
Our recipes are unique and come from the family archive, so we don’t tweak our core range. We are known for our gins and have won a number of awards in the UK and worldwide so to change the recipes would not be wise yet!
What’s it take to make a damn good gin?
Huge amounts of knowledge, experience of botanicals, spirits and the distillation process. Not something learnt on a crash course!
I have a theory (it may very well be wrong) that over the last few decades, mixology has trended towards sweeter, more sugary recipes – which detracts from the flavour of the spirit (in my opinion). Is this something you have noticed, am I off base? Is there a larger trend I should be looking for?
Whilst I would agree that some contemporary cocktails contain syrups and sugars I feel this has changed over the past decade. In particular this is due to education in the bartending industry now echoing that of the wine industry with hugely knowledgeable and innovative bartenders encouraging consumers to try something more innovative with cocktails really bringing out the individual ingredients used along with the trend of classic cocktails using natural and authentic ingredients.
Take for example many of the classic gin cocktails which are currently witnessing a huge resurgence, The Martinez, The Tom Collins and the Gin Rickey, these are all using authentic ingredients rather than add flavour through sugar.
What with the rise of craft distilleries these days, many people seem to be getting into the spirits business. What is it that makes you guys different? (asides from your magnificent legacy!)
Surely that says it all! 150 years of distilling in the family.
Why ‘Old Tom’? Is it true that it has something to do with that black cat statue that people could drink gin through?
In the 1700s Old Tom Gin referred to any gin produced. The origin of Old Tom is unclear but one legend (and my preferred) is that “Old Tom” became the nickname for gin as customers could obtain a dram of gin from the paw of a painted black “Old Tom” cat by putting a coin into the mouth. These painted cats were placed outside dwellings to show Gin could be obtained there and some say it was the first example of a vending machine!
Could you give us a little description of the difference between dry gin vs. non dry gin?
Hayman’s is a range of different styles of gin which follow the evolution of gin over the last 150 years. I wouldn’t say it is as simple as dry vs non dry as there are many styles of Gin. The classic style of gin most people are familiar with is London Dry gin. We also have Hayman’s Old Tom gin in our range which is a style from the Victorian era…
It is a botanically intensive and flavourful style of gin with a delicate sweetness based on a family recipe from the 1860s and has a rounder and softer profile than the London dry styles. We also have a cask rested, sloe gin, navy strength gin and gin liqueur.
What’s one use for gin that our readers might not have considered?
Hayman’s Sloe Gin can be added to mulled wine to give it an extra kick!
Ever considered distilling anything else asides from gin?
Wait and see!
What is your greatest professional moment up to date?
We recently won double gold for two of our gins at the World’s Best Gin Awards in San Francisco.
What’s a ‘day in your life’ like? Could you give us an insight into the gin business?
It’s hard work but wonderful to be part of the family business – drinking gin doesn’t feature at all! My time is split the distillery in Witham and London with some travel to see customers and exhibitions throughout the world.
What’s your personal philosophy, summed up in a sentence?
Never regret that last Gin & Tonic! No seriously to keep on enjoying what we are doing.
What advice would you give to aspiring distillers or drinks entrepreneurs who’d want the kind of results that you’ve had?
The drinks industry is a wonderful place to be, if it is what you really want to do, follow your instinct but do your research and look for a good mentor.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing instead?
Something drinks related, it’s in the blood.
[Ed: and when I consume gin, the drinks are in my blood too…]
Where next for you and Hayman’s?
We are repackaging two of our styles – Hayman’s Family Reserve and Hayman’s 1820 Gin Liqueur which will be launched later this year.
And we always ask three customary ridiculous questions…
If you had to get into a no holds barred, 20 round fist fight with any cartoon character, who would you square off against?
I would be useless in a fight and run away so I would have to say I would far prefer to have Superman’s magical powers for a day….!
If you had to have any character from Greek mythology come and work with you at Hayman’s, who would you employ?
I think it would probably be Dionysus, the Greek God of Wine, Joy and Theatre and lover of peace. He was known for his light-heartedness and always offered his help to anyone in need which is essential in any small business.
If you had to be transformed into any kind of household appliance, but retained your memories, ability to speak and personality, what would you pick?
Probably a drinks fridge to then I could advise shout out,… “not enough ice” or “too much tonic” “you forgot the lime” “wrong glass”. [Ed: lol]