Fascinated by the study of scientific brewing and all things flavoursome, Aaron Darke has created some truly amazing gins! Here’s his take on things.
Aaron Darke, MD & chief Distiller at Zymurgorium took some time out of his busy day to talk to us about his Gin, working with Gin Explorer and the future of the business…all of this whilst hand labelling some bottles to be sent out later that day!
How did you get involved with Gin Explorer?
I’d never been to a Gin Festival before so my cousin took me to the York event back in February and this is where I met Hayley from the team. After hearing her sales jargon I disclosed that I ran my own distillery and after lots of chats after the event, we agreed to include my Manchester Gin in the April Gin Explorer box.
I love that the whole Gin Explorer team are very passionate about what they do – they are all incredibly knowledgeable about the whole industry and they do love a good gin or two!
Zymurgorium is a very unusual name – where does it come from?
It’s an amalgamation of the word Zymurgy and Emporium. Zymurgy is the study of scientific brewing and an emporium is a shop that sells various items and trinkets. I wanted an emporium where I sell everything brewing and distilling related so not only gin, but also beers and ciders.
The gin liqueurs have very distinctive flavours – how did you come up with them?
The sweet violet came about at a time when everyone was doing elderflower liqueurs. I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon with everyone else but wanted to do something completely different to stand out. Often I’ll look at flavours that go with previous experiments I’ve carried out or the gin recipe might come first and then I’ll look at adding the fruit or flavour.
What’s the biggest challenge of business so far that you’ve had to overcome?
There’s been a few! I think it’s getting into the industry, because nobody else I knew at the time worked in it, so there was nobody to turn to for guidance. You get to quickly learn that there are a lot nuances, subtleties and complications in the industry!
Probably the hardest part, was actually getting my distilling licence. I was the first distillery to open in Manchester. Around 2 years ago I entered a competition, along with 400 others, and came away with a £10,000 business grant. This is the only funding I’ve received so it’s taken a long time to get the business where I want it to be, although there are still lots of areas to work on.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Really varied and can be weird and wonderful. We’ve got a new still coming in January as I’m still using the one I made at university. It’s pretty small (holds 25 litres) so the still can be on 2 or 3 times a day to produce the vast array of products I currently have.
At the moment I’m spending a lot of time looking at building relationships so lots of emails and phone calls. I’m also looking at finding new suppliers – we have a 40-50% fruit margin in some of the products so I’m always looking for best suppliers who are also ethical.
What does the future hold?
As mentioned above, we’ve got new stills coming in the new year so that will help immensely.
We’ve been in discussions with some local bartenders and want to work on something using different bitters from across the country.
There are lots of top secret projects going on with partners in collaborations that I can’t really reveal yet…other to say that it’s all very exciting at Zymurgorium.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
Without a doubt, it’s the experimentation side of things – it’s what got me started in the business. I’ll be working with new partners over the coming months who still want me to experimental in what we do. It’s the freedom to make something either from scratch or to improve something that’s already out there.
I don’t do this from a commercial aspect, it’s just what I love doing.
Favourite Gin…other than your own?!
I don’t really have one! I like different products at different times depending on my mood and the occasion. To be fair, there isn’t really anything I don’t like. I wanted the emporium to have the ability to cover everything.
I guess my take home message really is “make your gin your own” rather than have it a set way. I don’t have any perfect serving advice and I encourage experimentation to find exactly how you like gin – be that straight, with tonic, in a cocktail or with champagne.
Don’t forget if you want a full-size bottle of the Sweet Violet Gin, there’s a 10% off code in your October Gin Explorer box.