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Below is an excerpt from GINNED! Magazine about Makar Glasgow Gin. Every month, Craft Gin Club members receive a bottle of amazing small-batch gins accompanied by GINNED! Magazine which is full of features about the gin, the distillery and loads of fascinating features.
“The business was founded in the year 1770 by John Harvey (grandfather of the present proprietors), who was one of the first three licensed Distillers in Scotland, and we think we are safe in saying that Dundashill may claim to be one of the very first distilleries established in Glasgow.”
If this citation from the 1887 account of the houses of Scotch Drink, Alfred Barnard’s “The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom”, stands true, then the Dundashill quarter of Glasgow continues its history of firsts in Scottish spirits. The October 2014 launch of the Glasgow Distillery Company’s (GDC) Makar Gin is believed to be the first commercially-produced gin hailing from the Scottish capital.
When they conceived the idea to create a Glaswegian gin, GDC Co-Founders Mike Hayward and Liam Hughes did not expect to find themselves at the forefront of a Scottish trend. In fact, they expected to find a fair amount of association between Glasgow and Dutch Courage. Research, however, turned up “naething’” except whisky, and even the last drop of gin’s aged cousin had spilled from the stills over 100 years prior.
In 1903, the Dundashill Distillery, still the largest in Scotland, went bankrupt and closed its doors. “The extensive buildings and premises covering five acres of ground” observed by Barnard gave way to decades of industrial decline and eventually fell into the hands of drinks giant Diageo which ran the Port Dundas Grain Distillery and Dundashill Cooperage until their closures in 2009 and 2010 respectively. The distillery produced the base spirit used by some of Diageo’s blended whisky brands with the cooperage providing the barrels in which the Scotch Drink ages. But still, no connection with gin was found.
Then came Annie.
THE FIRST GIN STILL IN GLASGOW
Churning out good-sized quantities of an original product in a male-dominated industry, Annie, is the hard-working, entrepreneurial type setting straight traditional gender roles. This description could refer to the Glasgow Distillery Company’s still, which produces 300 bottles of Glasgow’s first gin per day, or to Mike Hayward’s great grandmother, for who the still is named. Mike’s ancestor, who died long before he was born, was a strong woman, setting up her own businesses while raising her children in a society run by men. Mike decided that naming the still that would produce Makar Gin after Annie was an appropriate nod to the past.
All 300 of the bottles that Annie’s product fills are labeled and bottled by hand in a process that takes five hours per day. Head Distiller Jack Mayo says he has the process down to about one bottle per minute and that the task is much harder than it seems. Jack finds the time every day partly because the Glasgow Distillery Company is not like other distilleries in Scotland which tend to be rather picturesque and attract large numbers of tourists. Instead, a Dundashill bonded warehouse houses the GDC gin still along with two soon-to-arrive stills for making whisky, keeping outside visitors to a minimum.
Although they started with a passion for gin with Makar, Mike and Liam had always planned to make whisky as well. Their plans were expedited as Makar went into production because of the significant amount of time it takes to make whisky. To help fund their whisky production and spread word of Makar to Glaswegians and beyond, they have launched the 1770 Club. A reference to the year in which the original distillery was established, the Club invites members to purchase a cask of spirit maturing to become whisky. Investors can decide when to bottle the liquid in their cask with guidance from GDC’s experts. Club members can become a piece of Scottish spirits history by buying a 50, 100 or 200 litre cask of some of the first whisky produced in Glasgow for over 100 years.
Their cash-generating plan is similar to that of the UK government during World War II. Most of the grain in the UK had been dedicated to feeding the populace and military during the war. Only when the Crown realized that it needed to raise money for the end of the war and to get the economy going afterwards, they allowed for the production of whisky once again with 80% of it reserved for export to generate dollars. It is largely due to this plan that Scotch whisky became such a staple export of the UK and why all corners of the globe are now familiar with Scotch whisky.
Soon enough, those corners will be familiar with GDC’s whisky. For the moment, the 1770 Club has attracted a local following. But once the stills are up and running in the New Year, Mike and Liam expect to attract interest from abroad. Whisky, after all, can make a very good investment, especially when it is backed by a rich story such as that which GDC’s Co-Founders have poetically written with the launch of Glasgow’s first gin.