Masons Gin have just launched a world first distilled sloe gin so we sat down for a (G)Interview with Karl Mason from Masons Yorkshire Gin about his new gin.
Masons Slow Distilled Sloe Gin is a world first. Rather than a standard sloe gin, where the fruit is macerated and left to infuse in the gin, this is a London dry gin with sloes distilled as a botanical. The result is truly unique and makes a cracking G&T. We had a chat with Karl Mason, one of the co-founders of Masons Yorkshire Gin, to discuss their new creation.
What was the inspiration behind starting Masons Gin?
We wanted to create a gin that was definitely new and unique, not just a different label. Cathy and I had tried so many gins, some stood out as being great but the majority at the time (Remember this is about 4 years ago when nobody expected a gin boom) where same old same old.
And what made you want to try and do a distilled sloe gin?
We have always liked to be different, it’s the Yorkshire way I suppose, hence why we launched a Yorkshire Tea Gin and a Lavender Gin when elderflower and rhubarb were the popular choices. We kept getting asked if we did a Sloe Gin but just didn’t want to create another Sloe Gin liqueur as I don’t think you can make one on a large scale that compares to homemade – so we thought well let’s look at it from a totally different angle.
Can you tell us about the new gin in your own words?
It was possibly the hardest of our range to get right as the main element sloes bring to the flavour is a lot of bitterness. We had to experiment with lots of test distillations and ways to sweeten the gin without the use of sugar, but once we started to raise the levels of sweet orange zest we started to make progress. When you have a G&T with the “Slow distilled Sloe edition” you get the taste of the sloes on the taste buds responsible for bitterness but the sweet orange zest off-sets it without tasting too much of orange. The sweetness of strawberries to garnish it creates a fabulous G&T and brilliant G&T’s are what Masons always aim for.
What has the reaction to it being like so far?
Well it’s currently exclusive to Gin Festival so the majority of feedback we have had is from people desperate to get hold of it who are disappointed when they realise they can’t get any from us!
Can you tell us a little bit of the Masons story?
We started in a very unconventional way, as G&T lovers who had a facebook page called Gin & Tonic Friday where people simply posted photos of them having G&T’s. We had around 10,000 followers and used to get free gin from gin companies wanting our followers to see their gin on our site. I was trying a new gin one day and said to Cathy that I thought it was dull and I could probably do better. She basically said why don’t you then and the journey started there.
We discovered that no distilleries existed in Yorkshire so, initially, we had to get help to work on a recipe and outsourced the distilling. We launched with the huge total of 120 bottles of Masons Yorkshire Gin on World Gin Day 2013, bought our own still in February 2014, tweaked the recipe a little more and became the first distillery in Yorkshire.
What do you have in store for the future?
Bigger premises which we can hopefully make into a destination plus, hopefully, a regular limited edition, as we love being creative and exploring new flavours.
What’s your typical day like?
You couldn’t use the word typical as every day is totally different. I could be in the distillery tasting, in a field selling from our stall, at an exhibition or doing stupid amounts of online paperwork for the inland revenue.
After a long, hard day at the distillery, what do you drink to help you unwind?
Do you really have to ask? I have a G&T every day. Not always Masons Gin, I still like to try new gins and it’s always great when I discover a new gin that I like. I couldn’t tell you how many varieties I’ve tried but I have over 200 in my own collection at the distillery and let visitors try them.
Aside from Masons, what’s your favourite gin?
The first Gins I tried that stood out for me were Martin Millers and Gilpins, both very different to each other but they made fantastic G&T’s. Since then great discoveries have included Citadelle & Pink Pepper Gin. I could happily live with those four and a bottle of Masons Tea gin – oh and an endless supply of Fever-Tree tonic.
Have you been to a Gin Festival? What did you think?
I went to the very first Gin Festival and remember Jym and Marie coming to see me before they launched as my Gin & Tonic Friday page was probably the most popular gin website in the UK at the time. I was really impressed by them and it’s amazing to see how they have grown it from its small start and it’s all down to their hard work and determination to be the best. I love the atmosphere at a Gin Festival, great music, great food, amazing staff and where else can you get such selection of amazing gins for £5 each.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
It’s what I love. We didn’t get into this because we saw a boom coming or a gap in the market. It wasn’t about business it was a love of a good G&T. Making a business out of it was almost an accident so I’m very lucky to be working with something I love.
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