The Story of Boxer Gin starts with an environmentally friendly package and ends with a unique botanical. We sat down with Harry Cooke to talk about it.
Hi Harry, can you just explain who you are and what your role is at Boxer Gin?
My official role would be Head of Operations at Greenbox Drinks but as with all small companies, you find yourself doing a bit of everything. It varies from logistics and product development to marketing and events.
Let's start at the beginning, what's Green Box drinks and how did it come about?
Greenbox started out in 2011 with our Bloody Mary related products: Little Devil, an all-in-one bloody mary spicer, and Bloodshot, our bloody mary spiced Vodka. We then started producing a copper pot distilled wheat vodka, Element 29, so gin was the natural next step for us. The concept for Greenbox, and reason for the name, was to supply our spirits in 4.2L bag-in-boxes (like you see in wine) as well as bottles. The amount of glass bottles that are thrown away in our industry every year is unbelievable so the idea was to create really well-crafted bottles that could be refilled from the bag-in-boxes, eliminating the need to chuck them away. This innovation is mostly used in bars, hotels and restaurants although we’ve had a few people purchase them for their home bars.
From there, we expanded our spirit range and set our sights on a gin.
The idea for Boxer Gin was simple: to create the finest classical style gin possible, using the best ingredients and most advanced techniques. This was largely a response to the increasing number of gins that were departing from the traditional juniper-led flavour profile in favour of alternative, “wackier” ingredients, which in some cases begged the question, “is this still gin?”
I've found that boxer often tastes more like "gin" than others due to very strong juniper flavour. Can you tell me where that comes from?
Our star ingredient is Wild ‘Black’ Juniper from the Himalayas- in our opinion it is the finest quality juniper on the planet. We separately steam distil fresh juniper berries on the slopes of the Himalayas and add the distillate to the gin right at the end of the process.
We found that when Juniper Berries were dried their flavour profile changes as they lose their water-soluble flavour compounds, much like you see with dried herbs compared to fresh ones. Just adding fresh juniper berries to a regular distillation tends to produce a rather unpleasant bitterness but we found that separately steam distilling the juniper berries on site got around this. The steam is channelled through the berries and we collect this amazingly vibrant oil from the top of the remaining liquid. By adding the juniper distillate right at the end of the process, Boxer Gin has an incredibly intense, complex Juniper hit. It’s a ‘ginny’ gin: if you like gin, you will love Boxer.
What other botanicals are in there?
Our other main point of difference lies in our choice of citrus. We cold press bergamot peel to extract the oil and, much like the juniper distillate, add it after the main distillation. Bergamot lies somewhere between an orange and a lime and is one of the main components in Early Grey Tea. It’s a wonderful citrus but only grows in certain places for a very short period every year so tends to be in short supply.
Why "boxer" gin?
Boxer Gin pays homage to the preeminent 19th century boxer, Thomas King, also known as “The Fighting Sailor”, who retired as the Heavyweight Champion of England. It draws upon classic British sporting heritage during the ‘Golden Years’ of Gin following the repeal of the Gin Act in the late 18th century. We like to think that Mr King enjoyed a few gins after every fight.
How have people reacted so far?
Incredibly positive; as you well know, Gin has been a product that has really taken off over the last 5 or 6 years and the fascination surrounding it is still as strong as ever. We have been involved in a multitude of trade and consumer shows, festivals and, of course, gin tastings - with the sole aim of getting our gin into as many mouths as possible. Our sales have been primarily to bars and restaurants for our first few years but we have been turning our attention to retail more recently.
What next for the future?
We are currently working on an ultra-premium gin, which has the working title of ‘Boxer Black’. We intend to use only the finest ‘sacred’ black juniper berries that grow at incredibly high altitude in the Himalayas - it will most likely be even stronger and bolder than the current Boxer Gin offering.
We are also launching in the US in May, so a container of gin is currently making its way across the Atlantic. Other than that, it will be more shows, more festivals and more people getting to try our gin.
As for Greenbox, we are looking into branching out into other spirits, including Rum and Tequila.
What’s your typical day like?
It tends to be pretty varied. Usually it will start with the less interesting stuff- making sure all of our customers are getting their gin on time, arranging productions so we don’t run out, and other general admin. After that is done, it gets more exciting. I could be out and about at one of our events or conducting gin tastings. If not, then my time is usually split between marketing and social media as well as experimenting with some new products: at the minute, we are currently in the process of producing a small batch Cotswold sloe gin and Crabapple Gin.
What’s the best thing about what you do?
The Gin! I think it always helps when you are selling a product that genuinely interests you and that you enjoy. The people as well: who either work in the industry or are just one of the thousands of people who you meet at trade shows or gin festivals. Everyone who we talk to seems enthusiastic about Boxer Gin and gin in general.
Other than boxer, do you have any favourite gins?
We are a big fan of the more classical gins on the market. The entry-level Tanqueray is absolutely fantastic and Beefeater 24 offers a great twist on a classic. Of the craft gins on the market, Monkey 47 is a great complex gin (if you can afford it!).
Have you ever been to a Gin Festival? What did you think?
We’ve been quite a few times to the London Gin Festivals and Boxer has been stocked in the Gin Festival Bars since it started I believe. They are a great way of allowing us to come face to face with the gin enthusiasts of the world so, naturally, we think they are great.
Boxer Gin is our Gin of the Month. We have a limited number remaining, and with every bottle bought, you'll get a free enamel camping mug.
Offers ends 30/04/2017, only available while stocks last.
Gin Festival returns to the beautiful Victoria baths for another double weekender!
It’s national chilli day! So we decided to celebrate in true gin style (the only way we know how to) and make some cocktails!
The gorgeous Piùcinque is our January Gin of the Month, bursting with bright, sunny Mediterranean flavours.
January's Gin Of The Month is proudly Italian through and through.