Prohibition

Meet the Distiller: Gavin Clifford - Bonac Spirits


Gavin, please tell us about the Bonac journey, where did it all begin?

The Bonac Irish Gin journey came to fruition on the 25th of November, 2016. This was the date of our very fist distillation. It took us about a year of planning, procurement, and development to get to that point, but the journey began some years before. Both myself and my father Michael had a keen interest in the craft of making quality spirits. We had visited many distilleries in both Ireland and the UK and our passion for spirit making and getting to know the people behind them grew. But it wasn’t until I emigrated to the U.S. after university, and spent two years working in the drinks industry there that I realised we could turn our passion into a viable business. Every day I had founders of their own breweries and distilleries coming into me in my bar in New York with their beers and spirits. I always made time for them, I was probably their favourite call of the day, because I gave them so much of my time, but I was getting more about listening to their stories than anyone else. This is what really spurred me on, and gave me a clear vision for what I wanted to do when I returned home to Ireland.

What’s your favourite part of making Gin?

There are a couple of aspects. Not in making the gin, but when selling the gin, the interaction with people all day everyday. I love working a job with so much human interaction. I would not do well sitting looking at a screen all day. In the actual making of the gin, I love the hands on processing, and balancing the botanicals so that each batch is as consistent as possible. There is something very fulfilling about working with the senses and then seeing the product turn out right. Its the same satisfaction as making incredible cocktails.

How long did it take to perfect your classic gin recipe?

It took us a year of working with different ingredients, and 24 different distilled batches to get to our final product. There are aspects that you could tweak and change forever, but we felt that we had really hit the nail on the head, and created our version of what we thought a classic dry gin should taste like. 

What size and what type of still do you use, can you tell us a little about it?

Our 500L copper hooded pot still is the engine room of our business. We named it Caroline, after my mother. It seemed fitting as we are a family distillery and we hold family values at the core of our business. It was designed by John Dore & Co, in London and built to spec by an Irish company in Co Louth. As far as we know, we have the only still which was manufactured on the island. We can produce 680 bottles per run and we produce a couple of batched per month currently. 

How often do you distil, and how long does one batch run take?

We distill in batches, and produce as we need. We currently distil a couple of times a month. Our process takes us through a 24 hour steeping of our botanicals in the still at 40% ABV. Distillation depends on circumstances on the day but is between 7 and 9 hours. 

What is your favourite way to drink Bonac gin and do you have a favourite Bonac cocktail?

My favourite way to drink Bonac Irish Gin is our Signature Serve:

Bonac Irish Gin, Classic Indian Tonic Water, Mint & Lime Garnish. Large Glass. Lots of ice. 

I used not to be a fan of tonic water, many moons ago, and I also enjoy to drink with soda water. Just sub in soda for the tonic in our classic serve. 

One of my favourite cocktails with Bonac, is a twist on the quintessential gin cocktail, The Negroni. I drink Bonac in a White Negroni, using equal parts Bonac, Luxardo Bitter Bianco, and White Port.

What’s next for the distillery? What do you see as key to staying ahead of the game? 

We love every day as it comes, there are always new adventures. But we do work in a very crowded market space. We strive to be different, and that difference comes with the people behind the brand. We love to get out into bars and talk with our customers as much as possible. We are also planning on bringing our customers to us, and show them where and how we make Bonac up close. Drinks tourism is a growing trend on the island. Who knows, maybe tourist will be able to make and leave with their own personalised bottles of gin. Keep your eyes on our social media for updates. @bonacirishgin

Do you have any new products in the pipeline?

We have some exciting plans, nothing we can talk too in depth about now, but again, eyes on social @bonacirishgin

The Irish spirits scene is growing at a spectacular rate, what other products out there do you enjoy?

There are some interesting things happening with the Whiskey scene, obviously Feeling are shaking up the market. I think the bigger guys are sitting up and taking notice, which should make things interesting. I am also very happy about the resurgence of Poitin!!


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