In this instalment of Start-Up Stories we got to chat to the Co-Founder of Bashall Spirits, Fiona McNeill. See what she had to say about creating a new spirit, start-up life and more…
What is Bashall Spirits?
We are a small spirits company who are dedicated to bringing heritage flavours inspired by our Victorian and Georgian family recipe books to the drinks category. We’ve taken inspiration from these long- treasured hand-written books to find flavours that appeal with modern tastes, but also bring in traditional, and in some cases, forgotten flavours that come together. At the moment we are focussing only on flavoured gins, which are created with our own London Dry gin recipe, but in the future we may look at expanding into other types of spirits.
Where did the flavour inspiration come from? What’s the history?
Our family have been in Bashall Eaves for over 200 years and in our house there we have a wealth of family history that has been carefully kept over the centuries.
“One of the best parts of this are the recipe books, which give an idea of how people cooked and ate over the last two or three hundred years.”
Our most treasured recipe books are ones hand-written by ancestors, one from 1750 written by Anne Taylor and one from the middle of the nineteenth century, written by Jennet Worsley. We love the flavours and ideas in these – some of them involve fruits and spices like elderberry, quince, caraway that grow in abundance locally and are lovely, but just aren’t used that much today.
Did you have any previous FMCG experience? Or was this completely new for you?
“Not at all, this is totally new to us!”
How do you create a new spirit? How long does it take from concept to execution?
We worked with a student doing a masters in distilling at Heriott Watt University over a summer to develop the London Dry recipe. She visited Bashall and looked at all the local flavours and culture to get her ideas, and then refined the botanicals to create the perfect gin that would not only work on its own, but also as a base for flavoured gins too.
We then combed through the recipe books to identify some key recipes and ingredients, and in the end narrowed this down to about 14. The next phase of NPD was to get in touch with flavour houses to recreate the ingredients and flavours. After sampling, we mostly we loved them all, but then had to narrow it all down to the three we’ve initially brought to market. We still have several flavour combinations that we’re hoping to bring out soon! So, developing the London Dry recipe took about 6 months, and developing and making the flavour ideas took another few months.
Have you always been an entrepreneur?
Not at all! This is the first thing we’ve ever done like this. It came out of a passion to bring our family heritage to life, and to create more business in the village.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to start an FMCG business?
You need expert knowledge – so if you don’t have it yourself, make sure you’re working with consultants or partners who specialise in the category. It’s hard work and can be stressful and with inevitable challenges, so make sure you’re passionate about what you’re doing!
Describe Bashall Spirits in 3 words…
Celebrating & persevering heritage
Where can people find your amazing spirits?
We’re just beginning to bring them to the market now, so the best way to keep up to date with what we’re doing is via our website, or social media channels.
What’s next for Bashall Spirits?
At the moment, we’re focussing on getting our three flavoured gins – Orange & Quince, Elderberry & Damson, and Parkin Cake (ginger and treacle) out there. Parkin is a wonderful flavour for winter celebrations, and the other two are rich fruity flavours that are perfect all year round. We’ve got a wonderful summer recipe up our sleeves that we’re hoping to bring out in the spring. And of course, promoting our London Dry, which is a smooth mellow gin inspired by local botanicals.