Raven Spirits was founded in 2018 by brothers Peter and Callum Sim. Based in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, the Scottish gin is inspired by Norse mythology and their HRAFN gins (pronounced Ra-vn) means ‘raven’ in Old Norse. I caught up with Peter following the launch their latest expression, Valhalla.
“Knowing how the different botanicals react is important in developing a gin and also, and this is crucial, how the distillation process will affect the taste.”
It’s been quite the year for Raven Spirits, culminating in a gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. How have you found the journey to date?
The journey has been one of discovery, learning, excitement and fun. We have been overwhelmed by the way HRAFN GIN has been received by the public, both home and abroad and we will continue to strive to live up to expectations.
Is there anyone in particular who’s helped you along the way?
There are a number of people – Mike Bain at Deeside Distillery has been, and continues to be, a great supporter with his advice, help and facilities, along with his team. Another team we are indebted to are the great folks at FortyTwo Studio – our branding team in Aberdeen. We never forget all our family and friends who have helped with support, advice and patience.
What prompted you to jump into the gin category?
I have been a gin drinker since I was legally able to drink alcohol, so gin was always on my radar, and I also watched the rise in gin drinking when I was a manager within the hospitality industry. Callum is a very enthusiastic whisky drinker and it was during a trip to Islay, on a brother’s holiday, that the two passions coalesced into a dream to produce a gin with a deeper taste and with a longer finish – inspired by the characteristics of whisky – and so a brand was born!
You currently contract distill your gins. Describe how you go about working on the recipes for your gins?
I start with a taste in my mind and work backwards! Knowing how the different botanicals react is important in developing a gin and also, and this is crucial, how the distillation process will affect the taste. Taste is a sensual experience that can trigger memories and I need to be open to where the ingredients will take me. The recipe is the culmination of these factors. It is hard to put it into words.
Are there any plans to bring distilling in-house?
Always – it would be the best thing ever.
As one of three brothers, I know there can be disagreements at times. How do you resolve these with your own brother? And who has the final say on the business decisions?
Great question. Obviously, Callum and I have disagreements, but we resolve them by talking the options through and reaching the best resolution. We are clear and totally agree on the taste of HRAFN GIN and on the brand presentation and positioning, and so never disagree on the fundamentals.
The positive is that Callum and I know each other so well that we can feel each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Our trust in each other is absolute – we always have each other’s backs. Our relationship is based on respect, appreciation for each other’s qualities and a strong will to help and assist the other to achieve their potential.
With ‘Thought & Memory’ the taste journey starts with juniper, which then rolls into the sweet depths of mandarin and finally ends with a long lingering spicy finish.
‘Valhalla’ echoes this taste but is deeper and more intense. The taste journey also changes as this time the juniper rolls into warming spices and ends with a long vivid finish of mandarin.
HRAFN GIN ‘Valhalla’ is best enjoyed neat on the rocks with a twist of lemon peel. Take it nice and slow and savour the complex and deep flavours.
What, in your opinion, makes HRAFN different in what is a hugely crowded category?
HRAFN GIN is different due to its deeper and more intense taste. The botanical separation creates a ‘taste journey’ that is unique and satisfying. We understand that the distillation process as well as the botanicals need to be considered to achieve this, and so HRAFN GIN also encompasses the heritage of distilling.
There’s a lot made of Scottish gin as an umbrella brand. Do you feel this helps you, and if so, what could be done to further boost the Scottish gin industry?
The reputation of Scottish spirits for quality, taste and heritage certainly helps HRAFN GIN due to the taste profile and its distinct characteristics. HRAFN GIN has been called a ‘Gateway Gin’ as it is like a doorway from gin into whisky and visa versa. So yes ‘Scotland the brand’ is certainly something we recognise, appreciate and strive for.
Transparency is important and I would like to see guidelines that promoted this, ideally lead by the Scottish Distillers’ Association.
You were recently out in Hong Kong. Is this an export market you’re looking to explore?
Yes, export is something we are looking at. The Far East is an area that expects quality in food and drink and with their appreciation and understanding of Scottish spirits and heritage it is a territory that we want to understand and explore.
Finally, when you’re not drinking HRAFN, what’s your go-to gin?
Naughty question! But I am a great fan of the Botanist. I loved this gin from first sip, and it is where Callum and I decided to start our gin journey. The karma isn’t lost on us either.
Find out more at https://www.hrafngin.com/.