Interviews

Jawbox Gin – The Founding Father

JAWBOX
Image – Jawbox

Gerry White is the mastermind/founder behind the much loved Jawbox, a small batch; Belfast cut gin that is taking the market by storm. Meeting Gerry a few years back (before Jawbox prospered) and getting into conversation about his new endeavour made my obsession with gin flourish, his passion for the spirit and the love for his product inspired me, this love was infectious and from then I have become a gin fanatic. So when Gerry said yes to giving me a one on one chat you could imagine the sheer happiness that I felt!! Introducing Mr Gerry White of Jawbox Gin.

What made you decide to develop a Belfast gin, when did the idea first arise for it?

 As far back as Gerry remembered he always worked in the hospitality industry as a barman, gin was the only spirit that he ever had a passion for. Always having the idea for Jawbox in the back of his head, the idea stemmed from his love of Belfast and his love of gin, so he combined the two, wanting a gin that married the character of both. Turning 60 next year (definitely doesn’t look it) the feeling of its now or never struck him. As much as he loved his position in the John Hewitt Bar he knew that if he didn’t do something at that time then he never would, he didn’t want to become complacent and yearned for that sense of excitement to be injected back into his work. Already having a trademark on the name this was the perfect moment, taking place before the gin craze he had no idea where this chapter would take him but he took the leap of faith and began his Jawbox journey.

 How did you go about making your dream a reality?

Gerry knew that it was now or never to make his dream a reality, he tried to get the project up and running himself by meeting with a number of different distillers/distributors, but this was going nowhere and Gerry nearly gave up on his dream. Luckily something told him to keep going, eventually meeting with future business partner Drinksology to discuss his idea; they arranged meetings with potential distillers. Gerry found his distillers at Echinville Estate, knowing immediately that this was the place that Jawbox would be created, and from there the ball started to roll.

Gerry outlined that he owed huge thanks to the Belfast hospitality industry who really got behind Jawbox Gin. Muriel’s Cafe Bar a local Belfast gin parlour promoted Jawbox massively and were the bar that created the now famous serve of ginger ale and honeycomb.  A lot of the restaurants showed the product great support, Michael Deane (a Michelin star chef) created a dish of Jawbox & citrus cured trout (still available on today’s menu), and also top local chef Niall McKenna (James St South) developed a cured Jawbox salmon.  Gerry also had great thanks for Howard Hastings (owner of Hastings Hotels) who stocked Jawbox in all his hotels across Northern Ireland. He still cannot believe his luck, getting chills every time he thinks of the support, stating that the sheer scale of the support for his product has been “phenomenal”. Gerry always believed in his product and knew it would do well, but he just can’t believe how well it has been received in such a short space of time.

 When did you perfect your recipe for Jawbox? How did you know this was the complete product?

 Gerry referred to the master distiller Graheme Miller as an “absolute genius in spirits”, when they first met he knew immediately that he wanted to work with Graheme to bring Jawbox to life. Gerry knew what he wanted the end product to taste like, telling Graheme this they started working on the blend, perfecting the ingredients; it was their 15th blend when the two looked at each other and had that eureka moment, they knew immediately this was the birth of Jawbox Gin.

What is unique about Jawbox? 

Gerry outlined that Jawbox is not necessarily an overly unique gin from other brands on the market, but referred to it as “just a very, very good gin”. Delving further he highlighted that Jawbox is unique in its own ways in that a special ingredient of the gin infuses a ‘wee’ bit of Belfast into the bottle. Describing it as a classic tasting, very juniper forward, old style gin. The use of old cooper pot stills adds smoothness to the spirit due to the direct contact between the cooper and the gin. But he believes a big part of Jawbox being so special is the fact that everyone involved with the product is so passionate about it.        

Other than your own product, what is a gin you like or would recommend?  

The Botanist Gin (Islay Dry Gin – 46%) – one of Gerry’s favourite gins

The Isle of Harris Gin (Scottish Gin – 45%) – wants to try

Jinzu Gin (British/Japanese Fusion – 41.3%) – wants to try

 Gerry admitted that when he is on a night out he is generally a bias and drinks Jawbox Gin.

 Any future plans for Jawbox? Oak Aged / Sloe / Flavoured?

One thing that Gerry was adamant about was that he will never release an oak aged gin; he disagrees with oak aged not liking it on a personal level. Gerry believes it goes against what gin is all about which is being fresh and vibrant and oak aged kills the traditional flavours, believing it should be kept to other spirits.

He did give a sneaky hint that Jawbox is currently working on variants, “can’t say too much at the moment but we are currently dabbling with blends, they will be short runs being only limited special editions, there are a couple of things being worked on that taste stunning”. Currently getting another pot still installed so can experiment more as they don’t want to effect and take away from the production of Jawbox itself.

Overjoyed at the idea of knew limited edition tastes I tried to get a timeline of when I can have one in my grasp, Gerry sheepishly responded that one thing about them is that they will never rush anything, will always “do it the hard way but the right way, this is Jawbox’s ethos”.

 Anything else that you would like to share with fellow gin lovers?

Save the dates – next year on the 8th, 9th & 10th June 2018, these dates will mark the first Belfast Gin Festival near Queens University Elmwood Hall (used to be an old church), described the venue as ‘absolutely stunning’, will cover World Gin Day. Will be all Irish Gins on selection and I suspect it will be a fantastic event.

Gerry is a total gentleman, and I loved melting his head for a few hours; I cannot wait to see what comes from Jawbox next! If you haven’t tried this gin this is a must on your list.

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