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Kirsty speaks to Paul Donegan Global Brand Ambassador at Pickering's Gin
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Rewind to 2013. Pickering’s Gin founders Marcus Pickering and Matt Gammell were working at Summerhall when they noticed a few derelict dog kennels just, you know, lying around. The logical choice? Use them to build a gin distillery! When Pickering’s Gin opened in 2014, it was the first of its kind in Edinburgh for 150 years. 
We caught up with global brand ambassador Paul Donegan (IG: @ginpants) for his insight … 

On Paul’s gin career
I never made a conscious decision to get into gin.  I was the only bartender at the Scottish Bar awards (sponsored by a rum brand) and there were about 80 people all ordering daiquiris at the same time. I was shaking drinks like they’d be illegal the next day! From nowhere, founders Matt and Marcus appeared and started quizzing me about martinis, then proceeded to berate me for not stocking their gin. I started working for Pickering’s two months later!

On Pickering’s Gin 
The founders figured the guys who make gin rarely pay for G&Ts so they decided todistil their own to reduce their bar bills. It was originally meant to be a side project but obviously it ballooned slightly …

On Summerhall
Before they became expert gin producers, Marcus and Matt were in the construction business. Originally they were tasked with [transforming what was previously a vet school into Summerhall], converting classrooms to offices, building the bar andcafé, all sorts. So, when they decided to build their distilling facility, they knew there was plenty of unused space available. We now operate out of our converted dog kennel distillery! 

On the flavoured gin trend
There’s a difference between liqueur, which must contain sugar, and full-strength gin. The alcohol industry benefits from lax regulation around the naming and labelling of gin, and in my opinion, there are some very sugary drinks out there that barely taste like gin at all. There’s a place for well-made, fruity, full-strength gins, but it is important that people know what they’re buying.  I also think it’s worth saying that tonic waters (there are, of course, exceptions) contain a lot of sugar in themselves so adding a sugary flavoured gin can mean that you could be drinking as many as 15 teaspoons of sugar in one go. 

My advice would be to look out for distillers who champion the natural sugars within the botanicals and who use the ingredients to compliment rather than mask the flavour of the juniper.

On recommending gin
There are only two rules for making gin: it needs to have no less than 37.5% abv and must contain juniper, so distillers have a blank canvas to work with; as a result there are uncountable combinations that people can try. 

I’ve always maintained that there’s a gin for every palate so I start with finding out what flavours the customer likes. Some gin pairs better with certain flavours than others and pretty much all of them have one killer pairing, such as the famous Hendrick’s gin and cucumber, or our classic Pickering’s with Fever-Tree tonic and pink grapefruit. Even if I have to sit with someone and taste hundreds, I’ll do that. I’m selfless that way!

On choosing a tonic water
It really comes down to personal taste. There are a ridiculous number of tonics out there right now and I’ve probably only tried a fraction of them. Just drink loads,I’d say.

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