Wayne Asher has a background in aerospace, plumbing and heating. But he left all of that behind to create ‘Europe’s Best Gin’ hand made in his own small distillery in the centre of Nottingham. This interview was featured in Issue 2 of Handmade Nottingham Magazine
What was it that brought you to Sneinton Market?
We started operations out in Ruddington, but the site we had wasn’t ideally suited in terms of fire safety and things like that. So we approached the council and they suggested that we might try one of the units at Sneinton Market. It’s a lovely place to be, it’s a nice community, nice clean units and access is very good. It ticks a lot of the boxes!
I read that 50 new distilleries have opened in the UK this year so far, what do you think is driving the demand?
Distilling on a small scale has been made possible by Sipsmith (@sipsmith), they started it all, they challenged HMRC in 2009 and succeeded in getting the laws liberalised and allowing people the opportunity to do it. People are now making a diverse range of quality products.
What is your background?
It’s in engineering. I started out as a machinist and worked in the aerospace industry. But to give myself a little more flexibility in working hours I set up a plumbing and heating business about 15 years ago. I was quite good at it but I can’t say I ever really liked it. It’s not very nice being called out in the middle of the night because of some leak somewhere! So I knew I needed to do something else.
So how did the distilling come about?
I knew that I needed change longer term. I thought to myself “what do people like?” because they certainly don’t like having plumbers round! People like drinking don’t they!
Where did the name come from?
Redsmith is another name for a coppersmith. Because I built the still myself and a lot of coppersmithing went into it, it seemed like the best name. It’s very difficult to think of an original name.
Who designed your logo and branding?
Fifteen Design (@fifteendesign) in Ilkeston came up with the concept for the label, a girl called Lucy. But I had lots of input myself in terms of wording and typeface.
Tell me a bit more about the equipment
Having decided what I was going to do, there were various options equipment-wise. Starting with a limited startup budget I was aware that I had the necessary skills to built a still myself but i needed to design one. So I studied with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling (@IBDHQ) and did some of their exams and immersed myself in the world of Gin, looked at how the stills work and operate and set about designing my own. It give the distillery, as small as it is, a uniqueness because I can say that there isn’t another still like that anywhere in the world! Jenny (the still) took about a year to build. And then a further year to get the recipe spot on.
What sort of ingredients go into the making of gin?
What I make is termed a London dry gin, which is a style of gin. Lots of Juniper, the base alcohol is distilled from wheat, coriander and angelica. The zest of sweet oranges and fresh peel. They are available all year round. There is nothing strange in there at all.
The recipe obviously works as you have won a big award…
Yes, we won ‘Gin of the year 2016’ at the Craft Distilling Expo in London. It was open to gins that had been launched in Europe the previous year. There were about 50 other gins in the running. To launch a product in May and to win the award in October was fantastic!
How long from start to finish?
Each batch would tie the still up for 2 days. We have a maceration or steeping period of that time, it rests for a month before bottling.
What do you think is driving the creative, handmade boom in Nottingham?
I guess there are lots of creative people in Nottingham, we have both universities to help entrepreneurs and their creative endeavours. In Sneinton Market there is lots of creative stuff happening, people roasting coffee, card designers, painters, lots happening! Nottingham has always been a manufacturing city, some of the companies have since closed down but that leaves lots of creative people with nothing to do, so they are doing it themselves.