All Global rights reserved.
All Global rights reserved.

IN CONVERSATION WITH LESLEY GRACIE OF HENDRICK´S GIN

Because she was lucky to be asked to create a gin. But secondly because she simply fell in love with gin.

Lesley Gracie, the Master Distiller of Hendrick’s, embodies a spirit of unconventionality, passion, and relentless boundary-pushing. Her remarkable expertise in the realm of gin and her pivotal role in spearheading the “Ginnaissance” have earned her widespread acclaim, establishing her as a trailblazing presence in both the industry and the esteemed William Grant & Sons company.

Lesley, why gin?

Well, I guess firstly because I was lucky enough to be asked by Charlie Gordon, our late-life president, to create a gin, something unusual and quite unlike anything else on the market at the time. But secondly because I simply fell in love with gin. It is this incredible spirit with an amazing history and there is so much freedom to experiment and play and move it in different dimensions flavourwise.

​In your Cabinet of Curiosities, the making of gin becomes a bit magical – how did you discover for yourself the passion of flavors and that they come together in gin? And what is the most difficult thing about capturing and integrating tastes?

I’ve always been interested in plants and used to make teas out of twigs as a kid. I later studied chemistry and understood better how flavour was constructed. Before I joined William Grant & Sons I worked in the pharmaceutical industry and it was my job to mask the bitter flavour of certain medicines to make them palatable enough to take. Hendrick’s allows me to combine my love for plants and botanicals with my chemistry training and fascination with flavour. I’m always playing around with different flavour combinations in my lab and seeing how they work together, and the results are often surprising. It’s definitely part art and part science. The most difficult thing is understanding what something will taste like. For example, you can smell a plant but until you actually distil it you don’t quite know if and how those flavours will play out. So you have to just try it and see. But that’s the fun part for me too. Going “I wonder if…” or “what would happen if I blended this with that” and seeing what the result will be.

What was the most intriguing flavor you ever got to taste?

When I was in Venezuela on a quest to discover new botanical flavours I discovered the absolute joy that is scorpion-tale. It has this most incredible green flavour that was so intriguing and which complimented our Hendrick’s house style so well. I distilled it right there in the jungle to make Hendrick’s Kanaracuni, which was named to honour the tribe who were hosting us on the expedition. They’d only been non-nomadic for a couple of generations and they were the most generous, community-spirited people I’ve ever met. I’ve since tried scorpion-tail grown at a botanical garden in Scotland, and honestly it is not a patch on what I tasted flavourwise in Venezuela. The soil there is so rich that it really added to the depth of the flavour profile.

Especially rose and cucumber play an incredibly important, present role – what makes them so special?

The rose and cucumber are our coupe de grace – they add this delicious, light, fragrant, fresh, green note to Hendrick’sthat makes it, well, Hendrick’s.

What inspires you when you experiment on new combinations? What was your inspiration for ‘Flora Adora’, your launch for 2023?

I find inspiration everywhere. I’m forever smelling the different botanicals I see. This is not just when I’m at work, but when I’m walking my dog Jock along the wild Ayrshire coast as I do most nights I noticed how the herbs by the sea smell different than those grown further in-land and how that salty sea air transports me back to my childhood, when a trip to the seaside felt magical. That sensory memory inspired Hendrick’sThe initial idea for Hendrick’s Flora Adora came to me when I was sitting in the garden one day watching the butterflies and bees and other insects at work and noticed how they seemed to hover over certain flowers more than others. It got me thinking about what it was about these plants in particular that these precious pollinators adored, and I tried to capture that enticing floral bouquet in the gin.

Going “I wonder if…” or “what would happen if I blended this with that”
Your Gin Palace in Scotland fits perfectly with your name Cabinet of Curiosities. Upon entering, you feel like you’re immersed in another world and everything seems like a little utopia – what role do you see yourself playing in this cabinet?

Well, the Cabinet of Curiosities, as you’ve seen, is a real cabinet in my lab at the heart of the Gin Palace. It’s where I store the results of my various experiments. All the different experimental liquids I’ve created and those that I’m currently playing with live there, and one by one they are released to share with the world when the time is right. This cabinet contains some amazing sensorial memories in liquid form for me – the sensation of soaking up the magic of the sea or celebrating on bright midsummer’s day. So there’s definitely lots of memories in that cabinet – all preserved for posterity in gin form.

With the constantly evolving technologies, you feel like everything is possible. If anything were possible, what drink would you like to develop?

If we could take botanicals from outer space to make a gin that is literally out of this world, that would be amazing.

And which drink would you like to ban from this world?

Diet Coke. There really is no need for it – the red Coca-cola for me anyday.

Your favorite personal cocktail?

I love Hendrick’s Gin with elderflower and soda. One of our ambassador’s made it for me one day and I ask for it so much they’ve named it “The Lesley Gracie” after me. I love it because it’s so simple and refreshing and it allows the gin to shine. Plus, I’m a big fan of elderflower.

Can you give us a subtle little teaser of what to expect for your next launch?

Oooh, I couldn’t possibly tell, that’s top secret. But all of our Hendrick’s Cabinet of Curiosities releases use our original Hendrick’s recipe as the base and then push it into a different dimension. So it will be reassuringly familiar but also very curiously different at the same time.

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