For quite a lot of people, the idea of working with their own parents sounds pretty scary. Not so for Patrick Lübke. He founded Gin SHADOWS together with his father in 2020. The entire family now distils high-quality London Dry Gins in the middle of tranquil Heroldsbach in Upper Franconia. Together, parents and son have realized their dream of running their own distillery.
In this interview, Patrick Lübke talks about the history of Gin SHADOWS, his own passion - and what makes Franconian Dry Gins so special.
Would you like to try the gins yourself? Then take a look here: To the Gin SHADOWS range
Honest & Rare: How did it come about that you - father and son - opened a gin manufactory together?
Patrick Lübke: Basically, we have always been attracted by the charm of small manufactories. The idea of opening our own gin factory first came to us at the end of 2017, when we attended a gin seminar in Austria - and kept imagining how exciting it would be to launch our own gin on the market.
As is usually the case, you only talk about your dreams at first and don't put them into practice straight away. Right from the start, we wanted a complete and independent production so that we wouldn't have to rely on contract distilleries. Over time, we realized more and more that it would be a long process and involve some challenges to create such a product on our own. But we knew that we would regret it if we didn't at least try. So we stopped beating about the bush and just got started. We launched our first own gin at the end of May 2020. The whole family has been involved since day one, so we are a real family business.
SHADOWS gin is made with Franconian aromatic hops - and tastes best in a gin and tonic.
Where does this shared love of gin come from?
We're not a family of distillers, so it can't come from that. The first time we got more involved with the topic was around 2016. Back then, we started drinking gin more regularly and wanted to stock up the bar at my parents' house. At that time, we got to know the gin Monkey47, whose story really inspired us and totally fascinated us in terms of taste. We hadn't previously realized that gin could be so multifaceted and aromatic. From then on, we really caught gin fever.
How does the collaboration actually work - who takes care of what?
We always work together on new recipes. Even when it comes to key strategic issues and financial matters, we always sit down together. Otherwise, I am the Managing Director and the main person responsible for the operational business. In production, I get a lot of support from my mother - she has the overview. As I said, we are a classic family business. But I still do the distillation myself.
Let's be honest - does everything always run smoothly? Or is it sometimes difficult to work with your father or son?
Actually, everything has been quite harmonious so far, as we have very similar views and tastes. We'll have to wait and see what's in store for us [laughs].
How many bottles do you fill each year?
We're moving towards 10,000 bottles a year. We'll soon be adding miniature bottles and we're already working on new flavors - in other words, production is constantly increasing. We still have sufficient capacity with our distillery, which we want to utilize to the full.
What makes your dry gin a genuine Franconian dry gin?
We have freely chosen the term 'Franconian Dry Gin' and regard it as a designation of origin. Our distillery is located in the middle of Franconia, in Upper Franconia to be precise, bordering on Franconian Switzerland. Naturally, we also wanted to give our gin a Franconian character. It gets this from an aromatic hop that is grown in Franconian Switzerland. This has a natural mandarin aroma, very interesting and aromatic. The hops are harvested once a year and we pick up the freshly harvested cones on site. We deliberately use the fresh cones and not pellets so that the hops undergo as few processing steps as possible and do not lose any aroma.
What is particularly important to you during production?
The most important thing for us is to produce our own hops, as this allows us to fully control and adapt the entire process. In the first step, the selection of botanicals and their suppliers is crucial. Here we ensure that they are of the same quality for every batch. We only use natural raw materials and no flavorings or extracts. Sugar has no place in our gin either - after all, we want to meet the requirements of a classic London Dry Gin.
The spices are crushed and ground before processing in order to capture really fresh and intense aromas. Freshly ground pepper, for example, has a much more intense aroma than the finished powder. During distillation, we ensure a low energy input so that the aromas can be extracted gently and with sufficient time. This also allows us to increase the alcohol content of the distillate. When diluting the distillate to drinking strength, we use very soft water so as not to impair the taste of the distillate.
You now also have a second gin in your range. What is the difference between the dry gin classic and the dry gin iced?
SHADOWS classic is a full-bodied gin with a complex aroma profile. We wanted to create a gin that covers every flavor in addition to intense juniper, i.e. fruity, spicy, floral and citrus. This makes it wonderful to drink on its own and keeps it nicely present in a gin and tonic - our favorite drink.
SHADOWS iced, on the other hand, is a somewhat lighter and fresher gin with clear citrus aromas. In addition to a hint of mint, we use lemongrass, which gives the gin a different aroma to the classic citrus flavor.
The SHADOWS iced gin is even fresher and more citrusy than the original.
Where does the name Gin Shadows come from?
We were inspired by the moonshiners in the USA, who distilled their schnapps black by moonlight during Prohibition. Our beginnings are also more or less hidden, as we distilled our own gin for the first time. Of course, we do everything by the book, we registered everything correctly! But we thought the idea was pretty cool and were able to create a nice association with the name. Our logo also alludes to this 'hiddenness' - after all, the eagle owl is a nocturnal and rather mysterious animal.
With which tonic or in which cocktail do your two gins taste best?
We prefer to drink our gin as a gin and tonic. Serve puristically with an Indian tonic, plenty of ice and a slice of lemon. A Mediterranean tonic also goes very well with our SHADOOWS iced, as it harmonizes perfectly with the citrus notes.
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