D1 Spirits - Supper Club and Q&A
This review has not been influenced by anyone at D1 Spirits and we have not been paid for this review.
At the end of last month, we had the pleasure of spending an evening with luxury drinks brand, D1 London Spirits. We had a fantastic evening joining them for dinner and cocktails at L’Oscar Hotel in Holborn, London. The evening was situated in the opulent Committee Room – beautifully decorated with a peacock theme, it was a gorgeous setting for the evening. When we arrived, we were greeted by the lovely Megan from East of Eden and greeted with a bar D1 G&T garnished with mint which was gratefully received after a long day in the office.
We then had the opportunity to listen to the story behind D1 Spirits from their founder Dominic Limbrey. He provided us with some insight into the inspiration behind creating his brand. The idea for D1 Spirits actually came about when Dominic was in Beijing (Check out our Q&A below details). It was great to hear the story and see the passion that Dominic has not only for D1, but for good gin in general.
Time for food! To start, Mr Bandit opted for the Duck Ravioli and Mrs Bandits for the Beetroot & Goats Curd. Both dishes were beautifully presented and were served with the next cocktail, the ‘D1 Ramos Fizz’ (D1 London Dry Gin, Egg White, Lemon Juice, Lime Juice, Maraschino Liqueur, Orange Blossom Water & Almond Milk – charged with N20) which was Mrs Bandit’s favourite cocktail of the night.
Then followed the most delicious Pork Belly for Mr Bandit and Seabass for Mrs Bandit, again with a cocktail. This time is was the ‘D1 Black Truffle Martini’ (Black truffle infused D1 Vodka, Black truffle infused dry vermouth, garnished with truffle) which came with a strong kick! To finish, we both opted for the Baked Alaska which we could have eaten 10 of. Mr Bandit has since promised to attempt a Baked Alaska at home. Following the dessert, the next cocktail arrived, the ‘D1 Summer Equinox Sorbet’ (D1 London Dry Gin infused with D1’s summer equinox cold infusions, lime juice, soda water with a pretty edible flower garnish).
There were displays around the room showcasing the D1 bottles and the stunning artwork on the bottles by well known artist Jacky Tsai. The Gin bottle is adorned with the ‘Floral Skull’ design and the Vodka bottle has the ‘Stained Glass skull’. A cool feature of these bottles is that the artwork can be seen from the back and front. Dominic’s background in design really shows through from the artwork he has selected for the D1 bottles.
D1’s generousity continued as they gave us the *most exciting* goody bag when we left. We received bottles of D1 Spirits, some amazing D1 Skull Ice Moulds, a packet of their DJ Cold Fusions along with a copper spoon and a china D1 cup.
A huge thanks to D1 Spirits for an amazing night, we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
The Gin Bandits
We also had the opportunity to put some questions to Dominic about D1 Spirits and how things are going. Check out our Q&A below
D1 London Gin has been on the market for around 5 years now, which is near on veteran status what with all the new distilleries and gin brands popping up across the country. What was your background before you launched D1?
My background is quite mixed, but centres around design and manufacturing combined with operating supply chains in international markets. The relevance between what I’ve done before, and what I do now with D1 and DJ’s is that businesses succeed by combining the skills and disciplines of high performing individuals to operate as a team and produce an outcome. I’ve been supremely lucky to be able to work with some awesomely talented people in the creation of D1 and DJ’s and this shows in the products and brand we’ve created and the numerous accolades we’ve won.
Where did the idea of making gin start for you and how long did it take to become a reality?
10 years or so ago I worked with another gin brand with an aim to establish a supply chain for their brand into Asia. Whilst they decided this wasn’t a market for them, I’d become consumed by the idea of creating and launching my own premium spirits brand. It took the best part of 3-4 years to bring the idea from paper to reality, and a huge investment in both time and resources.
Since you launched D1 in 2014, how has the gin market changed and have you had to change anything in your processes, recipe or branding?
Probably the most noticeable change in the market has been the number of gin brands that have launched, particularly in the last 2-3 years. Within the category the products and nature of the brands that have come to market, combined with the routes to market have also changed significantly too. Most recently this can be exampled by ‘flavoured gin’- which is quite divisive within the market, I stand firmly on the side of #Stopfuckingwithgin which I’ll touch more on later! Before that the trend was for locally branded gins, foraged local botanicals, et al.
We’ve not changed our recipe or branding for our gin, but in response to consumers’ demand for more easy flavour we launched DJ’s Cold Infusions. Probably one of the biggest things we’ve developed over the years is a series of merchandise and branded goods that enable the consumer to engage in a brand experience that extends beyond the bottle.
We love the fact that your bottle design is reversible. One thing that really annoys Mr Bandit is when someone takes a bottle off the shelf at the Gin Bandits HQ and puts it back facing the wrong way! Who came up with that idea and also to collaborate with Jacky Tsai to use the 3D Floral Skulls?
The reversible bottle idea and bottle design was the work of the wonderful 21st Century Brands team. I think it looks amazing. The key components I wanted included were the Union Jack and Jacky’s Floral Skull – I’m passionately ‘British’ and centring our heraldry into the middle of the flag is how I feel about what we’ve done in establishing the ‘best of British’ being proud of our roots. I see the Union Jack on the reverse of the bottle as being an expression of character, in much the same way as personality is often expressed in tailored clothing in the lining of a suit or jacket.
I’d met Jacky some years before the idea of producing a gin brand and absolutely loved his work, particularly the layers of ideas encapsulated in his images. They’re not only beautiful but encompass meaning and depth. The floral skull embodies the idea of flowers and birds and things of life and beauty juxtaposed in a context of a skull; being something in decay.
D1 is currently third party distilled - How did you choose which distillery to partner up with, and how much input did you have on choice of botanicals used and the final recipe?
At the outset we ‘interviewed’ a number of different distilleries before finally partnering up. The skill of the master distiller combined with the heritage of the distillery made it an easy choice. We worked with a number of different people before finally choosing our blend of botanicals – notably, working with a genius master tea blender enabled us to finalise our choice of botanical. Inevitably, the choice of botanicals was entirely ours.
When you launched D1, what was the initial reception like and did you face any difficulties?
The initial reception of our gin was as mixed as you can possibly get! In the space of 48 hours our gin was compared to an astringent by one reviewer then 48 hours later winning double master medals in the super premium and contemporary categories of the Global Gin Masters, by a panel of judges in a blind tasting. Securing distribution has always been a big challenge, and understanding the ‘competing’ and interdependent relationships between key stakeholders in both the on and off trade did and continues to pose challenges. In the UK we also relied heavily on a brand development agency who were unable to replicate the success we’ve achieved in many of our international markets. Probably most notably because in our non-UK markets our brand presentation is about being more than a bottle of spirit, but also a brand experience. This has notably enabled us to stand out as being more than just ‘another’ gin brand/ bottle, in what is a saturated UK and international market of brands. The flag on our bottle is also a very positive brand Britain reference and the idea of gin being quintessentially British connotates well; internationally there is a definite contingent who like the idea of a British brand, which is far more easily referenced by consumers than a local city or town that may not be well known.
I know flavoured gin is a big thing at the moment and you’ve opted against creating one, as you have that aspect covered by your Cold Infusion Pockets, but are there any other D1 gin products in the pipeline, perhaps a Barrel Aged D1 London Gin?
I do have a hankering to produce another gin product. Alas a few challenges on the home front are diverting my attention from that development, aside from our continued extension into an increasing number of international markets
Speaking of the infusions, how did this idea come up? We think they are great. We saw them at the Telegraph Gin experience, but never got to try them so we were very happy to see them the other day in the goody bag
DJ’s Cold Infusions is my answer to #Stopfuckingwithgin. I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved with our London Dry; the idea of adding other flavours into a gin - to the point where you could be forgiven for thinking there is any juniper inside these flavoured gins and throwing in a load of sugar was just too much to bear.
DJ’s was created to bring the same level of integrity and honesty to flavour as we have with our gin and vodka. Hand blended, all-natural botanicals and freeze-dried fruit with no added sweeteners, artificial flavour or colour. I love the product and I think it brings some theatre and elegant flavour to drinking any beverage you want to use them in; gin, vodka, prosecco or direct to a tonic or soda. When left in a long drink and the inevitable ice melt begins, the infusion continues to add flavour to the water that would otherwise leave your drink a diluted mess! I hope you like them and look forward to your feedback!
Lastly, where can our followers pick up a bottle of your gin and what is your serving suggestion?
Our gin is found widely on the internet, from our own website shop d1londonspirits.co.uk to all of the normal online favourites, including those that offer a ‘prime’ experience. My serving suggestion is keep it simple; a double measure of D1 London Gin combined with about 100ml of a skinny tonic (more if you prefer, but keep it skinny as the typical 3 teaspoons of sugar in most classic tonics do nothing for flavour) combined with one of our ice skull moulds filled with frozen watermelon and a garnish of fresh mint.
Thanks for your time Dominic, and thank you for such a great evening last week at the D1 Supper Club.
I really enjoyed myself too and was incredibly grateful for the support shown and time given to me. Thank you!
To be in with a chance of winning two boxes of DJ's Cold Infusion Pockets, head on over to our Instagram account here
You can follow D1 Spirits and DJ's Cold Infusion Pockets on their social media links below