Meet the Maker: Glyn French
Meet Glyn French. Her house is situated out in the Cradle of Humankind, on what appeared to be a conservation ground which my little car just barely completed the traverse through. Why do you care you may ask?
Well, only because this incredible setting is where the award winning small batch craft gin Flowstone was conceptualised and developed. The initial idea was established in June/July of 2016 but began when Glyn grew friendly with a visiting paleontologist who had come to explore the nearby caves during their mid-year break. Soon thereafter, said paleontologist began staying on her property whilst working and a friendship formed. The following year, more professors, students and friends began visiting which was completely chaotic and called for a thank you gift. Glyn was presented with a case on Hendrick’s gin which she began to serve but realised that a fresh cucumber was required for the garnish. Fortunately (in this case), she was fresh out of regular cucumber but knew that there was wild cucumber growing in her garden. Glyn harvested this odd, prickly sea urchin looking thing, sliced it up and topped the gins with the pieces. It was at this point, after sipping the lovely drink, that the suggestion was made that, “Somebody should make a gin out of this!” Not long after, after seeing articles about people making gin, Glyn’s interest in distillation peaked. One thing led to another, a business plan was developed and the main paleontologist became an investor. And thus, the catalyst for the creation of Flowstone was based on one small locally occurring botanical.
The range The Flowstone gin comes in a range of three which is comprised of Marula, Bushwillow and of course the Wild cucumber and in order to craft them, Glyn began growing the cucumber and other botanicals commercially. Many of them are seasonal which requires that they harvest, dry and freeze large quantities to ensure that they never run out.
“You always have to plan ahead to make sure you have enough. Many are seasonal and when it’s done it’s done but if we are going to be true to our roots, then we just plan around that.” Glyn explained. “So my freezer doesn’t have any food in it anymore, it is just filled with botanicals!”
The Bushwillow has a nut inside it that is used in the gin. “We use a really tiny bit of that nut along with the traditional gin botanicals and that is enough to give ours a totally different flavour to any other gin.”
The botanicals Glyn’s friend, Jenny Hyde-Johnson, a botanist and botanical artist who illustrated the stunning labels, was also able to offer a wealth of botanical knowledge. She knew the original and traditional uses of the different ingredients and was also able to tell which locally occurring botanicals were and were not poisonous (which is always ideal!)
After chatting and learning about Flowstone, I finally got to sample them, once again at 10 in the morning (I live the dream life!)
The range of gins
It was recommended that I first inhale each gin with my mouth open which seemed odd at first but as I breathed them in, I understood exactly why it was suggested. Just by gently inhaling I was able to ‘taste’ the flavours in a deep breath hit me on the palette as if was was already drinking it. It’s astounding really and one scent alone I was able to detect various flavours. Each gin also has its own uniquely African description which I loved. The marula fruit itself has a bold flavour and Glyn wanted to capture the tangy fruitiness of the flavour but also to balance it quite carefully so that it did not dominate the gin but appeared rather as just a suggestion. It is a combination of florals and spice which led to the title of an “easy drinking gin”. With an hearty warm aftertaste that feels coats your mouth and leaves you feeling as though you have been nibbling on Christmas itself. “Marula Flowstone is like drinking an African sunset,” were Glyn’s proud words.
The cucumber is more green and herbaceous with the fruity flavours taking a backseat. The alcohol itself is pure and soft, leaving no burn on your lips, even when you sip it neat. This gin proudly takes the title of; “An early morning walk in the bush.”
Last is the Bushwillow – Glyn’s personal favourite of her three gin children. It has a nutty and warm profile. However, like a good mother, she does return to her other two gins so as not to neglect them and is always surprised at just how good they all are. The Bushwillow can be described as “sitting around a campfire,” an image which I can’t help but smile at.
“In all our gins, I’ve gone for subtle and sophisticated, not for powerful flavours and that’s by design. They are designed to be gins that you can keep on drinking throughout the day without becoming overwhelmed and tired of the taste,” Glyn stated. The perfect serve for each of the Flowstone gins contains various botanicals as well as seasonal garnishes ranging through charred cashews, tempered fennel, grannysmith apples, cinnamon, watermelon, mango and then some.
“Gin is a chameleon,” smiled Glyn. “You can put botanicals in add garnishes to bring out or emphasize different elements of the gin and change the taste without detracting from the gin itself.” This is the exact reason that I fell in love with gin in the first place. A woman after my own heart who creates incredible gin that can be even be savored neat.
When I think about it, there is not much more that a girl could ask for when it comes to juniper spirits. For more info on Flowstone gin visit their website https://www.flowstone.co.za/