Sometimes the answer is staring you right in the face… or in the case of NB Gin’s Steve and Viv Muir, it was swirling around in their glasses.
If you love gin, then the chances are you will know NB Gin and if you’ve tried NB Gin then the chances are you will love it.
Since its launch in 2013, it has become one of the leaders in a gin revolution that has taken the drinks industry by storm. If it wasn’t for the fact that NB Gin was such an incredibly stunning drink, you could call Steve and Viv upstarts.
It’s funny to think now, but NB Gin (the name comes from North Berwick in Scotland where it’s lovingly distilled) could have been NB Beer.
“Setting up a business was something we wanted to do and initially Steve wanted to go into brewing and make a beer but we were sitting having a gin and tonic one night and it really just came to us there,” said Viv.
“When Steve was talking about brewing, I told him, ‘I’m happy to support a business but I can’t get excited about beer’. It would be like me asking Steve to support a business making handbags. It would be unlikely to work.”
So, that evening proved to be momentous, even if Steve and Viv could not possibly know just how quickly things would move for the business at that stage.
For them, it was all about the botanicals and the drive to get a classic, premium gin that would stand with, and perhaps above, the world’s finest gin brands.
An old pressure cooker and bits and pieces of old plumbing were a rather inauspicious start to the NB Gin story but the trials and tinkering meant that the Muirs were able to discover what botanicals worked together.
Viv said: “Steve had a very classic taste that he wanted to create. We then took a leap of faith and got a license and that allowed us to buy a glass still. Suddenly we had a sort-of ginery in our kitchen and from there we actually produced something that was drinkable.
“We always had people in our house so we did some blind tasting, not telling them what came out of the glass lab and they all said it was really good.
“When we realised we could produce something quite good in our kitchen, we thought, okay, now it’s time to invest in a proper still.”
After 18 months of trials and tasting Steve and Viv had done something that very few industry experts would have thought possible. With virtually no experience of distilling, they had produced a premium gin that was as good as many of the esteemed brands.
NB Gin now has an impressive haul of awards but perhaps the accolade that Viv is most proud of, is the seal of approval they gained from global gin expert and eighth-generation gin maker Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers.
“We brought Charles in and asked him to form the final tasting. He said it was a very fine gin indeed and, for us, that meant we were ready to go into a larger scale.”
The old cliché of not being able to keep up with demand is tired but for NB Gin, it really is the case.
Global interest and reputation continues to gather pace and the company will expand again in January with the acquisition of more space in North Berwick.
Viv laughs at the suggestion the company could be bought out by one of the big multinational distillers. That’s certainly not an option for her. It’s clear that Viv is immensely proud of what they have achieved in such a short space of time.
But more than that, the Muirs are most proud of the quality of the gin they have produced.
“The whole mission was to create what we thought was one of the world’s greatest gins. The product is demonstrating that because it’s selling itself.
“We just want to keep going and have our gin enjoyed. We are still small scale and we’re quite selective about our customers. We are in Skibo Castle for example and some other really nice places.”
Even Viv admits that they could not have foreseen the incredible rise of craft gin over the last few years but she believes that only the real quality producers will survive in what is fast becoming a crowded market.
With a worldwide reputation that shows no signs of slowing, it would be easy to forget about the market at home, but that certainly won’t be happening with NB Gin. In fact, the popularity of the drink in East Lothian – the region of Scotland where it is produced – is a subject of great pride for Steve and Viv.
Viv even gave a nod to we at Lockett Bros for a part in the brand’s success.
“The support in East Lothian has been absolutely phenomenal and Lockett Bros have been absolutely fantastic. The drink was almost born in Locketts, really, and we’re very appreciative of that.”
NB Gin is available from Lockett Bros. You can buy yours here or by visiting the store at 133 High Street, North Berwick, Scotland.