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June 17, 2016

What do you get when you cross a designer with a photographer with a masters in brewing and distilling?

The latest launch from the burgeoning Scottish gin scene, Electric Spirit Company, founded by Leith based James Porteous, who has taken on all the roles above.

Scotland’s latest gin distiller

Electric Sprit Co.

Taking an unconventional path to his job as Scotland’s latest gin distiller, James graduated from the Glasgow School of Art with degrees in product design before working in London as a consultant designer, as well as a photographer.

A long held interest in brewing and distilling lead him to study a masters in the subject at Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University.

Electric Spirit Co. followed, where James fills the role of director, designer, distributor, sales, and everything else that needs done.

He concocts his creations from his small space in a Leith Industrial estate, creating bespoke spirits in small batches.

His releases so far have included the limited editions Gin #00, Festival Gin which was made for the North Hop festival, Gorse spirit which was sold at Edinburgh’s Timberyard restaurant, and his signature gin, Achroous.

Utilising his product design background, James designs all Electric Spirit Co.’s bottles in a luminous orange colour, ensuring they stand out in even the most crowded drinks cabinet.

The botanicals of Electric Spirit Co’s signature gin Achroous include juniper, coriander seed, orris root, liquorice root, angelica root, fennel seed and, most notably, Sichuan peppercorns, resulting in sweetly spiced, citrus and floral notes.

Achroous is stocked in a number of bars and restaurants across the UK and can also be bought online (but grab it when you get the chance as it sells out quickly.)

Scottish gin

Achroous’s launch comes as the huge attention and popularity of Scottish gin shows no sign of slowing (check out our recent Gin Map of Scotland as an illustration).

“My earliest memory of gin is being in the airport and my parents picking up huge bottles from Duty Free,” James said. “It’s a spirit most people come to later in life and I didn’t start drinking it until I was a bit older.”

“At the moment it’s experiencing a huge boom and there’s lots of innovation within the industry. In Scotland we have the best raw ingredients, the best water, and a history of producing alcohol.”

“The control and flexibility you have over the flavours is enormous and very interesting – it’s almost like having your own chemistry set and at the end drinking what you made.”

“You could taste every gin in Scotland and not one of them would taste the same. People should choose the gin that best fits their flavour preference. The flavour profile I’ve chosen for Achroous is not a traditional one and I take a particularly late heads cut during distillation, which basically means you end up with a very smooth spirit with little harshness, making it very easy to drink.”

“Aside from a good quality tonic such as Fever Tree light, I don’t have a recommended garnish for Achroous. If you want lemon have it with lemon, if you want lime, have it with lime.”

“My personal opinion is that first and foremost the person having the drink should choose.”

Scottish spirits

James Porteous of Electric Spirit Co.
James Porteous of Electric Spirit Co.

Despite Electric Spirit Co. success in producing gin, James wants to expand his products beyond the Scottish spirit of the moment.

“I don’t want to just focus on gin,” James said. “I have a big interest in other spirits, for example aquavit, which is very popular in Scandinavia and is very similar to gin but with very different botanicals.”

“I’m also interested in doing an absinthe which, the same as tequila, is a drink people tend to have a bad experience of but is delicious when it’s done properly.”

“Our Achroous gin is our most important for now and we will continue to produce it but I don’t want to put out only gin forever as I would find it boring. I want variety in what I produce.”

Electric Spirit Company

Ambitious plans for a one person operation. James has a tentative eye on expanding his business but is aware of the positives and pitfalls of building Electric Spirit Co. to the same level as other Scotland gin giants.

“I would definitely like to grow the business, even if it’s just a slight bit bigger,” he said. “Getting bigger makes a lot of sense, even if it’s just for the practical reason of having someone to talk to!”

“But when I worked as a design consultant with huge companies in London, I saw how as companies grow, your role becomes more of a management one.”

“Electric Spirit Co. will possibly get slightly bigger but I want to keep focused on the practical side of it. I still want to be the person making the product.”