The Rakish Gin Aficionado: David Piper
Gin has long been the clear spirit of choice for tipplers the world over. And Hendrick’s Gin is one of the finest in the marketplace today. Crafted in Girvan, Scotland, Hendrick’s uses an array of organic herbs and botanicals in its pricey spirit. One could say, it’s stylish and debonair. The same could be said for the Global Ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin, David Piper. Piper, an Englishman by birth, travels the world to “inspire, enthuse and educate” consumers about the quality of Hendricks Gin. And he does it in style, turning heads with his eye-catching style. The Manual recently spoke with Piper about Hendricks, his sartorial choices and his death-defying foray into the Venezualan jungle.
What makes Hendrick’s the best gin in the market?
No other gin tastes like Hendrick’s, because no other gin is made like Hendrick’s—our production methods are unique and ensure a gin with fantastic complexity and depth. We distill our 11 botanicals in two tiny antique stills, using two different methods, and then add our surprising essences of rose petal and cucumber.
What are some of your favorite drinks that can be made with Hendrick’s Gin?
Apart from the Hendrick’s and Tonic, with a slice of cucumber, naturally, I can often be found sipping on a Hendrick’s Dry Martini, contemplating just how such a perfect drink can possibly exist, and others like the Hendrick’s Buck (50ml Hendrick’s Gin, 20ml Fresh Lemon Juice, 125ml Dry Ginger Ale) and the Last Word, a strong, flavorsome classic (30ml Hendrick’s Gin, 30ml Maraschino Liqueur, 30ml Green Chartreuse, 30ml Fresh Lime)
You went to Venezuela last year with your master distiller to hunt for new herbs and other ingredients. What was the trip like?
In May 2013, I accompanied our Master Distiller, Lesley Gracie, explorer Charles Brewer and botanist Francisco Delascio on a journey into the Venezuelan rainforest for the Hendrick’s Perilous Botanical Quest to search for the most unusual and delicious plant species with which to make a new gin. It was an immense privilege to live with the Kanaracuni Indians and see their world and explore their realm of nature and senses, experiencing flavors nobody from our civilization has ever tried. I took part in shamanic rituals, ate live termites (but refused the worms pulled straight from the river bank), nearly got shot at by another, not-so-friendly tribe—who menaced us with bows and arrows—learned how to shoot a blow-pipe, and saw insects as big as my foot, waterfalls bigger than small towns, and an infinite glimpse of naure at her most bountiful.
We were shown many plants that the Indians use for medicine and magic, with names like “Mother-In-Law’s Shits” and “Pig’s Piss.” But one botanical in particular captured Lesley’s senses: “Scorpion’s Tail.” It had an extremely intriguing complex deep-green note. In the heart of the jungle, with a 1o-liter copper still, Lesley prepared 8.4 liters of Scorpion Tail distillate, which we successfully transported in Lesley’s suitcase back to the distillery [in Scotland]. She’s been extremely hard at work since combining its unique flavor with a tiny experimental batch of gin.
What can we expect from Hendricks in the near future?
All manner of tongue-bending and mind-twisting delicious oddities are coming down the line. Lesley is, as ever, beavering away experimenting in her flavor laboratory, and we are always working on new ways to present your taste buds with our unusual little gin.
How would you describe your personal style?
Somewhere between Regency aristocrat and 1950’s comic-book evil space magician, but it most often comes out as an updated louche, 1930’s rake. This mostly involves vintage finds, and pieces made for me by various tailors. Not many of the old brands still survive. I’m currently wearing an Airey and Wheeler jacket from their “Tropiccadilly” line.