SB meets… Ruggero Raymo, Portofino Dry Gin CEOBy Nicola Carruthers
The co-founder of Italian-made Portofino Dry Gin discusses the brand’s new investor, Jack Savoretti, and the firm’s aim to become a lifestyle brand.
Portofino Gin was founded by Ruggero Raymo, Alessandro Briola and Christopher Egger. The gin was created as a tribute to Klaus Pudel – a ‘custodian’ of the namesake village and the grandfather of Raymo, the brand’s CEO. The Pudel family has been living and working in Portofino for generations.
Klaus Pudel is said to have saved the village from destruction during the Second World War.
The founders sought to capture the beauty of Portofino in a bottle. The brand is made with 21 aromatic botanicals, including juniper, lemon, lavender, rosemary, marjoram, sage, iris and rose, alongside local ingredients handpicked from the hills of Portofino.
According to the brand, the region’s unique microclimate allows Mediterranean vegetation to grow all year-round, with each of the gin’s botanical ripened by the sea breeze and the warm sun of the Italian riviera.
Each batch of Portofino Gin is created using a combination of traditional and innovative methods. The gin is made with an old Italian copper pot still used to distil local liqueurs and grappa, along with advanced technology that produces vacuum distillation to preserve the aromas of the botanicals.
The resulting liquid is said to offer notes of fresh lemon and juniper, along with Mediterranean flavours such as rosemary and lavender. The 43% ABV gin is recommended served with premium tonic water and garnished with a sprig of rosemary.
To learn more about the brand and the company’s plans for the future, The Spirits Business spoke to co-founder and CEO Ruggero Raymo.
What’s the story behind Portofino Dry Gin?
“The idea of Portofino Gin kicked off in 2017 when I was living in London. I started to visit distilleries and gained an interest in how gin is made. I got a job proposal in Italy in 2018 to work for a football club that I have always supported, AC Milan. This gave me the opportunity to get closer to my roots and family heritage in Portofino.
“I wanted to create a gin to dedicate to the people of Portofino, fully made in Italy. That’s when I started to get interested in the local Ligurian botanicals. Extensive studying and research was carried out. After looking at distilleries in Italy, I involved Alessandro Briola as chief financial officer and Chris Egger as chief marketing officer.
“Over eight months we tried out different recipes to achieve a taste that recalls the scents of Portofino. At the same time, our aim was to design a bottle that told our story and highlighted the beauty of Portofino. We wanted Portofino Dry Gin to reflect our vision and values based on excellence, elegance and style. It took a year to develop, until we launched a small batch of 3,000 bottles in April 2019.
“After a month and a half, we were sold out. As interest picked up in Milan and Rome, we were fortunate enough to secure Italy’s leading distributor, Velier. Over the past two years, we grew our market share and entered new countries, closing 2021 at 70,000 bottles sold.”
Which markets are you targeting?
“Our main markets are Italy, the UK, Australia, Switzerland and Greece. More unexpected markets that are key to us are Israel and Lebanon, and we see a great interest in Far East Asia, especially Hong Kong. We just kicked off in the US, entering New York this summer, and we hope to consolidate our position there in the next two years.
“To date, Portofino Dry Gin is available in 25 countries around the globe: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine and the US.”
Musician Jack Savoretti signed on as a partner and investor this summer. What led to the collaboration?
“His ancestors used to live in Portofino, so he has a strong connection to the fisherman’s village. Our grandfathers knew each other, and Jack spent all his summers in Portofino. Jack is half-Italian, half-British and has lived in the UK most of his life, where he built a fantastic career as a singer, songwriter and musician.
“We met in 2020 at his concert in Portofino, and we bonded and shared past stories of the village. He talked a lot about Portofino Gin and said, ‘You brought this place to the world through the gin’. He really wanted to invest in the company, and together we saw the opportunity to bring the brand to the next level.”
What will his involvement be with the brand?
“As an investor, he strongly believes in Portofino Dry Gin and he’s really passionate about every detail. He will act as an advocate of the brand. We both see Portofino as a lifestyle brand and Jack will help us create synergies with his world. We are collaborating with brands that share the same values across other industries such as music, fashion and photography, and Jack always brings his support.”
What challenges face the industry?
“Competitiveness. There are a lot of gins at the moment; excellent gins. The market is overflowing. We kicked off Portofino Gin a bit later than others and when we spoke with distributors, some of the feedback we had was ‘oh another gin’. But we focused on our strengths, entered competitions and won medals, which recognised the excellence of our product. Our gin is inspired by Italian traditions, with strong Portofinese heritage and a contemporary vision.”
What other opportunities are you looking at?
“We’re aiming to expand our range of products and target new channels, such as duty free. We also want our audience to be able to visit us in Portofino, experience our botanical garden and have a nice G&T in the Piazzetta.”
What are your plans for the year ahead?
“We will focus on expanding our team by recruiting unique talents, consolidating Portofino Dry Gin’s positioning in the countries we are currently present in and further penetrating new markets. Next year we expect to produce 300,000 bottles and sell 200,000 bottles and we want to guarantee the highest quality standards for our gin.
“We’re also looking to develop the lifestyle element of Portofino Dry Gin through collaborations that transcend from the spirits world across different industries.”