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SB meets… Foxglove Spirits founders

The duo behind Canada’s Foxglove Spirits, Malcolm Roberts and Shelly Perry, discuss marketing strategies and the Valley of Mother of God gin brand.

Shelly Perry and Malcolm Roberts, co-founders of Foxglove Spirits

What was the inspiration behind Valley of Mother of God Gin?

MR: The inspiration behind the brand was about celebrating the Canadian landscape. We wanted a creative gin that was going to put Canada on the world map. Canada wasn’t really known for gin. So that was the important thing for us.

How has the gin brand performed in Canada?

MR: We’ve grown to be the number­-one-selling domestic luxury gin in Ontario and Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). LCBO is the biggest spirits buyer in the world. It’s the toughest category. It imports gin from all over the world, and we have a massive selection of products to compete with. Therefore being the number­-one luxury domestic gin is pretty good considering we launched in 2020, right at the beginning of Covid.

What is the gin market like in Canada?

MR: It’s growing, but not as much as it could have because just as it was about to take off, Covid hit. However, in the past three years, the number of brands in the gin section in the LCBO has grown at least three times. So interest is beginning to pick back up again. Whereas obviously in the UK, it’s probably reached ‘peak gin’. Canada is definitely getting there, but it’s later to the party.

Which countries do you see as potential big sellers for the gin?

MR: The US is number one because it’s our nearest market. It’s the biggest market, it’s got the highest demographic, and it’s growing. After the US, the UK is saturated, but there’s Europe – Italy is a growing market. France is interesting as people there really appreciate sipping. It would be a good market for our maplewood smoked gin, a sipping gin. We are strategic about which places we want to be strong in before moving to the next market.

What botanicals do you use?

SP: We have 20 botanicals. We use black walnuts, rosemary, and McIntosh apples from our farm, and cranberries from Nova Scotia. A total of 10 Canadian botanicals and then the other 10 are from around the world. What makes this a unique gin, though, is that we also have two types of juniper berries. Most gins will only have one. We use our Ottawa Valley juniper, and we pair that with one from Tuscany, Italy.

What makes the maplewood smoked gin special?

MR: The reason for developing the smoked gin was that we wanted to make something that was going to resonate in Canada, where drinkers are mostly into whiskey and brown spirits. The maple smoked gin has the profile of a sipping gin, appreciated by whiskey drinkers. It’s lightly smoked; we didn’t want it to be too powerful. It represents Canada – the great outdoors, campfires and that wood­smoke in your clothes.

SP: It can also work in cocktails. It really elevates a Martini or a Negroni. Bartenders are loving the product because they don’t need to use all the extra apparatus to try and smoke a cocktail, as it’s already integrated in the liquid.

What will you be focusing on in the future?

SP: We are really interested in continued collaborations in the luxury area. We did an event at the beginning of October, in London, where we were a sponsor at The Rolls­-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club.

MR: It’s part of the marketing strategy. Inserting yourself in the luxury space, so people associate you with that. Our packaging is designed by Stranger & Stranger in New York, the best in the world in alcohol packaging. Everything we do involves looking for the best way to work with the best in the world. We never saw ourselves as a mom­-and-pop shop. We want to establish a solid global brand.

Foxglove’s Valley of Mother of God Maplewood Smoked Gin won a Master medal in the second instalment of The Gin Masters 2023 blind-tasting competition.

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