An interview with Aisling Roberts - Dulwich Gin

An interview with Aisling Roberts - Dulwich Gin

What's the story behind your business?
We are a group of four families with similar aged children.  One New Year we were spending together, we sampled many gin and tonics and decided we should have a go at making our own gin.  My husband had read a book written by Mr Green who runs the local art and toy shop and had discovered that Dulwich means ‘the meadow where the dill grows’.  So, the idea for Dulwich Gin - which absolutely had to contain gin - was born.  A few years later and using a local distiller and artwork from the local Dulwich Picture Gallery, the first bottles rolled off the production line. 

Tell me about your products?
We are very focused at the moment on our gin.  We have just one blend which is a London Dry Gin made of 7 botanicals - juniper, coriander, cassia bark, anjelica root,  liquorice powder, bitter orange peel and dill.  We are currently selling 2 sizes - the 70cl bottle and a 5cl bottle which we worked with (and had a lot of help from ) Indebox to get off the ground.  This summer we will be launching a 20cl bottle.  Whilst the gin inside the bottles we sell is all the same, no two labels on the 20cl and 70cl bottles are the same.  Each one is a unique combination of the characters and colours in the design.

What has lockdown/the last year meant for you and your business?
We took delivery of our first batch of bottles in December 2019.  Just as we were getting ready to go and speak to bars and restaurants in early 2020, there were indications of big changes coming for the on-trade business.  We have pivoted a little and have focused on selling our gin through off-trade outlets and are currently stocked in some 20 local outlets in Dulwich Village, Herne Hill, East Dulwich, West Dulwich, West Norwood, Sydenham and most recently Clapham.  We understand that the on-trade business will be facing some significant challenge as things open back up, with the possibility that some bars and restaurants may sadly never open their doors again and also changes in the way that the distribution channels for those bars and restaurants work.  We see ourselves focusing firstly on those independents who don’t have to rely on central decision making for choices on what products are stocked.

What do you hope to gain from Indebox?
We have really enjoyed working with Indebox so far.  It has given us a really good insight into some of the other businesses operating locally and also helps us get our product out to a broader set of potential customers.  We like being part of a community of local businesses.

Why is it important for you and your business to support other independent businesses?
We always wanted to grow our business locally first.  We give a portion of the profits from every bottle sold back to the Picture Gallery so that they can support young artists in the community.  The pandemic has changed the way we shop - I have watched how the small local businesses shifted their business models completely to cater for customers facing unprecedented situations and I really want to make sure that those businesses have my support going forward.  We want that for Dulwich Gin too - the idea that first and foremost we are local business with an eye on our carbon footprint and if we do have a customer in need of a bottle of gin, there will be someone who can pop round and drop it off.

What do you love about Dulwich / South London?
Whats not to love?  There is plenty of outside space and a wonderful set of parks, brilliant outdoor art, lots of local high streets with lots of independent businesses, great bars and restaurants and a diverse community.

What does the future look like?
We are taking the future one day at a time, but it looks bright - certainly brighter than the last 12 months!