Apparently, the phrase “Dutch courage” can be traced back to the Thirty Years War of the 17th Century, when it is believed that the Dutch army rationed portions of gin to their soldiers to help calm their nerves before battle.
If anyone knows about Dutch courage, it’s Victoria (Vic) Christie, the founder of Graveney Gin. From quitting her day job to starting a gin distillery in her kitchen all while raising a young family, Vic’s passion for her family, her gin and her customers has been unquestionable! After all, the ginsaniacs out there have been a part of her journey from the very start, crowdfunding the purchase of a 30L still to help Vic keep up with all the orders.
From kitchen table to micro distillery, Graveney Gin now boasts a range of gins, a nano bar in Tooting and an online shop!
We got together with Vic to find out a bit more about her path from gin lover to gin distiller.
How did you go from ordering G&T’s at the bar to creating your own brand of gin?
By pure accident! I remember loving the smell of my mum’s G&T’s and living in Malawi, with the abundance of lemons, it was just a natural fit. So when I got to the drinking stage, it was the first thing I naturally gravitated towards and felt comfortable with.
I’ve always had the passion to have my own business. When I was little I created little businesses and my Dad would come home from work and find me on the street in front of the house selling handmade spinning tops.
When I went to the Portobello Road Ginstitute, I came out of there realising that my dream job would be anything in the gin industry, like marketing or sales or the production side. It was kind of a lightbulb moment.
What has been your biggest pinch me moment?
When I launched at Tootopia (a small community festival celebrating and promoting local businesses) I decided that I was going to make a hundred bottles and I would only label about ten because that’s all I’m probably going to be selling.
I opened up my gazebo and put my gorilla mascot on the table and the doors opened. I was just overwhelmed and to this day I don't think I will ever replicate that feeling. We sold all the bottles.
Honestly that was the best day of my whole life... with my business. My kids come first!
What was the defining moment or realisation that made you quit your day job in 2016 to dedicate your time to Graveney Gin?
It was coming up to Christmas and people were contacting me to ask where they could buy the bottles of gin from for presents and it sparked that idea of ‘Shall I give this a go? Shall I see what happens and take the big leap?’ It was huge for me because I'm not naturally a risky person at all. So I quit my day job in March.
The opportunity of Tooting market came up and they said you need to make a decision by the end of the week if you’re going to take this unit or not so it happened incredibly quickly.
Now that you've been a mum for a while now, what do you do to try and strike that balance between work life and home life?
It was really hard. There are pros in terms of the flexibility but on the other hand I didn’t have maternity leave. I was dragging a six week old baby and having my organic certification happening at the same time. The business doesn’t stop, it continues and having a baby on a Saturday, you still have to do the payroll on the Sunday.
I was dealing with really severe mental health problems after my first baby in 2018 and I struggled letting anybody within the business help me. It was a big wake up call. There were too many responsibilities that I was trying to juggle; the marketing, production, the payroll, the bar... so after that, I realised I need to outsource some aspects of it.
Hibana is all about inspiration - beyond your business and category, where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in charity. So if people are raising money whether it’s for Tommys, or Gearing up for Gorillas or they’re raising money for the NHS, that ignites a passion in me.
When I make my donations it is the most amazing feeling in the world and I think that’s really what keeps me motivated and keeps me inspired.