The town of Gingin has a passionate new ally in James Young, founder of Old Young’s Distillery and creator of the just-begging-to-be-made Gingin Gin.
Winner of back-to-back Australian Champion Distiller, James’s appreciation for the town of Gingin began in childhood.
“I’m a Perth boy and my parents bought a beach shack in Jurien Bay when I was about three or four,” said James. “We regularly made that trip and Gingin was the first time marker for us – we were an hour in! Regans Ford was halfway; Cataby we had an hour to go…so the name Gingin has been in my head since I was really small.”
“It was in conversation with my brother close to ten years ago and one of us said, ‘Do you know what we should do? Make gin from Gingin!’ That penny-drop moment just nagged and gnawed at the back of my head.”
A career path summed up by James as, “A bad habit of thinking I can probably do that and going and doing it”, has actually provided him with the fortuitous combination of skills to bring an award-winning distillery to fruition.
In professional right turns that are both impressive and slightly discombobulating, James swapped a computer science degree for psychology six months from completion, ran a successful graphic design agency, lived in Lithuania coaching the national women’s hockey team and has worked in sports marketing, publishing and advertising. So, when the gin idea just wouldn’t go away there was little to suggest he shouldn’t give it a go. Old Young’s Distillery was founded in the Swan Valley in May 2016 and James began what he calls “Career #5”.
“I had decent pallete, a bit of marketing and storytelling background, a bit of design and enough business acumen to be able to pull it together,” he said.
“At the time craft distilling was where craft brewing was fifteen years ago. We launched Old Youngs and won awards and could only just keep up with demand — but it meant the Gingin Gin concept kept getting pushed back.”
When a global pandemic pushed pause on the world, James took that time to get his head above water and develop the long-awaited spirit, as well as Old Young’s Juniper Society – a monthly subscription service where members receive a brand-new gin every month.
Gingin Gin combines three traditional, three local and three exotic botanicals and took a record 24 attempts to get just right. The traditional botanicals are juniper, coriander and orris and the exotic are almond, licorice and green tea.
James says, “We toyed with a lot of ideas for the local, eventually deciding on orange, lemon and olive leaf. To get the flavour profile exactly right was a labour of love. It usually takes me around five attempts to get my spirits to a point I’m ready to share with the public, Gingin Gin was different. It had to be next level perfection to do its namesake justice, which is why I was only eventually satisfied with our 24th recipe.”
As impressive as the contents, the bottle design for Gingin Gin is stunning and could stand alone as a work of art. Resembling a corrugated iron rainwater tank, it was designed by talented New York agency Stranger and Stranger seven years before James had a single drop to pour into it!
“I went to the world’s best design agency, so naïve, with nothing but ‘this is a great name, I must take it to the best people in the world’,” explains James. “I walked into the meeting realising all I had were those three words – Gingin gin. And it’s not even three words, it’s one word, three times!” he laughs.
“The owner and creative director of the agency said, Gingin Gin?’ and I nervously said ‘Yes’ — they replied, ‘That’s genius!’”
The bottle features the coordinates of the town, the water wheel, the old Junction Hotel and has the potential to literally put Gingin on the lips of drinkers around the world.
James explains his vision: “Someone walks into a bar in Paris and says to the bartender show me something new. And the bartender says we just got this, it’s beautiful you have to try it — it’s Gingin Gin. And when the person says, well I could have vodka vodka vodka too — the bartender stops them and says no, this is gin from Gingin — this little town in WA with amazing produce and great water, and they can start to tell the brand story.”
James’s plans include not only bringing the name Gingin to the world, but bringing people to Gingin to experience the gin in its spiritual home. He is establishing a distillery and tasting room in Gingin at the recently closed Riseborough Estate winery. The architecturally designed building with a beautiful outlook over the vines perfectly complements the refreshing Gingin Gin. The town stands to benefit greatly from this investment, and not just in the usual manner of increased profile and visitors to the town.
“I’m passionate about getting involved in the community, about this being a long-term project and it being all about gin from Gingin,” explains James. “This is not just a glib name that we can market to the world and not give two hoots about Gingin — that is not the idea.
“$1 from every single bottle we sell will go back to the Gingin community.
“We have very ambitious plans for Gingin Gin – there’s no reason why it can’t be in every bar around the world.”
You can buy Gingin Gin direct from Old Young’s at 10581 West Swan Road, Henley Brook; Dan Murphy’s and local liquor outlets.