Meet the Team introduces you to the writers and experts behind Gin Magazine and gin-mag.com, as they talk about their lives both in and outside the gin world. This week, we meet Aaron Knoll, founder of website theginisin.com. Based in the US, Aaron is an internationally renowned expert on gin and botanicals, a spirits writer and reviewer, and the author of Gin: The Art and Craft of the Artisan Revival. You can follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @theginisin.
Gin Magazine (GM): How did you end up in the gin world and what do you like most about working in it?
Aaron Knoll (AK): I was turned on to gin in college. My friends and I used to frequent a bar on Friday nights to sing karaoke. One night, Pat the usual bartender who we’d grown close to poured me a gin and tonic. But he didn’t merely pour it— he also started talking about the gin and what made it special. The gin was Martin Miller’s and it changed the course of my life.
I got into gin in the 00’s writing and “blogging” about gin. However, this was at the same time American distilling laws were beginning to loosen up and craft distilling was taking off. Distillers looking to distil gin, began to reach out – simply looking for the tastes of someone who had tried a lot of gin. However, this was the turning point for me where I had the opportunity to learn the distillation and production side of things.
This was also where I began to explore more deeply the ways that everyday people talked about gin and how it differed from the ways distillers wanted to talk about gin and gin production. It was around 2011-2 when I developed my flavour diagram for communicating gin flavour on theginisin.com and began working to help distillers better understand the gin consumer.
Gin really is all about the people for me. The community is welcoming, accessible, diverse and passionate. I love the enthusiasm of distillers and the creative canvas that gin provides for them to celebrate juniper alongside the incredible botanical wealth and the diverse food cultures that exists on this beautiful planet.
GM: What did you do in your pre-gin life?
AK: Research and human-centred design has always been a passion. I was an urban planner (with a focus on community food systems), as well as a researcher and designer for software companies ranging from educational non-profits to mining and explosives.
GM: What’s the best piece of career or life advice you’ve been given?
AK: “If you’re holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time.” – Albus Dumbledore (J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
This always has stuck with me – especially as far as my work with gin. I began writing because I thought, “If only everyone would try gin, they’d love it!” While I still believe gin has such a diverse range of expressions, that there may well be something for everyone, I’m now comfortable with the idea that I may not be able to persuade everyone. My father, who is supportive of my gin work, often jokes with me, “Aaron, why couldn’t you have gotten into whisky?”
GM: What moments or occasions have you reaching for a gin?
AK: Often I reach for a gin when I’m writing about it – there’s so much gin to review and write about that often gin is work! I know, I’m not complaining.
My mom is a big fan of gin. For example, over the winter holidays my mom always has an interesting gin or two – it’s become a holiday tradition of sorts that we’ll have a few cocktails while we’re preparing dinner. I also love a good gin and tonic on a summer afternoon.
GM: What would be your ideal holiday destination and activities?
AK: I love exploring new places. My ideal holiday destination is a place I’ve never been before. My wife and I can spend the day checking out restaurants, sipping a cocktail at every cocktail bar that has an interesting gin drink on their menu (true story of our last several vacations). When I’m not enjoying food and drink, I also love hiking (especially mountains).
GM: If you were a gin or a gin cocktail, what would you be?
AK: I’d probably be a Negroni. I always have held a soft spot for the complexity – the combination of sweetness, juniper and bitterness. Sure, I learned early on in my gin career that it might not be for everyone, but that’s alright – it always brings a smile to my face.