This week in My Gin Life we’re meeting Christopher Hayman, master distiller of Hayman’s Gin, Gin Magazine Hall of Fame inductee, and the fourth generation of his family to work in the distilling industry. Hayman’s has been making gin in London since the 1860s and is now a leading figure in the capital’s modern gin scene, marrying traditional techniques with 21st-century innovations.
Gin Magazine (GM): Obviously, distilling is the family business – tell us about your early experiences in the industry.
Christopher Hayman (CH): I grew up with gin very much entrenched in our family, myself being fourth generation. I joined the family company after I finished university in 1969 and the gin industry has changed enormously since then. I have such fond memories of working in the gin industry in the early days. Needless to say, gin was so different then and those distinct aromas can still transport me back to the beginning of my career.
GM: You bought part of the family business back after its sale in the 1980s – how has Hayman’s developed and changed since then?
CH: The whole gin category has changed since the late 1980s and 1990s, when gin was in the doldrums and certainly not enjoying the renaissance we are enjoying today. It was not a trendy drink whereas now, of course, it is enjoyed by all age groups.
Today we are based in Balham, south west London, four miles from my great-grandfather’s original distillery. We still use with pride the same recipes and distilling techniques that he created 150 years ago. Consumer interest seems at an all-time high and we take so much pleasure offering tours and experiences and showing them behind the scenes.
GM: Tell us one thing you are proud of in your career and one thing that you may do differently if you had the chance again.
CH: Besides continuing the family craft of our traditional gin distilling, I am particularly proud of bringing back the lost style of Hayman’s Old Tom Gin in the early 2000s – the bartender’s favourite.
Whilst you can always wish that you had done some things differently with hindsight, I think that everything that has happened in the history of our company has led us to where we are now. It is all part of our journey.
GM: What is the best piece of career/life advice you have been given?
CH: Be alert to market dynamics and never be afraid to change.
GM: What do you find most exciting about the modern gin industry? What part of the industry should we be watching for interesting developments in the near future?
CH: It is a great, agile and highly competitive industry. The last 10 years or so have been very exciting and I thoroughly enjoy the challenge.
Having been in the gin industry for more than 50 years, I have very much experienced the highs and lows of gin, from being a forgotten spirit to an essential part of people’s lifestyle. Our traditional process of making our gin over two days is rare in this age of modern gin, however we are convinced it is this technique, as well as further innovations, which has led to continued positive acclamation for Hayman’s Gin. Whilst we will always stay true to how our gin has always been made, we are adamant about pioneering gin for future generations such as the release of our Peach & Rose Cup and Small Gin.
GM: Are there any other gin producers that you really admire?
CH: I have a high respect for all gin distillers, large and small. It is a friendly industry and I have made many friends and shared experiences over many G&Ts over the years.
GM: If you were a gin style or gin cocktail, what would it be and why?
CH: It would have to be the Hayman’s Gin Martini using Rare Cut Gin, which was created to celebrate my 50 years in the gin trade back in 2019. The team created it as a surprise for me and my first Martini was so good I will never forget it.
The early days of my gin working life were dominated by gin Martini drinkers, particularly when I travelled to the USA. It always reminds me of my gin heritage, the enjoyment of a great cocktail and how fortunate I am to have worked, and continue to work, in such a great trade.