Celebrating the biggest names in the industry
The word ‘legend’ gets thrown about nonchalantly, but the gin industry certainly has a few deserving individuals worthy of such a title.
The highest accolade that Gin Magazine bestows is to induct members into its Hall of Fame. These individuals will be drawn from distillers, company owners and writers, but all linked in that they have left a lasting mark on the gin industry. It is our permanent tribute to the people whose work we all cherish and enjoy.
The Gin Magazine Hall of Fame is sponsored by:
Inductee No. 9
As founding chairman of France’s Maison Villevert, Jean-Sébastien Robicquet has been in pursuit of spirits innovation and excellence for more than 20 years.
One of the greatest steps the company has made in this direction came with its G’Vine Gin de France, launched in 2006. At the time, the use of grape base spirits – perhaps a natural choice for a French distillery, although still a novelty in the gin world at the time – and botanical vine flowers set it apart from other gins, and it has maintained a reputation for its unconventional composition and unique taste.
Drawing on his family’s rich history in the Cognac industry, Jean-Sébastien has earned Maison Villevert a name as a challenger of norms and producer of world-class spirits. Simultaneously, through his natural charisma and prodigious knowledge, he has built a name for himself as an innovator, while also working fiercely to protect and celebrate the heritage of his home region, and French savoir-faire.
Inductee No. 8
The Gin Room, St. Louis
Since her first encounter with a Dirty Martini, Natasha has been passionate about, and a passionate advocate for, the world of gin. She has dedicated her professional life to elevating gin, teaching its fans more about the spirit and introducing more people to the category.
She is the owner of The Gin Room in St. Louis, Missouri, a bar with hundreds of world gins on its shelves which also hosts gin seminars and workshops to engage and educate drinkers.
Through her renowned venue, Natasha helped found the Gin Week festival in St. Louis in 2015. She is also the founder of The Gin World, a platform designed for the ‘exchange and expansion of knowledge’ on the world of gin; it has so far expanded to St. Louis, New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco and New Orleans, with gin festivals featuring educational programmes with distillers and brand ambassadors.
Natasha was inducted into the Gin Guild in 2017 and was made the director of gin curation and education at the US Museum of Distilled Spirits in 2020.
Inductee No. 7
David T. Smith
Spirits writer, judge and consultant
Renowned independent spirits writer, consultant and judge David T. Smith is a global ambassador for the gin category.
Few have done more to promote and publicise gin to a wider audience in the modern era: he judges gin and other spirits with the World Gin Awards, International Wine and Spirit Competition and American Distilling Institute; he helps to organise industry events such as the Craft Distilling Expo; he has authored numerous books on gin production, history and mixology; and he has hosted distilling workshops on both sides of the Atlantic.
He is held in high esteem not only by gin consumers and commentators but also by producers, having fostered relationships with distilleries around the world and consulted on the creation of gins in six continents.
He offers his consulting services to organisations including the Gin Guild, and is also the contributing editor of Gin Magazine.
Inductee No. 6
A chemist by trade, Lesley Gracie has been working with William Grant & Sons since 1988. In the late 1990s, she was asked by Charles Gordon to develop a gin that would defy the conventions that had dominated the category for decades.
The result was Hendrick’s Gin, released in 2000, the brand for which she is still master distiller and which helped to launch a worldwide craft gin resurgence.
While at the helm at the Hendrick’s Gin Palace in Girvan, Scotland (a spectacular complex that she helped to design) Lesley’s skills have powered the quirky brand’s rise to global prominence in the premium spirits market and she has helped to craft new expressions that continue to push boundaries in gin creation, even travelling deep into the Amazon jungle in search of inspiration.
With an unfaltering dedication to precision and a desire to innovate in her spirits, Lesley serves as a beacon of excellence in the distilling industry, both in the UK and abroad.
Inductee No. 5
Myriam Hendrickx has led production as master distiller at eighth-generation Rutte Distillery in the Netherlands since 2003. The spirits industry caught her eye while she was working as a food engineer; thirsty for knowledge, she spoke to master distillers everywhere to learn all she could.
Her prodigious spirits knowledge impressed the team at Rutte, which offered her a job as PR, marketing and technology manager before putting her in charge of production two years later – her first official role as a distiller. When the distillery was taken over by De Kuyper in 2011, she carved a place for the brand’s craftsmanship and history in its new international framework.
Myriam has used her long-standing passion for genever – Rutte’s core product – to raise its global profile, as well as keeping the brand at the forefront of gin innovation. Its Old Simon Genever and Rutte Celery Gin placed as the only genever and gin in the Best New Spirit or Cocktail Ingredient category at the annual Spirited Awards 2016, Tales of the Cocktail.
Inductee No. 4
Like Beefeater, where he has been master distiller for 15 years, Desmond Payne is a giant of the British gin industry and a shining example of how tradition and innovation can work in harmony. Having started his career in the wine cellars at Harrods, he was introduced to spirits after joining Seager Events in 1967 – an encounter which kickstarted a career in gin that has so far spanned five decades.
After spending 25 years in charge of production at Plymouth Gin, Desmond joined Beefeater in 1995 and was named master distiller in 2005. He has helped the veteran producer to stay nimble amid gin’s seismic shift into one of the world’s most popular and diverse spirits, steering it to numerous international awards and overseeing the creation of expressions such as Beefeater 24 and Burrough’s Reserve.
As Desmond marked his 50th anniversary as a distiller in 2017, his peers paid tribute to a gentle man brimming with passion for his craft, who tested the boundaries while maintaining the highest standards. He was made an MBE in 2018 for his service to the spirits industry.
Inductee No. 3
Jon Hillgren founded Sweden’s first gin-only distillery, Hernö, in 2012. In 2017 and 2018, it was named the World’s Best Gin in the World Gin Awards. With such accolades behind the brand, it is comforting to see Jon as a humble and thoughtful individual who deservedly tells of his brand’s success, but also remains respectful of his colleagues and contemporaries. Perhaps, this is a result of his starting point in gin – a passion for the spirit and a dream to create it himself.
Jon travelled to London and, working behind a bar, discovered a world of gin. After years of researching, Jon crafted his plan to create Hernö. His friends encouraged him to pursue his passion for gin and in 2011, Jon and his wife bought an 18th-century farm in Dala and the dream eventually became a reality.
Jon has ensured that Hernö remains a brand rooted in family and with the same passion that brought him into this career in the first place. The only difference between now and then is that his brand has become an icon behind gin bars everywhere.
Inductee No. 2
When Gin Magazine launched in 2017, one of our first stops was to drop by Hayman’s Distillery, which would soon move into its new home in Balham. Christopher was good enough to spend the time introducing us to his team and provided an in-depth breakdown of gin’s history and some thoughts on its present and future.
Christopher, the great-grandson of James Burrough, joined James Burrough Ltd straight from university in 1969, when Beefeater was the world’s most exported gin.
Hayman’s has only been on the market since 2004, but under Christopher’s stewardship it has become a globally recognised brand, with family at its very core – his two children, James and Miranda, play crucial roles in the direction of the company today. A quiet but authoritative man, Christopher exudes a calm and thoughtful presence in what is often a manic gin world.
In the 50 years since joining James Burrough Ltd, Christopher’s dedication to and impact on the world on gin is one emulated by few.
Inductee No. 1
Charles Maxwell comes from a long line of distillers, with his family distilling gin in London since the 1680s. Charles himself joined the Finsbury Distillery Company in 1976 following its merging with Matthew Clark. In this role Charles received a grounding in all aspects of the business, before becoming a director in the 1990s.
Not afraid to make difficult decisions, Charles left Matthew Clark in 1992.
Today he works as master distiller at the contract distiller Thames Distillers. In this capacity, Charles has played a key role in the development and production of hundreds of gins, many of which have spurred on and sustained the gin boom that has swept the globe. His dedication to the industry, particularly through the challenging 1990s, can be tasted and enjoyed through products on sale across the world.
By creating new gin recipes and understanding different taste profiles, Charles has established Thames Distillers as a business that has given those dreaming of creating their own gin brand a masterful helping hand.
Would there be so many quality gins on our shelves were it not for the assistance, dedication and knowledge of Thames Distillers and its distiller Charles Maxwell? Probably not. Without him, it is unlikely that we would be enjoying such a gin-boom today.