In conversation with Alvin Ramchurn, the Hendrick’s Gin brand ambassador to Canada
To the naked eye, the Hendrick’s Gin original black bottle is a unique, Victorian era, apothecary-inspired dream, and its contents are just as peculiar and remarkable. The first taste excites the palate with a bold bouquet of cucumber, rose and esoteric rare botanicals. This gin, distilled in the tiny seaside town of Girvan in Scotland, enhanced by the sea air and soft lowland water, is immediately embraced by all who experience it. So it is a natural progression that Hendrick’s should appoint an Ambassador to present its wondrous qualities to us in wondrous ways.
Alvin Ramchurn didn’t know it at the time, but his entire life experience was preparing him for the diplomatic post of Hendrick’s Gin Brand Ambassador to Canada. “I left the UK in my late teens,” he says, “backpacked for a year in Australia and stayed for 10 years. I traveled around all of Asia, cooking in different kitchens, (he is Red Seal certified) working in restaurants and connecting with like minded people from all walks of life.” All the while, he was putting an edge on his discerning palate and his engaging personality.
Traditional ambassadors are schooled in social protocol: an invitation for lunch would mean a reserved table in a fine restaurant. Ambassador Ramchurn, unfettered by humdrum protocol, reserved an entire restaurant, Piano Piano, as our exquisite private dining room for the afternoon. He presented me with a bouquet of gorgeous red roses, reflecting one of the top notes of Hendrick’s and I would not have been surprised if he had also presented a basket of cucumbers, as well. An unusual gin commands unusual measures.
What is the role of a Hendrick’s Gin Brand Ambassador, I ask? He replies, “I am one of 15 Hendrick’s Ambassadors, worldwide,” he explains, “and it’s a very creative role. My job is to share the magic and tell the story of where we came from, the grassroots version of who we are, our philosophies and our inspiration. We tell the story of what the liquid really is and what’s behind the bottle.”
With whom does Ramchurn share this amazing story: the divine, lovingly hand-crafted marriage of two different small-batch spirits from two different stills, where botanicals are bathed in vapour to begin the odd and very secret process of distilling Hendrick’s. “I could be sitting in a gin bar surrounded by taxidermy and oddities one minute, and the next, sharing with a bartender or restaurant manager how star-struck I was when I met our Master Distiller, Leslie Gracie. It was a humbling experience, talking to the person who pushed the boundaries, and whose passion and skill created Hendrick’s Gin. I learned a lot at William Grant & Sons, in Girvan, Scotland,” he says, “about how we weave flavours so unusual and complex And how it’s really about a delicate balance of botanicals, alongside the cucumber and rose infusions.”
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Like most Ambassadors, Ramchurn travels the country, hosting events for the trade, attending industry events, but unlike most ambassadors, he also works with mentalists, magicians, Victorian buffs, taxidermists and cucumber botanists, all while recommending and weaving in the magic of Hendrick’s, wherever he may be. He shares with me the amazing story of the CORGAN, an instrument from the fertile imagination of Beth Anne Perry, Senior Brand Manager of Hendrick’s and how together, they made it happen. The actual organ keys are made of 49 real, whole cucumbers, which harness the energy of touch to translate electric currents from the organist’s fingertips through each individual cucumber. The result is a glorious composition of notes arranged into some of the world’s most unusual melodies. The epitome of cucumberness. It leaves the listener wonder-struck, and longing for a Hendrick’s.
How does the Hendrick’s Ambassador to Canada feel at the end of every day? “I am very blessed and lucky to be here. Everything that has to do with Hendrick’s has an odd and unusual story behind it, and we’ve definitely got the liquid in the bottle to become an elixir that is on every cocktail bar.” Ramchurn loves his storytelling mission, and adds, “I feel like this is the pot of gold at the end of my rainbow.”
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.