Creating a gin full of flavour was front of mind for Josh Blackmore and his family, when they set up Jonomade. He speaks to Kent Gin Co. about how his New Zealand upbringing influences their products and the importance of being as environmentally friendly as possible.
What’s the story behind Jonomade?
We lived in New Zealand when I was growing up; myself and my mum are British and my dad and my little brother are Kiwis. When I was 19, I decided to go to university to do a sports degree, but unfortunately a month before, I had to have knee surgery so I couldn’t go.
I’ve worked in hospitality since I was 16 and I love it, but I prefer talking about ingredients and drinks and what you can do with them. I decided making gin might be a way to do that. At that point my mum and dad said: ‘Let’s do this, and make a family business out of this’.
We moved to the UK in April 2018, and when we started up, we wanted to create a gin that was firstly unique and also full of flavour. Dad and I had a conversation about how we have all these gins, and by themselves they’re all very unique, but once you add, say, a tonic to it or lemonade or whatever you’d like to put in it, all you can taste is your mixer.
And we thought gin and tonics have gone from being the gin accompanied by the tonic, to a tonic accompanied by the gin. We decided to create a very flavoursome gin; obviously the flavour is slightly affected by whatever you choose to put in there, but the overall flavour is our gin.
How has your New Zealand background influenced your gin?
Our label is a sphere with two sides, and dad and my brother are kiwis and mum and I are British. We spent some time here, and in New Zealand, so what we’ve done is every Jonomade gin has manuka leaf in it as one of the botanicals. Manuka leaf is the New Zealand tea tree and was used by the indigenous population of New Zealand for medicinal purposes, so we thought that was a cool kiwi twist.
Which of your gins is the most popular?
We wanted to create enough gins so that anyone with any different palate can find a gin they love to drink. In terms of how much we sell, Dolly’s Mix, our cherry and raspberry one, was quite popular. There’s no added sugars or anything like that. I think coloured gins are a bit of a fad in the gin community at the moment, but the way we’ve done it is keeping true to how we like to do things, which is seeing what we can do with a gin rather than adding sugars and colours and almost taking the easy way. We like figuring out how flavours are affected by gin.
How much focus do you place on being environmentally friendly?
We’re huge about the environment. Our bottles are 100% recyclable; our labels are made out of paper. Quite a lot of bottles will have labels with a plastic protection on it whereas ours is just paper. And we’re working with Earth Day Network which plants trees and does a whole bunch of reforestation programmes. Every large bottle that we sell, a percentage of that goes to Earth Day Network, so essentially one bottle equals one tree.
We don’t want to be a flash-in-the-pan kind of company, we want to be here for a while and we think the best way to do that is creating a product that people like and supporting the communities and the environment around you.
Have you noticed any changes in how people consume gin over the years?
I’ve been a bartender for almost seven years. Most people would just have a gin and a regular tonic, and that developed into Fever Tree or Fentimans and having all these different flavour tonics. I think that brought in making sure you pair up the right gin with the right tonic. But I think cocktails are becoming a huge thing now. They are becoming a new way of utilising gin. And there’s a lot you can do with it as well.
How have you adapted to any changes in the pandemic?
People still want to have a drink; they still want craft gin, and we’ve done free deliveries to local areas throughout the pandemic. Also, we know that money is tight for a lot of people, so we make sure there’s discounts for Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day and we’ve also got a continuous 10% discount for lockdown.
Five final thoughts
Our Dolly’s Mix
Favourite tonic and garnish?
Elderflower tonic with a bit of bruised mint. I like it in a long glass – I know the bowls are fashionable – but a long glass, filled with ice.
A gimlet. It’s just alcohol and a little bit of citrus.
Favourite bar or pub in Kent?
Verdigris in Tonbridge. Or Fuggles – they’re in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells, and they’ve got an amazing selection of craft gins, whiskys and rums as well as beer.
Who would you want to share a gin with?
Former President Obama. He just seems like a very cool guy and you could speak about all sorts of things, from politics to sport.
Check out Jonomade online here:
Want to learn more about Kent gins? We run monthly tastings, available here.