Alex Christou is the founder of Eight Lands, producing premium vodka and gin from his Speyside family estate, bottled at Glenrinnes Distillery in Scotland. Alex has instilled an ethos that Eight Lands products are always produced from organic, high-quality ingredients and are above all enjoyed by everyone.
We spoke to Alex all about Eight Lands Organic Spirits.
How did it all start?
We knew that we had a number of freshwater springs on my family’s land here in Speyside and, inspired by the numerous world-famous whisky distilleries around us, decided to look at the possibility of building a distillery. The difference would be that we would only focus on creating the finest vodka and gin, drawing on the local expertise to add something new to the area. We began with water flow rate and botanical surveys to help understand what we could do without negatively impacting the local environment.
Tell us about the Eight Lands range and what makes your spirits special?
Our vodka and gin are made from only organic ingredients and the Scottish spring water that flows past our distillery, both of which are unusual in this category. Our distillery itself is truly fit-for-purpose, in that we developed our recipes first – including tasting sessions with London bartenders – and then designed Glenrinnes Distillery to consistently make the perfect vodka and London Dry gin.
What makes Scotland better than the rest of the UK when it comes to producing quality spirits?
It’s not for me to say whether Scottish spirits are better than those produced elsewhere in the UK – all our nations have good and not-so-good distilleries. However, Scotland has such a rich distilling heritage, with so much expertise available to call on. Our stills, for example, are manufactured locally, and our Distillery Manager is a former water engineer that worked with many whisky distilleries and helped undertake our initial spring surveys. The water really is the key. After all, it makes up more than half of every bottle of our vodka or gin. Water in Speyside is known for being soft and ever so slightly alkaline, making it great for distilling.
What food works well with your gin and vodka?
We are big fans of cocktail pairing with food. We served a Martinez with Venison and Haggis Wellington at our Burns Supper. We have been known to also use our gin in making a scallop ceviche dish for visitors to our distillery, alongside a mini Martini. We also do a fun frozen vodka served alongside scones with clotted cream and jam.
Can sustainability in spirits ever become the norm?
Definitely. It is something that most producers are aiming for. It’s tough as some things can’t be avoided (energy consumption during distilling; movement of goods), but we are always looking at ways to improve. Our packaging is almost entirely recyclable now. We are installing an electric car charging point at the distillery this Spring. We also have photovoltaic panels on our distillery roof to help produce some electricity through solar power.
When it comes to creating your liquids, what do you do at home to train your nose, palate and senses to be the best they can be?
I think some people are naturally better than others in terms of their nose and palate sensitivity, and we certainly take a team-wide approach to signing off each batch of our vodka and gin.
We are very partial to a Vesper Martini. What are your top 3 cocktails?
I’m also with you on the Vesper Martini – a firm favourite. We do it with equal measures of Eight Lands vodka and gin (rather than the traditional focus on gin) to allow our wonderful vodka to shine. Beyond the Vesper, I love a Martinez using Eight Lands Organic Gin, and they do a really good Vodka Mule using Eight Lands at Rules in Covent Garden. It’s punchier than you might imagine but really well-balanced – ideal for a pre-or post-lunch drink.
If you could award a Michelin star for mixology right now, who would it be to and why?
Great question! For me, it would have to be Brian Silva from Rules. He’s hugely well-respected in the industry for good reason and makes some of the best-tasting cocktails I have ever experienced.
What is next for Eight Lands?
2023 is going to be our first full year since launching without pandemic restrictions to consider, and we are going to be working to develop relationships in our key export markets (with trips to the US and Japan), as well as developing stronger relationships with bartenders here in the UK. Part of this is arranging trips for key partners to visit our distillery and estate in Speyside, which is such a key part of our story. Despite the last couple of years’ challenges, we have achieved a lot and are looking forward to the coming months.
To discover more, visit: eight-lands.com
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All imagery courtesy of Eight Lands.