It is not often that you see such a rapidly accelerating success for a gin brand, especially in such a saturated market. Yet what has been created by Alex Watson and his sister, actress, activist, and artist Emma Watson, is something that breaks the mold. Renais, the name of their gin, embodies important values such as sustainability, quality and elegance in both taste and packaging.
The launch of the distillate was announced in the UK this summer, promising to bring an elegant touch from the Chablis wine region during the spring and summer seasons. Renais is luxurious and distinctive, inspired by the wine culture of Chablis and Burgundy, two iconic wine regions in northern France. The base is derived from wild grapes of the winemaking process, Grand Cru pressed, local terroir and a selection of natural botanicals: this is what makes the distillate unique. Renais is the result of two generations of the Watson family and their passion for winemaking in Chablis. The Watson siblings were inspired by childhood trips to their family vineyard, Domaine Watson, in Chablis, which has been in operation for over 30 years.
We spoke with Alex, delving into what lies behind this new gin and what it meant for him to work with his sister in such a challenging context, not forgetting the importance of the value of their roots and French origins.
«Renais gin is one of the few created through the use of recycled grapes from the wine industry»
In a saturated gin market, how does Renais distinguish itself from competitors?
We are one of very few gins which are created through the use of recycled grapes from the winemaking industry, and there are even fewer which pay tribute to French winemaking, drawing inspiration from the concept of terroir, the ingredients and flavour profiles. We are really excited to be a new player within the category!
Elegance and bold flavour. Renais embodies two different souls, yours and your sister Emma’s. How much of hers and yours is in this project?
I think Renais encompasses both of us within the spirit, but also my family’s ties to Chablis and the locals within the town where we spent our childhood in the vineyard. I would like to think that Renais embodies all the people and places which have inspired us to create the spirit.
Alex Watson: «Emma is a fantastic partner and a great source of inspiration»
What did it mean for you to work with your sister in a project where the creative component plays a significant role in telling the story of a technical product like gin?
Working with Emma, with her creative background, and my experience in the beverage industry from a more technical perspective has been great, as we both have different past experiences and know-how. Ems is really involved in the creative aspect of Renais and most recently in the packaging of the Artwork edition, launched during Christmas, which she designed herself. She is a fantastic partner to work with, has always been a great source of inspiration for me, and we support each other tremendously. Taking on this new challenge together was a really nice opportunity.
What does this project mean to you?
It’s definitely a dream come true for me, and I’m trying not to take any day for granted! It has been in the pipelines for a long time, and it has been really great to finally launch Renais and put a piece of myself out there, and get such a warm response from the reviews and critics which has been amazing to see.
This could be defined as the first entrepreneurial collaboration between the two of you. What can we expect for the future?
We are focusing on growing Renais currently, and are excited to see what the future holds for us.
Gin Renais: a sustainably crafted spirit
Tradition and innovation but also a strong focus on sustainability. How much research, in line with a circular economy, is behind this product?
We spent a long time carrying out research in order to ensure Renais was as sustainable as possible, as it has always been important to us as a brand. We worked alongside experts from their own field, such as the distiller partners we work with, who have experience working around the industry for a long time so were able to help us develop our mission as sustainably as possible.
For example, we use by-products of the wine industry, such as grape skins, to create our alcohol; our distiller is solar-powered. We optimize transportation and logistics to the point of considering the final life cycle of the bottle and its packaging, such as the mushroom packaging we use. Renais is distilled in batches, which becomes difficult when we have to meet increasing demands, but being aware and efficient is key to minimizing waste. We are also audited and participate in accredited environmental initiatives, such as supporting wind farms in India through our partner ClimatePartner. I hope it is visible how with Renais we are highlighting that it is possible to produce really exceptional gin from secondary products; and this is demonstrated by the fantastic feedback we have received so far. Of course, there is always more work to be done!
Three words to describe Renais
Distinctive, luxurious and provenance.
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