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County Down distiller's 'botanical brew' a big hit in luxury gin market


Gin goddess: renowned artist Robert McGinnis created the label

Gin goddess: renowned artist Robert McGinnis created the label

Gin goddess: renowned artist Robert McGinnis created the label

A new craft gin launched by a former winemaker and whiskey distiller from Northern Ireland has already made its way into one of Belfast's premier hotels.

Daffy's Gin, created by Chris Molyneaux from Whiterock, Co Down, is already part of signature cocktails throughout bars across the UK's biggest cities including London, and at Belfast's Merchant Hotel.

The spirit, also being savoured by gin connoisseurs at Muriel's bar in the city centre, has ingredients including Lebanese mint, and is part of a recipe which its creator maintains makes it stand out among its rivals.

Chris Molyneaux, who is 37, began his trade at just 17.

He said his aim in creating Daffy's Gin was to make a gin palatable enough to drink by itself, as a fine whisky or rum can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks.

The perfecting of the recipe follows a career in distillation that has brought Mr Molyneaux across the world, from the Far East to North America and Europe, honing his skills along the way.

In his process, the gin is seeped and distilled on an ancient copper pot whisky still before it is bottled with pure Scottish water, and distilled in Edinburgh.

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Branded to create a high-end, luxury feel, the Daffy's label features a figurehead illustration of 'Daffy' - the Goddess of Gin, inspired by his French-Lebanese wife Mignonne. With a head of flaming curls, the illustration was painted by Robert McGinnis, the artist famed for the posters of Breakfast at Tiffany's, James Bond and Barbarella.

A student of History of Art, Mr Molyneaux was a fan of McGinnis's work and decided to contact him with the idea for an illustration of his brand.

"He came across my wife Mignonne and she flew to New York and met him and she was his muse for 14 paintings," he said.

"Daffy was a nickname for gin in Dickensian times and Charles Dickens wrote about it in Little Dorrit and we had the idea of the goddess of gin so we married the two and got Daffy's."

The use of Lebanese mint, a variant of French salad mint grown in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, is a result of his wife's father owning a vineyard in the valley.

"It is this botanical that gives our gin its great length and creamy notes," he said.

Since its launch in Edinburgh in December, it has won blind-tasting tests and has been gathering fans and with it already placed in two prime Belfast spots, Mr Molyneaux has plans for expansion. He has been working with Hastings Hotels as well as a number of other parties in Northern Ireland and he is "super keen" to "bring the drink home".

Gin menus have become a must-have for high-end bars and hotels. Shortcross, another brand of gin, is being made at Rademon Estate Distillery in Downpatrick by Fiona and David Boyd-Armstrong.