Meet the 21-year-old gin distiller from Pitlochry


Meet Helen, the genius behind Badvo, the 100% foraged from farm Perthshire gin.

 

We could start off by telling you where to buy Badvo gin, but that wouldn’t be fair. You see, it’s completely sold out for the first month of production, and as you’ll read, it’s so good, we’d only be teasing you to the point of distraction. Instead, we’ll start by telling you that Helen Stewart, the distiller and founder of Badvo, is only 21 years old. Way to make the rest of us look like we’ve achieved nothing with our lives, Helen.

On her 19th birthday, she scribbled down Badvo’s logo on the back of a restaurant napkin. When we speak with her now, around 3 years later, she has just unwrapped her pretty copper stills from their boxes. “I just sat for a while between the bubble wrap and the copper. I just couldn’t compute that the stills were actually here” laughs Helen.

Badvo gin will be produced from Helen’s family farm in Pitlochry, Scotland, where her family and ancestors have lived for the last 418 years. Helen herself admits that she is just one in a long line of innovators before her, whose creativity and passion have continually rejuvenated the historic farm.

“It all started from working at a local whisky distillery” explains Helen. “The distillation process fascinated me. My dad gave me a book that had been passed down our family about all the farms in the glen, as they all had their own farm distilleries. The people in the books and the people who wrote them are my relatives; the people doing the distilling are my relatives. It just really caught my imagination. I wanted to get back to that small batch, 100% foraged from farm gin.”

In a world dominated by machinery and mass production, it’s refreshing to find out that Helen and her family have actually foraged enough botanicals for the first year’s production — of around 21,000 bottles.

“If I had to describe Badvo, I’d describe it as hedgerow gin,” Helen continues. “That’s what people who have tried it have described it as, and I love that! It’s very much a spring gin, and I did spend months perfecting the final ingredients.”

As for the perfect pairing?

“Oh definitely Mediterranean Fever Tree tonic and orange peel. Although people from our trials seem to prefer drinking it neat!”

At 21 and a recent university graduate, you might think you have Helen’s card marked. However, you may be surprised to learn that at 18, Helen was completely teetotal. She isn’t anymore, evidently. We ask if gin has ruined her. She laughs. We’re all on the same boat here, Helen!

Joking aside, Helen is a self-confessed workaholic, who, with the support of her “wonderful family and friends in the industry”, is more or less running Badvo as a one-woman show.

“I’d love to hire my mum this year,” Helen admits. “That’s the dream.”

It’s at this point, we feel we should share with you that Helen’s mum actually outlasted her at a recent Women’s Day in Whisky event. She rolled home at 1am after going out clubbing, without Helen. (Hands up who wants an invite to Badvo’s first Christmas party?)

Helen describes Badvo life as “hardcore paper work at the moment”, but is looking forward to day-to-day life at the distillery.

“It’s still a working farm, so it’s going to be a pretty varied working day,” Helen explains. “Feeding lambs in the morning and distilling in the afternoon!”

Despite her initial success, Helen is in no mind to be reaping the rewards just yet, and is instead thinking ahead about how Badvo can grow. She taunts us with some juicy details of her next steps. All we can tell you is: Jaffa. Cake. Gin. We wait with bated breath.

With Badvo set to hit the shelves and new adventures on the horizon, we ask Helen where she sees herself in five to ten years’ time.

“I try not to picture myself in the whole five-to-ten years thing… It’s currently half of my lifespan, so it’s kind of difficult to grasp what 10 years looks like… The industry is growing and changing at such a rate, it’s really amazing. I want to just take the opportunities that come my way, as opposed to being fixated on one thing.”

We get the feeling Helen will have plenty of opportunities to choose from. She finished our interview by saying, “I did try sherry in a cocktail the other day, and it made me think that I should bring back sherry!”

Well, if anyone can, it’s probably Helen.

Keep your eyes peeled for the Badvo online shop launch and updates on availability via their social channels, linked below.

Twitter.com/BadvoDistillery

Facebook.com/badvodistillery