Renais Gin Edition Anniversaire — Alex Watson Interview

Renais Co-Founder Alex Watson

In an age where flippancy reigns supreme, legacy has even more value.

By legacy I’m referring to the lasting value; the creation of something that exists beyond that of your personal story, all the while paying tribute to that which preceded it. Such is the case with Renais, a gin where the legacy of family—and a region—is given new life in a manner that reflects their journey.

As they celebrate their first year anniversary, I caught up with Renais Co-Founder Alex Watson to learn more about the brand, and their remarkable growth in that time. Armed with over 10 years’ experience in the drinks arena, last year Alex—along with sister actress Emma Watson—set out to create a brand that not only created something new, but also paid tribute to that which had gone before.

“My dad planted our vineyards in shrubbery 30 years ago,” Alex tells me, reminiscent. What’s clear from the outset is that family plays a huge part in the journey of Renais gin, along with a consideration for ongoing impact.

“We recycle all the grapes from his vineyards but not exclusively, because there wouldn’t be nearly enough, and to be honest, we also recycle grapes from neighbouring regions because they get mixed together. But for me, it’s really nice to think that every bottle of Renais includes some of the notes from my dad’s vineyards, and that something he started 30 years ago has now ended up being able to be repurposed and reused. It’s a really nice legacy. That’s where the name Renais comes from; meaning Rebirth, it represents repurposing and that ‘second-life’ of the grapes.”

Acknowledging that the French already have a lauded, rich tradition of creating alternative grape based products, such as eaux-de-vie for example, he decided to take an alternative route, one authentic to his roots and the country of his birth.

“I knew that if I took away the leftovers, fermented and distilled them enough we could create a vodka, and from that vodka I could create a gin—something that the English, can at least claim to have made a valuable contribution to. I also wanted something that could bring a similar experience to tasting a nice French or Burgundy wine, and gin is a much better vehicle for that than vodka or other spirits you could have gone for. Gin ticked all the right boxes.”

Along with its ability to convey the flavour message that the Watson’s wished to convey, Renais also presented an opportunity for them to present the gin category in a new, more luxurious way.

“There is another specific reason [we chose gin] which is my belief is that Gin still hasn’t had its moment in luxury. There’s luxury vodka of course, but every other category, whisky, tequila also have much better-established niches within luxury. Despite all of the innovation that we’ve seen in the UK in the last five, seven years, gin still hasn’t really established itself in that luxury niche.”

To achieve this goal not only required a polished outer, but a product befitting prestige; anything falling short would be picked apart by a very knowledgeable gin market. A seemingly difficult task of combining this goal with that of legacy was realised by creating a unique grape-centred flavour profile.

“I had a very specific idea in terms of what I wanted the flavour profile to look like; I wanted to recreate some of the tasting notes and experience of enjoying a nice burgundy wine, and that’s a very complex thing to create. The way that we ended up with the recipe was not straightforward, for example we used limestone from the region of Chablis to try and replicate that kind of minerality that you see in wines from that part of the world, and embellish that with rock salt. Then to try and replicate some of the acid structure that you’d get in a nice burgundy, we use citrus. It’s very difficult to put acid structure into a spirit, it doesn’t really work, so this was our next best way of getting there. From that point it took us a long time to accomplish those things while still creating something that was identifiable as a gin. First and foremost, I still want this to be something that gin lovers will enjoy.”

An inescapable part of having a famous sibling as a business partner means that while visibility is guaranteed to be high, so is the scrutiny, but Alex seems very relaxed and has taken it all in his stride. Their working relationship is fairly simple; they each focus on executing where their strengths lie.  

“A huge amount of the creative that you will have seen online will have been directed by Emma. If you look at like the video that’s on our website, all of the photography, even down to the styling—she picked all our clothes. So all of the creative that you’ve seen online Emma has had a massive hand in producing; she’s fundamentally just a great creative partner to work alongside. Because I’ve worked in in the drinks and hospitality industry for the last 10 years, my role is more the operating of the company, the business and more that side of things. It’s nice because we complement one another very well. It’s a family business, even to the extent that it’s connected to my dad’s winemaking. You’ve kind of got two generations of us in there as well, which is amazing.”

This harmony in teamwork has resulted in plenty of early success despite the brand only being one year old. In 2023, Renais was awarded Gold at the Spirits Business Gin Masters

“It’s been an extraordinary first year. I didn’t guess in my wildest dreams that everything would have happened as quickly as it has in our first year. I’m so grateful for the responses that we’ve had from critics, from bartenders and from the community more broadly. You can already find Renais in 13 countries and we now have a national distribution contract for the US with RNDC, along with a lot of other really exciting things happening in the pipeline in the near future. So I think looking back on our first year I’m incredibly grateful for what the team has done, and really excited for what we’re looking to do this year.”

To celebrate this one year milestone and the progress made to date Renais have released a special Anniversary Edition of their signature grape gin called Renais Édition Anniversaire. Personalised and featuring black & gold ornate labelling, this edition comes personalised with a numbered sleeve. Regardless of what comes next for Renais, their purposeful, considered approach to growth gives me reassurance that their quest for legacy truly is in good hands.

The Renais Édition Anniversaire special edition is available online at (RRP £64) while stocks last.





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