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Interviews

Know Your Distillers: Miles Pote

Meet Miles Pote, From decorator to distiller, he spills the botanical secrets behind their West Highland Dry Gin. Dive into the exclusive interview for the inside scoop.

Meet Miles Pote, the distiller and joint owner of Igneous Distillery in the West Highlands. Formerly a decorator, Miles and his wife, Katie, turned their passion for gin into a unique venture. Miles learned the ropes through courses at Brew School and WST, and now his days involve crafting ceramic bottles and distilling their West Highland Dry Gin.

As a distiller, Miles values thinking on your feet, attention to detail, and staying true to your product. He believes the key to success in the saturated spirits market lies in recognizing products with provenance. In this exclusive interview, we explore Miles' journey, the challenges of the spirits industry, and his insights into future trends. Get to know your distiller better and discover the craft behind Igneous Distillery's distinctive West Highland Dry Gin.

Tell us a little about your background and journey into distilling.

My background was as a self-employed decorator, completely unrelated to distilling. However, specifically, Gin has been an interest of mine and my wife for several years. We always talked about making our own Gin and when a family loss created a chance to create a brand and product with a difference we decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up. I started by researching courses that would give me confidence and help develop my self-learned knowledge. I attended a course at Brew School with Jamie Baxter and did my Level 2 in Spirits with the WST. 

Your current role and what does your day look like?

Distiller and Joint Owner with my wife Katie. Depending on the requirement for the day, I'll either be assisting Katie in making the Bottles in our Ceramic Studio, or I will be at the Distillery on Ardnamurchan Distilling our West Highland Dry Gin, packing orders, bottling, and labeling. Amongst doing any paperwork and getting things ready for exhibitions.

Image: Igneous Distillery 

What inspired you to become a distiller?

It was mainly an interesting turned obsession that drove an urge to create a different lifestyle doing something we love.

What are some of the most important skills for a distiller?

I would say the ability to think on your feet, and also an attention to detail. But most of all, I'd say to be able to listen to advice but be able to ignore criticism and have a passion for what you create.

How do you think a distiller can help drive marketing and sales personally?

By having a passion for your spirit, after all the product you create is at the heart of what the marketing is built on. If you love what you create and this shows in its story, influence, and profile then good marketing is easier and sales follow.

Define a good distiller.

Passionate and Invested in the end product.

What is the hardest part of a distiller's job?

Personally, for me, I'd say working on my own a lot of the time. Being small scale it can get a little lonely.

What's your elevator pitch to a bartender when pitching your brand?

We are the only product distilled inside the crate of an extinct volcano, our water which is over half the bottle has a unique blend of minerals that creates a mouth feel like no other. Which opens up the flavor profiles of our 12 botanicals.

What are the current challenges the spirits industry is facing according to you?

Standing out, there are so many products out there now, and some fantastic ones at that. But specifically for us in the Gin category, it is flooded with white labels and products that could be the same Gin in different packaging. To survive I truly believe the category needs to recognize products with provenance. I like to think about it like a job interview. If there were 100 candidates for a job and 99 of the CVs were perfectly acceptable but identical and there was 1 that was great and completely different, which one would get the job? The spirits industry needs to embrace quirky, authentic, and innovative brands and companies to remain exciting and get the engagement it needs.

What skill or topic you are learning currently and why?

I'm looking into compounding more recently, as I have an idea for a product I'd like to explore with another close local tie.

What is your idea of a good life?

A good life is a balanced one, me and Katie got into the spirits industry to do things at our own pace and in a way we wanted to. So for us, it's having plenty of time with our two boys whilst still creating the product we are proud of and enjoy developing.

Which is your go-to drink and what is the perfect setting you enjoy it in?

For me, it has to be a Negroni, sat by a crackling fire with my Golden Retriever resting against me. Katie would say a classic G&T on a warm summer day.

Image: West Highland Dry Gin

Your favorite 2-3 distilling or spirits books?

Gin Made Me Do It and the classic 101 Gins to Try.

What do you look for in a supplier when sourcing bulk spirits / NGS if you do?

Reliability and consistency. As a small-scale startup, our only option was to use NGS and although we love the idea of creating our base spirit, it's not viable at this stage. Therefore we need a supplier that will create a spirit that is of the highest quality and consistently on the mark.

Take us through your process of blending.

We don't blend as currently we only make our core product which is our Igneous West Highland Dry Gin, which is a vapour-infused London Dry Style Gin.

How do you take care of production waste?

We have minimal waste, basically our spent botanicals which we compost.

If you had to give a quick elevator pitch on why an account should bring in your product for its consumers, what would it be?

Igneous is the only distillery/brand that is run and created by a husband and wife team where we make every element of our product. I distill the Gin and Katie handcrafts every ceramic bottle. There are other ceramic bottles and other beautiful products out there, but none with the back-to-basics craft nature of how we run our Distillery. Both product and vessel are made with care and attention that bond to make a rounded spirit like no other.

How do you create complexity in the fermentation stage?

We don't ferment due to our product.

What steps do you take to become more sustainable?

We would love to add solar and wind capacity to the Igneous Distillery but being so new we are taking baby steps as to what we can realistically achieve at this point.

How do you explore new markets for your spirits and focus on business development?

Being brand new, this is still something we are working on. We are actively sourcing out ways in which we can raise the profile of Igneous and develop the business further, but we have to remain realistic that we are a team of two with ambitions but also don't want to lose what makes us so special in the first place. This year is mainly about getting in front of customers, whether it's on and off trade or direct to consumers. We are hitting the shows and exhibitions in 2024 and intend to make a splash.

What trends do you anticipate in the beverage industry in the coming months? Where do you see the domestic craft distilling scene going? What's next for the industry?

I see continued growth in the super-premium products in the domestic craft distilling scene. I also see a slowdown in the white-label products that have diluted the shelves.

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