Inside Silent Pool: A Conversation with Ian McCulloch, Founding Director
Date: 6th September 2023
Location: Silent Pool Distillery
Interviewer: Tim Croxson (TC)
Guest: Ian McCulloch (IM)
TC: Greetings, Ian!
IM: Welcome to the Silent Pool Distillery.
TC: It’s a privilege to be here again, right by where it all started.
IM: Here is our first still, acquired in early 2014. Around that time, our discussions with you began.
TC: Before everything took off, right?
IM: Precisely. Our journey began in Southern Germany, where we speed-dated four suppliers and decided which one we wanted to work with. That was the real start of our project. And Tim, you might have been the second person I consulted. When people question my knowledge about distilleries given my media background, I always emphasise the importance of knowing where to find answers. Our local approach helped us connect. Googling ‘Surrey bottle suppliers’ led me straight to Croxsons. And our collaboration took off from there.
TC: Usually, brands approach us towards the end for packaging. But Silent Pool always emphasised the bottle as an integral part of its identity.
IM: It all started with identifying what to make, our target audience and building from there. You’ll remember the design complications back in 2014 – they were a valuable lesson. We now ensure production inputs are gathered earlier.
TC: A significant part of your brand revolves around locally sourced ingredients, especially the botanicals.
IM: While many are sourced from the UK, a significant portion comes from abroad. Moving from a hobby scale to a more industrial approach has its challenges. We prioritise local sourcing, especially for short-run products.
TC: Silent Pool’s iconic teal bottle with copper print is renowned. How did the variations evolve?
IM: The distillers’ creativity played a crucial role. Our goal was to foster a creative rather than factory-like atmosphere. This ethos allows quick ideation to production transitions.
TC: The nimbleness and creativity intertwined with the brand make it unique.
IM: We constantly innovate. For instance, our GTR (Global Travel Retail) exclusive English garden expression has been a hit at Gatwick.
TC: The distillery’s growth has been remarkable since my initial visit.
IM: Our infrastructure can support more expansion. The site’s authenticity attracts people. Its transparency and honesty provide an immersive experience.
TC: The silent pool [Ophelia] itself plays a pivotal role in the gin-making process, doesn’t it?
IM: Absolutely. This historic pool, originating from the last ice age, has been a constant source of inspiration. Its teal-tinted waters due to the phosphate layer and its connection to ancient aquifers lend an enigmatic touch to our brand.
TC: Your brand’s genuine connection to history and location is evident, which makes it stand out.
IM: We aim to protect and preserve this heritage. Sustainability is vital. We recycle, minimise waste and ensure our processes don’t harm the environment.
TC: Local relationships are integral to Silent Pool’s ethos.
IM: True. But quality trumps locality. We always begin locally but prioritise excellence. Our association with Croxsons is testament to that.
View our case study here.
Watch the full interview here.