The King of Soho, a new gin distilled in London, is making waves in Chelsea and beyond – and it’s all down to legendary Soho figure, Paul Raymond…
WORDS: Mark Kebble
The Look of Love, the 2013 film starring Steve Coogan, celebrated the life and times of Paul Raymond, the man who, to put it lightly, livened up the clubs and bars of Soho. Mixed reviews, however, suggest it wasn’t quite the fitting tribute to the man – but now his spirit is set to live on in the form of a, well, spirit.
Staring at the bar of The Botanist on Sloane Square, one particular drink stands out from the crowd, the glittering blue bottle that’s The King of Soho, a London dry gin conjured up by Howard Raymond, the entrepreneur’s son, and business partner Alex Robson.
‘I was chatting to Howard one day and he had been approached by somebody who wanted to sell him a gin brand,’ Robson takes up the story as we settle down in The Botanist. ‘It didn’t quite taste right, but we got chatting and we decided to make one of our own. It wasn’t long after Howard’s father had died, and he said he would really like to do it as a tribute to him. Howard had memories of his father at home having a gin and tonic, so it seemed fitting.’
So where do you start in creating a gin that evokes the right spirit? ‘You do your research, which involves drinking a lot of gin,’ Robson smiles wide. ‘But you aren’t knocking back glass after glass, you are analysing what’s in there, working out what you want more of and then drawing up a profile of what you want your gin to taste like. We were very lucky because our distiller is an 11th generation master distiller, Charles Maxwell, and he’s so knowledgeable. He really knows his gin and he nailed it the first time.’
The result is a refined gin that defies the ordinary with its combination of 12 botanicals to create a ‘super premium’ spirit that is both smooth and complex. Soft juniper with a high presence of citrus botanicals including grapefruit peel is balanced by angelica root and cassia. If that all means nothing to you, rest assured it tastes great – and as already pointed out, looks fabulous too.
It’s that spirit, the idea of fun and you can take that anywhere. We never had any doubts about having Soho in the name
‘This bottle is all about the past and present of Soho,’ Robson explains. The icon’s velvet tailoring reflects the bold and colourful fashion of the area; the fox’s tail signifies Soho’s status as a former royal hunting ground and the fox’s reputation as a mischievous character of the night; the trumpet echoes Soho’s rich jazz history; and the holding of the book, along with the character tipping his hat, points to Soho’s long association with the creative industries. It’s fair to say a lot of thought went into it.
Given the name, it’s little surprise that Soho has picked up on the gin – ‘Paul Raymond is so much a part of Soho and its history, it goes hand in hand I guess’ – but what about areas like Mayfair, Kensington and Chelsea?
‘It works here,’ Robson states emphatically, herself a former resident of King’s Road. ‘It’s that spirit, that creativity, the idea of fun and you can take that anywhere. We never had any doubts about having Soho in the name. It’s a dry gin that is distilled in London, which not every London dry gin is.
We really wanted this to be an authentic brand. At the same time you talk about Soho and it has become a symbol of creativity, hedonism, non-conformity, and there are a lot of districts in major cities across the world that are called Soho
‘We really wanted this to be an authentic brand. At the same time you talk about Soho and it has become a symbol of creativity, hedonism, non-conformity, and there are a lot of districts in major cities across the world that are called Soho, so it’s not just a London place. It has travelled and we hope our gin will travel too.’
Visitors to The Botanist have certainly embraced The King of Soho: ‘This is a great area,’ she looks out to the busy crowds heading down King’s Road. ‘London has been home to me for the last 15 years since I came back from my travels. The wonderful thing about it is you can find different areas to suit whatever mood you are in. This area is not quite as frenetic as the likes of Soho. There’s the Saatchi Gallery, fantastic bars and restaurants, and it’s pretty good for shopping too!’
The fact the business is called The King of Soho Drinks suggests it won’t all be about gin in the future, but for now it’s job done with Howard Raymond and Alex Robson’s original ambition. ‘It’s about fun, and Paul Raymond and Soho is all about fun. This gin is a fitting tribute to his legacy.’
50ml King of Soho Gin
25ml Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup
5ml Wildflower Honey
1 Dash Angostura Bitters
1/2 bar spoon vanilla extract
1/2 dried birdseye chilli
1 In a shaker, crush the chilli, add the honey and chocolate sauce and stir well
2 Add the rest of the ingredients and shake hard with lots of ice
3 Double strain into a chocolate-rimmed cocktail glass
4 Garnish with chilli strands