It's been almost a year since Leon Dalloway was crowned Innovator of the Year at our very own Personality of the Year awards. Taking his Gin Journey business – offering gin tours and tastings across the UK – to greater heights, the Gin Boss is looking to span his innovation across the globe.
'We've been evolving in all of our locations,' begins Dalloway. 'New distilleries and bars, better drinks and some new faces hosting the tours.'
Gin Journey offers a tour of five stops, five cocktails and five samples of gin throughout cities, allowing consumers to really get to grips with the juniper-led spirit, all with the help of 'gin guardians'.
Having just launched in Notting Hill, the brand is due to roll out in Leeds and Newcastle this March, with Dalloway also taking his brand further than Blighty.
'I went over to Sydney and did a one-off Gin Journey there with some amazing brands and venues,' he says. 'It was mega working with the Aussie gins and seeing how we work in another continent. Oh, and we got a new logo, I love it and we're trying to get it all over the place.'
His nationwide expansion comes as no shock – a regional focus has always been on the Gin Boss' mind. 'Delving into each area we work in has been great fun and very informative for us,' continues Dalloway. 'Being able to tell people about Juniper Street in Liverpool and the local distilleries of east London gives our tours more authenticity and local fun. Since we've launched, new distilleries have popped up; it's been exciting to help launch new local gins in cities we love.'
So where is Gin Journey heading in the next 12 months? 'We've grown into new cities, become a stronger brand, learnt a hell of a lot about management and the world of gin,' reveals Dalloway. 'We now work as a profit share in new cities which I'm very proud of, it gives the team an opportunity to launch their own city and become a partner in the business.'
A lot has been said recently about rum overtaking gin in the next few years, but that's something Dalloway is not worrying himself with. 'Gin ain't going nowhere,' he insists. 'Rum is incredible and deserves it's place among the spirits echelon. I don't really read up on trends, I just love delicious booze and teaching people about what's great. The biggest misconception of gin is that is makes you sad, or has to be paired with tonic.'
With a successful business, and title to match under his belt, Dalloway has taken to the other side of this year's Personality of the Year competition, now sitting on the judging panel. But it seems the grass is not always greener. 'We work in an industry where there's a lot of friendships and where I've shared great moments with a fair few people on the list. I wanted to be as impartial as possible. That was hard,' says Dalloway.
The people on the list are killing it in their fields. It's great to see but not surprising, this country provides some of the best drinking spots in the world and some brilliant people facilitate that.
'Feeling like you're dicing with peoples destiny is challenging and I've gone over my decisions in my head many times. I'll never forget when my description was being read out, I'm hyped that that feeling will happen again and again on the night of the awards.'
The line-up for this year's Personality of the Year awards is one of the strongest ever, and that's a sentiment that Dalloway shares. 'The people on the list are killing it in their fields. It's great to see but not surprising, this country provides some of the best drinking spots in the world and some brilliant people facilitate that. Long may it continue.'
We are soon to see the crowning of a new Innovator of the Year, in a list which includes the likes of Ericka Duffy, Stu Bale and Rich Woods. But what makes a good innovator? 'Someone who finds something new and does everything in their power to make it work and give it identity,' says Dalloway. 'To pursue that with skill and character and share your love with others. To become infectious with your passion and single-minded with your focus. I look up to people who are smashing it in their fields, people doing cool stuff and making tasty products and can partner that with living a fun, fruitful and healthy life.'
As for Dalloway's favourite gin cocktail? 'I'll have a Gibson Martini, please. Hit me.'