Procera, the unique Kenyan gin made with African juniper, has been one of the biggest drinks success stories of the last few years. Now with two new versions on the market, we catch up with founder Guy Brennan.
We usually know what’s going to work on the blog: big whisky news stories like the crazy Macallan Reach, timely product round-ups like Islay single malts for Fèis Ìle, and Dr. Nick Morgan being opinionated.
But sometimes the success of certain features takes us by surprise. One such was in April 2020 when we ran an interview with Guy Brennan, the founder of Procera Kenyan gin, it proved to be one of the most-read posts of the year. Not only that but Procera has become a perennial bestseller through Master of Malt. Incredible for a gin that sells for more than £70.
Out of Africa
But perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised as the story really had everything: a unique product gin made with African juniper, an ambitious and eloquent spokesman in Guy Brennan, and endorsement from industry notables like Alessandro Palazzi from Duke’s Bar in London. Most importantly, it’s a gin that once tried it’s never forgotten. As all the five-star reviews on Master of Malt attest. It really is worth the money.
Nevertheless, Brennan has been a bit surprised by Procera’s runaway success. “We knew we were doing some revolutionary things in using fresh juniper and African juniperus procera, but we never expected the response from around the world to be so unanimously supportive. Especially for a spirit from an unknown provenance and continent. We are so grateful to the trade and consumers for being willing to try something that sounds a bit unusual and for supporting us wholeheartedly,” he said.
Much of this success has been down to Brennan’s enthusiasm and tirelessness. Except for a Covid-enforced period at home in Kenya, he has travelled around the world spreading the word about Procera. Sadly he hasn’t been able to visit much of Asia because of continuing restrictions so has been concentrating on America in particular which has “really taken off.” “We have been focusing on NYC and things are booming there,” he continued. “We have recently added Massachusetts and the Boston Metropolitan market which is the most English of US cities and has a preference for gin.”
Backing from the trade
Another important factor was the backing of bartenders such as Alessandro Palazzi as Brennan explained: “We are so grateful to people like Alessandro who through no benefit to themselves have shouted about Procera from the rafters. This unbridled support from industry folk really is probably the thing that has touched us most about this whole difficult journey.”
Originally Procera’s focus was going to be the on-trade but when Covid lockdowns came into force in 2020, Brennan was quickly able to switch his focus to online retailers like Master of Malt. “The premiumisation and search for uniqueness during lockdown was very kind to products like Procera, so we were quite lucky in an unlucky world,” he explained. During those difficult times, people were looking for different products and interesting stories which explains some of the popularity of Procera.
Improving on perfection
The original Procera Blue Dot was dubbed by Palazzi as the ‘ultimate Martini gin’ but its subtle flavours can get drowned out by tonic water or in powerful cocktails like a Negroni. When we met with Brennan in 2020, he told us that he was developing a new more powerful version for just this purpose. He explained the difference: “It has five umami elements like oyster shells and seaweed and five African peppers that add a second to the finish on the palate and pinball around your mouth like cotton candy, it is wild. But Red Dot is for any cocktail where you want a spicy, umami-rich gin to come through bold ingredients.”
Trying them side-by-side, the difference is startling. Whereas the Blue Dot is creamy and smooth, the Red is fiery and peppery. Both, however, have Procera’s trademark complexity, sweetness, and extraordinary mouthfeel that makes them great gins to drink neat. Like a good whisky, they have layers of flavour at the beginning, middle and end. They’re both the creation of South African distiller Roger Jorgensen who Brennan describes as a “genius.”
Now there’s a third version, Procera Green Dot. “As far as we are aware it is the world’s first single tree gin using only botanicals from the African juniperus procera tree,” he said. Brennan uses both fresh and dried berries along with the foliage and toasted wood from the juniper tree. No other botanicals are used. He described the flavour: “first on the palate, you get the richness of the fresh berries, then you move into the piney leaves and finish with the spicy, drying toasted wood. It’s like good Italian cooking, three ingredients perfectly balanced.” Trying it alongside the other two, you can see the family resemblance but Green Dot is utterly distinctive with an unforgettable freshness and focus. There’s nothing else on the market like it.
All three explain why many people are calling Procera the best gin in the world.
The Procera range is available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.