Iben Diamant: “I’m very good at drinking gin and talking about it”

The founder of the leading blog, "Why Not Gin", proves you don't have to be an expert to start a business: you'll become one once you take the risk.

 

All photos: Lasse Kofod

Iben Diamant has done what we secretly dream about doing: she’s made tasting, talking about and sharing gin her job. Her blog, Why Not Gin, has been skyrocketing because of what she calls the Gin Fever, a kind of European gin epidemic where a G&T isn’t just a G&T. It’s being experimented with and upgraded.

On a very sober Monday morning in Copenhagen, we asked this businesswoman and hedonist about her entrepreneurship, her passion and most importantly, her recommendations and advice when it comes to gin.

GIRLS ARE AWESOME: Hey, Iben. What made you start a gin blog?

IBEN DIAMANT: When I was a student at Copenhagen Business School, I needed experience in digital marketing—so I figured that starting a blog would be a way to gain knowledge that would help me land the right job. I read a lot of blogs that portrayed this perfect girly world, but I couldn’t really connect with that image. One day, I was lying on a sunbed by the pool drinking a Gin & Tonic, and then it hit me: “It’s going to be gin! I love gin!” It made perfect sense because I always chose G&T at the bar—but I didn’t really know anything about gin. Even though my boyfriend laughed and couldn’t see how a blog about gin would even be possible, I knew I would figure it out. I came up with the name, Why Not Gin, and bought the domain the same afternoon.

A couple of months later, I applied for a student job where I told the employer that I had a blog about gin. He was like, “Gin?! No one’s drinking gin. Everyone’s drinking rum now.” And I replied that within five years, everyone would be drinking gin. He hired me and told me that we’ll see. That was about five years ago.

How’d it go from being a hobby to a full-time gig?

I facilitated a gin tasting for a publisher’s 40th work anniversary around a year ago. “We’re going to make a book on this,” she said, but I was like, “Sounds like that’s the gin talking.” I didn’t believe her, but the Monday after, we met and signed a contract. I had just finished my master’s and landed the right job in digital marketing, so I thought that I could just write the book in the evenings and weekends. At the same time, more gin tastings and events were coming up and I became more curious about how far I could take it. It was time to give it a shot! At that time, the gin market was still small in Denmark but hastily growing in the rest of Europe. So I quit my job, even though I’d only been there for five months.

What got you hooked on gin in the first place?

What made me fall in love with gin was the significant dry gin taste. I ordered it again and again. In general, I enjoy the classic gin. I have a lot of respect for the traditional take, like London dry gin, where you find the juniper quite heavy. But it’s difficult for me to identify just one favorite gin, as it depends on time, place or even the tonic; am I drinking it before dinner, after dinner, while listening to music, while dancing? Every occasion demands a different gin.

What do you ultimately want to do with gin?

My main mission is to upgrade the classic G&T from a long drink to a cocktail. That means moving from the tall glass with a random mix of gin, tonic, a tired slice of lemon, and maybe ice cubes towards serving a multi-sensory experience which appeals to both your eyes, nostrils and taste buds. People need to understand that gin isn’t just gin. Every gin is unique and has its own story to tell. Most gins taste dominantly of juniper, but with some attention you can also taste a flowery, citrusy or spicy note. These details can guide you towards serving a G&T as a cocktail. That’s what I really want to give people.

Right now, we’re experiencing what you call “Gin Fever”. Can you describe what that is?

Everyone knows gin in some way or another, and now, a lot master distillers and gin makers are rethinking the classic gin. Originally gin was made of 5-10 botanicals, with the spices or juniper giving the spirit its flavor. The new take on gin is that the botanicals are much more innovative and trying to push the boundaries on what gin can be. Now, with the more flowery, citrusy or spicy flavors, you can actually sit back and enjoy your gin.

Also, this thing about upgrading the drink to a cocktail; the Spanish people have played a huge part in that. Spain has become a real gin paradise, where they have many different gins and they spend time on innovating cocktails. You know, stirring the ice in the glass, throwing the ice out, adding new ice, pouring tonic on top of the gin with a spoon and then adding rosemary or another exotic garnish at the end. It takes forever. It is the essence of upgrading the G&T.

What is trending in the gindustry (HA!)?

People are really curious nowadays. Even people who don’t like gin want to be part of the gin fever. So gin makers are expanding the category in two ways. First, there’s what’s been called a feminine version, where the gin has been infused: the gin base is mixed with sugar and fruit. You’ll end up with a kind of liqueur and when mixed with tonic or lemon soda it’ll taste like gin, even though it’s hard to actually call it gin. The official name is flavored gin, and it’s a product for someone who likes pina colada or strawberry daiquiri.

The second direction is for people who have been sipping whisky and rum for decades and enjoy it slowly. Gin has never been aged or cask-matured before, but now, gin makers are trying to give it a little extra by putting it in a cask. The process will add a sweet, smoked or even vanilla flavor to the gin. It makes a gin that can be enjoyed neat as you’ve done before with whisky or rum. The gin category is spanning out to satisfy everyone at once.

Have you ever tried to make gin yourself?

I once tried to make my own gin at an event. It was cool, but difficult: it isn’t what I’m good at. I’m very good at drinking gin and talking about it, and I want to stay in that space. I meet people who are really excited in the same field as me; it might be gin makers, master distillers, brand owners or even gin drinkers like myself who just want to share the love of gin. It’s the biggest joy for me to share my gin experiences with people. I’m always trying to define my core segment – you know, the age, gender, interests, etc. – but the crazy thing is that I can’t! This Friday, I had a workshop for 100 people and everyone was there; the older people, mature women, young men in their 20s, the characteristic business man with the perfect hair, girls around 30 who were going out later.

THE QUICK ROUND:

Biggest success?

The book release is my biggest success: it became a bestseller for Christmas. But it also made me anxious because a blog can be deleted so easily while a book is there to stay on people’s bookshelves.

Greatest challenge?

Not having any colleagues has made me the most frustrated and demanded the most tears. I am the first person to do this kind of work in Denmark, so I don’t always know what to do. The guys in the industry are usually middle-aged men who aren’t used to blogs and don’t understand the idea of a free media. I need someone to share my thoughts with.

Biggest surprise?

That it has been possible. To begin with, I wanted to try this adventure called Why Not Gin until the end of 2016 and if it didn’t work out, I could say that at least I tried. And at that time, I had published a book and everything was skyrocketing. Orders and booking were completely full. It surprised me to experience that it was not only an idea and an adventure: it was a business.

Greatest concerns?

I had some financial concerns in the beginning, since I had just finished studying, I had the opportunity to earn real money and just gave that up for something that only I thought was worth it. The price is high, but it isn’t my biggest concern. That is the time to invest in it—even if it means missing parties, housewarming and birthdays and working through the weekend.

 Prejudices you’ve faced?

I have been tested. I show up with my hair all blond and I’m definitely younger than your typical middle-aged, conservative man leading an alcohol tasting. Showing up as a girl in the first place means you are going to be tested. A lot of questions come at you; it’s like an exam. It’s OK when you know your stuff, and I have no problem being tested. And I think I earned my spot.