Ruaridh Jackson keen to continue mixing gin and rugby

31-year-old has signed a 12-month contract extension with Glasgow Warriors

Ruaridh Jackson
Ruaridh Jackson has signed a 12-month contract extension (with the option of a second year 'subject to medical'). Image: ©Craig Watson

GIN has a long history of taking centre stage in the lives of former rugby players – usually through being quaffed in copious volumes in club committee rooms, while colourful stories of improbably fantastic achievements on the field in bygone years are regaled to anyone within ear shot.

Ruaridh Jackson – along with his former Glasgow Warriors and Scotland team-mate Ryan Grant – is also hoping to immerse himself in ‘mother’s ruin’ when he hangs up his boots. However, as a product of the professional game, he is going to take a rather more sensible and sober approach to the task.

The duo’s business – The Garden Shed Drinks Company – has now grown some way beyond its humble beginnings, and Jackson is looking forward to taking a more involved role in helping grow the brand once his playing days are over.

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“When I first moved back up to Glasgow, I was staying at Ryan’s house and we were having a few beers,” recalls Jackson. “He was getting close to retirement – and I am getting there now as well – and he just said: ‘I think we could make gin’. So, we bought a little still online and started mucking about, and a good few months of moonshining in the back garden – having a few drinks – led to what we thought was a pretty good recipe.

“Luckily, our wives are pretty creative and talented and came up with all the branding, bottling and labelling, so we started trying to sell it and it seemed to go quite well.

“The original plan was that we tried to get licensing to do it in the shed, just make small batches to distribute as and when we could, but things went to another level and we spoke to Eden Mill to say: ‘Any chance we could use your stills?’

“They have been great with us and have really helped us in terms of doing bigger batches with more consistent quality. It means we don’t have to focus on that sort of stuff but just have to worry about getting it out and distributing it to wholesalers, bars and restaurants, retailers and so on.

“It’s pretty serious now,” he adds. “I can’t commit fully to it. Ryan and his wife are doing the majority of the load at the moment, but on days and afternoons off I try to pick up some of the slack and get involved.

“I’m more involved in the marketing and sales side of things. I try to use my network, because there’s a lot of contacts out there in the rugby world to help grow the business. It’s getting to a level now where more and more time is being committed into it, but Ryan knows that my first focus right now is the rugby. As long as that’s still paying my wages then that’s the way it’s going to be.”

Unfinished business

Jackson’s lack of urgency in making the leap away from professional sport into the drinks trade is not purely down to financial considerations. The 31-year-old, who has just put pen to paper on a 12-month contract extension with Warriors (with the option of a further 12-months ‘subject to medical’), clearly feels he has unfinished business to take care of on the rugby field, and that he can offer real value to his club as they look to establish themselves as a team genuinely capable of competing in the games that really matter against the top sides in Europe.

“It’s going to be a good, testing year ahead with the World Cup coming up,” he says. “A lot of boys will obviously be away during that period – but over the Six Nations and Autumn Test windows this year we did really well, and some of the young boys have really shown what they’re about – so, it’s going to be an exciting period for us in the next year or so. I’m probably going to be the father figure for a lot of these boys, so hopefully I can mentor them in the right way.

“I’ve won the 1872 Cup a few times with Glasgow Warriors, but I would love to win the league,” he continues. “It gives me huge motivation to continue the work. It is something that will drive me on … to hopefully get a league title and push forward in Europe as much as possible.

“The year I left [after his first stint at the club] we lost in the final and it was one of the worst moments of my career, getting so close but not across the finishing line. I was delighted that they won it the next year, but it does hurt a little that I did not get to enjoy those moments with some of my best mates. I have huge motivation to come back and win something.”

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About David Barnes 3995 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.