Meet Nick McCance the man behind Manchester’s new premium gin, Nicholas James Gin
“If I can create something that Salford can be proud of, I’d be happy with that”
I wanted to do a kiwi flavour. I was fixated on it,” laughs Nick McCance, founder of contemporary gin brand Nicholas James. “Why? Because no else has done it.”
Just one year into trading, the 26-year-old entrepreneur is already floating quirky ideas for his future Nicholas James product launch, but he admits it has been a series of experimentation, trial and error.
“There’s a reason why nobody has done kiwi – it doesn’t taste very nice,” he admits, jovially. “It is not a strong tasting fruit so when you distil it, it doesn’t produce a strong flavour – no one would buy that. The trial and error process is interesting. There are a few learning curves but you’ve got to have fun with doing this.”
Kiwi concoctions aside, the Salford born property developer found the perfect recipe with his first product the Nicholas James classic (£35). It’s made with all-natural ingredients and has been celebrated for its crisp, zesty ‘Mediterranean’ flavour. The company later followed up with a raspberry flavour, again made with natural ingredients. “The raspberry flavour is literally just alcoholic raspberry juice – that’s why it’s so bright,” he insists.
Impressively, one of the gin’s first stockists was Selfridges Exchange Square who have sold Nicholas James Gin since the beginning of 2019.
“I went into Selfridges when I didn’t even have the product. I showed them a picture on my phone. I was very naive,” he shares. “I had a chat with the manager and told them that I wanted to keep it natural and have a classy looking product. They loved the idea. They said come back after Christmas. I went back in January and by March it was stocked.”
He also boasts Northern Quarter’s Terrace and Nutters Restaurant in Rochdale as Nicholas James stockists and recently piqued the interest of some Manchester’s major gin hotspots. The brand joins a well-established gin scene in Manchester, bolstered by independent distillers such as Manchester Gin, Thomas Dakin and Three Rivers. With such a thirst for locally-made gin in Manchester, he felt launching his own product wasn’t a huge risk.
“I could already see that the Manchester gin craze was growing more and more popular,” he explains.
“Manchester Gin did wonders for the industry as well as Three Rivers. I spoke to these guys and got a bit of knowledge from them, so I wasn’t the first by any stretch of the imagination. But the one thing I wanted to do was an all-natural product.”
Though the city feels in the midst of a ‘gin-volution’, McCance isn’t keen on all the gin trends in today’s popular bars and restaurants.
“Obviously this ‘pink gin” is a craze – much to my annoyance,” he scoffs lightheartedly. “I mean, what is that? When you go to a bar and ask for a “pink gin” what favour is that? Please specify.”
“I can’t complain because it’s making money. Even my other half says it.”
Instead of ordering an ubiquitous ‘pink gin’, he recommends a class of Prosecco paired with the Nicholas James raspberry gin. Or, a Martini made with the Nicholas James classic, an Indian tonic, blueberries and fresh basil.
For McCance, creating a gin that was made in his hometown was important and he credits Manchester’s supportive hospitality scene for helping his product take off.
“We’ve got this big thing about locality and community at the moment. The sense of community is one of the good things about being from Manchester and Salford. We’ve all got this teamwork mentality. It’s something which we should shout about more really.
“And, if I can create something that Salford can be proud of, I’d be happy with that.”