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Chris Gillan, managing director of Heroes Drinks Company

Meet the maker: Chris Gillan, managing director of Heroes Drinks Company

By LLM Reporters on 9th October 2020

A non-profit organisation, Heroes Drinks Company was founded by Chris Gillan, a UK military veteran with deep military roots. As such, a great deal of time and consideration has been taken in ensuring that the quality of the product closely matches the high standards expected by the British Armed Forces.

We sat down with Chris to discuss his inspiration, achievements and hopes for the brand and he tells us his favourite way to enjoy the drink too.

What is the inspiration behind Heroes Vodka and what made you decide to create it?

I founded Heroes Drinks Company after the support I received from the military charities. On leaving the military, an injury that I had sustained in 2008 prevented me from pursuing my chosen career and a recent house flood had ultimately left me homeless. I turned to the charities for support and, during the application process, I was exposed to the sheer demand on the charities. The support I received helped me get back on my feet and inspired me to want to give back but also promote awareness of the great work undertaken by our military charities.

Heroes Vodka
Heroes Vodka is a high-quality vodka brand with an authentic and heartfelt connection to the UK Armed Forces

Can you tell us a little about your military background?

My father served with the Royal Highland Fusiliers and as such I was born in a military hospital in Germany. After several years living in mainland Europe, we returned to the UK where my father was posted to Edinburgh, this is where we eventually settled when my father retired from the military. In 1998 I joined the local army reserves for a short time before joining the Royal Air Force Police in 2001. I served most of my career at various stations within the Lincolnshire area, including deployments in the UK, covering the 2020 Fire Strikes and overseas, with two tours of Iraq and a tour of Afghanistan, working alongside the Special Air Service.

Did you have any prior experience in the alcohol industry before you started Heroes Vodka?

None whatsoever.

What have been your biggest challenges and achievements so far?

There have been a number of highs and lows since founding Heroes Drinks Company, especially transitioning from a military career into a new industry in which I had no prior experience. By far my biggest challenge was the earliest stages of founding Heroes Drinks, taking and developing a concept to a point whereby I was able to gain support from financial investors. This took several years and required for us to create a product on a budget, in order to test the market.

Ultimately this led to two significant milestones for the company and two of my greatest achievements. The first was securing our first investment of £60k in 2015, which enabled us to turn our sample test product into a beautiful premium product. Before we had fully developed our new product, based on the quality of our liquid and some visual concepts, we secured the largest listing of its kind for the roll out of a new product, listing with ASDA Walmart in 353 stores nationwide. This was a turning point for Heroes Drinks!

Heroes Vodka
Heroes Vodka is distilled a minimum of seven times to ensure its purity before being diluted with demineralised Scottish water, resulting in a crystal clear and exceptionally smooth vodka, which has a subtle sweetness

What is your perfect serve Heroes Vodka?

Over recent years we have worked with a number of talented mixologists and, one of the perks of the job, is having to try new suggested serves for Heroes Vodka. My personal favourite is our Heroes Festive Indulgence.

Ingredients: 40 ml Heroes Vodka, 15 ml apricot brandy, 15ml chocolate orange liqueur, 20ml single cream and 20ml whole milk.

Garnish: Grated chocolate orange, orange peel zest.

Directions: Shake all ingredients together with ice in a cocktail shaker and sieve into a coupe glass. Grate a sprinkle of chocolate orange over the top and squeeze an orange peel over the glass to release the zesty oil.

A short video we make for this cocktail is on our FB page here.

Lord Trenchard and C Gillan at Bomber Command Memorial London
Lord Trenchard (left) and Chis Gillan at Bomber Command Memorial in London

Can you tell us about the distillation process?

What makes Heroes Vodka different and a superior quality from all other vodkas is our distillation process. We distil our liquid a minimum of seven times, or until we achieve a minimum of 96.4% pure alcohol, before diluting this with demineralised Scottish water. The result is a very pure and smooth spirit.

Tell us a little about the charities you are supporting

Since founding Heroes Drinks, we have supported a variety of charities, not just military. However, our social aim with Heroes Vodka is to support the military community which we achieve by promoting awareness of the work of our charities, creating employment opportunities for veterans and donating profits from the sale of Heroes Vodka to our partner charities the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC), ABF The Soldiers Charity and the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.

These charities have been chosen due to their integrity and close working relationship with all branches of the military. The support they provide varies dramatically, from small grants to help with purchasing a laptop for veterans struggling with unemployment to adapting a house for amputees. What many people fail to realise is that we have an aging veteran community, with all those veterans having served in world war two now requiring a variety. During Covid, all of our charities delivered regular welfare packages to those veterans living by themselves. For some, this was the only contact they had with the community.

What sets Heroes Vodka aside from other premium vodka brands?

Heroes Vodka is by far the best vodka for the price on the market and the world’s first not-for-profit, creating a unique way to support our charities and continue to promote awareness.

Heroes Vodka
The brand is recognised by vodka connoisseurs around the world, and loyally supported by the UK Forces family

What’s next for Heroes Drinks Company?

Like most companies, Heroes Drinks has been impacted by Covid. However, we have used this as an opportunity to change the way we operate and have included a new online store to enable access to everyone UK wide. In support of the new ecommerce platform and with a view to expanding our product range, we have been working on the development of a new product and have created a delicious spiced rum which we are excited to be launching in November. Although sales from our spiced rum will inevitably support employment of veterans, we will be taking a different approach to support those Heroes in our community who volunteer to save lives.

When you’re not working, what do you like to do with your spare time?

Having spent several years in the military and missing out on so much with my children, I try to spend as much of my spare time as possible with my family; including regular walks in Edinburgh’s beautiful Pentland hills, movie nights and winding down with a swim.

To find out more and to shop online, visit heroesvodka.co.uk