It all began with a visit to Shed One from Irini Tzortzoglou and her husband John, along with other friends, to make their own gin. A giggly, informative, fun afternoon including gin and cakes. While their creations were being distilled, Zoe took Irini and John into the distillery to show them Shed One's latest gin. Made with foraged botanicals from around Ulverston, Ulverston Gin became a labour of love for Zoe & Andy as well as raising money for charity.
Once Irini saw the leaves and petals of the different local plants being used, her imagination was fired up and thoughts of home came to mind. "Would you be able to use vine leaves?" "Can you use figs?" "What about olives?" The simple answer was "Yes". And so it began.
The name Yiayia Gin came later, after much deliberation, and it's perfect. It was first suggested by Irini's granchildren. Why? Because Yiayia is the Greek word for "Grandmother".
Yiayia, meaning grandmother, is a term of respect and endearment. "My Yiayia Irini was hospitable and a feeder. Yiayia Stavroula was tender, warm & generous. Grandmothers are valued and revered figures, passing on life lessons, treats & wonderful memories. Yiayia is truly loved by all.” Irini Tzortzoglou
The women-led theme continues as all those who have worked on the creation and production of this very special Yiayia Gin are women. Irini with her inspiration. Zoe as creator and distiller. Lindsay and Thea, part of the Shed One team, were central to tastings, design ideas and copy, as well as setting up photoshoots, with Lindsay as photographer in the UK. We all agreed the final, Mediterranean-inspired flavour.
Inspired by women, created by women, dedicated to women.
Yiayia Gin Botanicals
Irini spends her time in Cartmel, Cumbria, and Western Crete where she regularly visits and runs culinary retreats. After our initial chat, Irini's following visit included her collecting and drying various botanicals to bring back to the UK.
Then Zoe started experimenting. Adding each botanical to alcohol to see how they reacted, and combining to produce the flavours of the Mediterranean. Irini and Zoe were on the same page, wanting to produce something that brought out the culinary flavours of Crete, thinking more about savoury than sweet.
Zoe also thought about earthy notes. Mushrooms also grow in abundance in Crete, so seemed the prefect addition, bringing some umami to the mix. As Crete is an island, a touch of seaweed had to be included!
Once we were all happy with the results, we sourced the botanicals for Yiayia Gin here. Some were also foraged.
Juniper-the most sustainable and high quality juniper is found in the Balkans, and we buy ours through a UK broker in order to cut down on the carbon footprint.
Great sipping gin and as a classic serve G&T.
Alone: Good balance of rich and lighter. Nice mix of flavours: herby, countryside, savoury, citrus. Well balanced with a breadth of flavour. Good mouth feel and finish.
As a G&T: Opens up, top notes come through. Richer savoury still present. Longer finish with citrus.
I was born in a small village (Ano Akria in the Monofatsi area of Heraklion Prefecture) on the island of Crete and was the youngest of three. My early memories of life are of scarcity of luxuries but an abundance of fresh, home-cooked food in a loving home full of people. Treats were rare and usually home-made, delicious and created with produce the family grew, were given or sourced. Being raised in a culturally mixed environment – my mother originated from Crete and my father from Asia Minor – I was blessed with different but equally valuable life lessons and principles. Hospitality, responsibility and pride on one side and humility, appreciation and a zest for life on the other.
When I was 20 and following my father’s untimely death, I started working in my uncle’s hotel in Crete where I met my first husband who was English and I moved to London in 1980. Whilst working for the National Bank of Greece I studied for professional qualifications, and later for a History of Art, Architecture and Design Degree.
My career in banking lasted over 30 years and gave me the opportunity to enjoy a lot that London had to offer as well as activities and hobbies such as acting for the London Greek Theatre Group, being a member of the Committee of The Hellenic Bankers Association and participating in cultural and community events.
In 2010, I moved to the small village of Cartmel in the Lake District with my now husband, John, where life could not be more different to London. Cumbria is similar to Crete in that there is great appreciation of food, cooking and entertainment. The focus is on quality and freshness of produce – themes reminiscent of my upbringing.
...driven by the hope to inspire both old and young (such as my nieces, nephews and step grandchildren). I loved every single minute of the competition, including those of fear, anxiety, pressure and the occasional personal disappointment although these were greatly outweighed by the sense of achievement and the joy of having my food appreciated by others. Greek food has always had its fans amongst the millions who have visited the country over the years with appealing strong flavours, the freshness of the ingredients and the simplicity of their preparation.
I firmly believe that the ingredients are king and respect the traditional methods of their treatment, but I have developed my own approach which is a little lighter than that of my grandmother and mother. As for presentation, emphasis on this has been more a thing of our times and I do enjoy spending a little time on making my food attractive. After all, it is a way to honour the person eating it, the ingredients used and my own time spent in preparing and cooking the dish.
I am enjoying all that has followed my success of 2019, the publication of my book Under The Olive Tree (recipes from my Greek kitchen), my Olive Oil Sommelier course and my keynote speaking. I am an ambassador of Women In The Food Industry and have an ongoing collaboration with the Royal Overseas League in Mayfair. I enjoy the variety of my work and am engaged in a number of projects including presenting at events, pop ups, product launches, development of recipes and menus, private dining and olive oil tastings.
Food is for sharing and I love to share my culinary heritage. Join me on one of my Culinary Retreats on Crete, where you can learn, relax and enjoy
Irini (Ειρήνη) is Greek for “Peace” Zoe (ζωή) is Greek for “Life”
Although my name is Greek, I don’t have a Greek bone in my body! I know this, as I had my DNA tested-mainly Scottish, then Northern English & Northern Europe, with a bit of Irish and Southern English thrown in. However, the fact we have that Greek connection somehow feels like another good reason for working together on this special project.
Since running out of the all girls’ grammar school, screaming “Never again”, I fell into painting. For 13 years I painted murals, marbled, stencilled, tortoiseshelled, trompe l’oiel’d and generally painted anything that didn’t move…and some things that did, including the interiors of Dutch barges. During that time, I also rethought education and got an honours degree, managing to avoid dripping paint on the essays.
That degree allowed me to apply for the JET programme, the intention being I would take a break from painting, spend a year in Japan as an Assistant English Teacher in a senior high school and then return to normal life. I was based in a small town in the countryside of Yamaguchi-ken, my apartment overlooked rice fields and I cycled to school on my "mamachari". Suffice to say, the year turned into 3, followed by some travel before moving to South Korea for another few years.
Through a bizarre set of coincidences, I met Andy one evening in Seoul while he was on tour with Shakespeare’s Globe, performing in Love Labour’s Lost. So, rather than telling people about the time he was in Korea with a Bond Girl and the future artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe, it turned into the night he met his wife. Catching me in a weak moment (!), he persuaded me to come back to Blighty. He was based in Cumbria and on arrival, I finally felt like I had found my place.
Press forward and we launched Shed 1 Distillery in October 2016, from our 7x7 foot Garden Shed. Moved to The Old Calf Shed in 2019 and began our Gin Experiences. In 2023 we realised just how much we had grown from a gin distillery to a visitor experience centre, gin and vodka distilling, and a wedding venue. We are now changing to Shed One, in order to bring all the elements of the business together.
Collaborating with talented individuals and local businesses is very important to us. Being able to work on this Yiayia Gin project with Irini, and it being women-centred, has been a fabulous experience.
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