A Polish artisan brand with generations of family legends, hand-picked herbs, and two endlessly devoted gin enthusiasts. We asked Marcin Czajkiewicz, who created Magnolia Heritage Gin with his wife Aleksandra.
Your brand’s name is ‘heritage’—what’s the story about your heritage, and why did you choose to build your brand on it?
We all come from different places and that’s what makes life so interesting. We’re both Polish, born and raised in Szczecin. For us, heritage is not something material, such as an old book or a piece of furniture left by your ancestors. It’s rather stories and family legends that we both grew up with. Our gin tells our story, as well as our family’s. Our grandparents were not from Szczecin; it was a German city before 1945. They used to live in the Eastern Borderlands of Poland, in regions now belonging to Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. After WWII, they all had to start a new life in Szczecin, where they were greeted by blooming magnolia trees. Magnolia is a connection between our grandparents’ world and ours, but we also pay homage to our roots, which is why we use herbs typical of the Eastern Borderlands, characteristic plants such as blackcurrant, blueberry, pine, or cranberry. My great-grandfather used to brew mint from his garden every afternoon—I think it’s one of my favorite stories and herbs in our gin. The rest of them tell our story, like the Italian juniper. We love Italian gin, and that’s where we got engaged and started dreaming of having our own craft gin.
How did you find your way into gin-making? What did you do before and why did you choose gin?
For as long as we can remember, whenever we’ve traveled abroad, we’ve always sought out local gins. We often thought that finding a craft gin would be impossible in some counties, but even in ones like Thailand, we’ve managed to find one. We love discovering new places, new aromas, and new gins. We find gin particularly fascinating, as it’s the closest thing to alchemy in the modern world. But it took us a few years to realize that we might as well create our own gin. It was 2020, the pandemic had just broken out. We took a trip to an amazing place in Poland, the Low Beskids, with beautiful forests, mountains, and an exquisite local cuisine. We worked for big companies back then and knew that it was not what we wanted. And then one question changed everything. ‘What do we want to do in our lives?’ ‘We could make gin!’ And that’s what we’ve been doing ever since. We made it! Aleksandra is an educated microbiologist, however, before starting our own brand, she worked as a digital marketer for big Polish brands. Her background in chemistry is crucial to gin-making. She also loves cooking and discovering new flavors, and creating a recipe is a bit like cooking. I graduated as an archaeologist, but later I was in charge of digital marketing at Pernod Ricard in Poland. I’ve been in the alcoholic drinks industry since 2016, and this experience has helped us a lot in creating our brand and bringing it to the market.
There has been a huge increase in the popularity of gin in recent years. What qualities do you think a gin should have to stand out from other brands?
We really like complexity, and we can’t stand boring gins, the ones that taste like any other gin. That’s why I believe inspiration is a must to make an excellent gin—the inspiration behind the brand and the recipe. You may create an amazing brand, a beautiful label, but if the quality of the gin itself is just not good enough… This is something that should never be a matter of compromise. You need the best ingredients at any cost. And the preparation process is also important: all our herbs are hand-processed. I think you can feel the passion of the makers in the handcrafted gins. We had so much support in the creation of the gin and the brand—from our family, friends, and business partners. It was an amazing feeling. And as we believe in the quality of the product, we decided to take part in international competitions. It’s nice to get external acknowledgments, it proves that the drink is really good. We’re very proud to be recognized as one of the best gins in the world, we won the Master medal at The Spirits Business Global Gin Masters 2022 and we are the World’s Most Awarded Polish Craft Gin.
How did you create Heritage’s flavor profile?
We’ve always hunted for the rare herbs that form the heart of the recipe and composed everything around that. For us it was magnolia, dried magnolia to be precise. It’s an amazing herb, so rare that we’ve only seen it in one or two places in the world as an ingredient in other gins. It is a very complex ingredient with all five flavors, a real challenge to work with. Depending on the proportions and other ingredients, it can be sweeter, earthier, or even sour. In the Heritage Magnolia Gin recipe, we wanted to show the whole range, but we also didn’t want the drink to be just floral. So we added fresh herbs, fruits, and spices. And of course, there’s a secret ingredient. For us, it’s nostalgia because the magnolia is the symbol of our hometown. Soon we will launch a new variant: the Heritage Baltic Gin. Szczecin is closely connected to the Baltic Sea, it’s part of our heritage. We have created a new recipe at its heart, which is defined by sea buckthorn, sometimes referred to as the Baltic olive. We can’t wait for the premiere!
Your brand is visually very tasteful. Apart from a good product, what other areas do you think are important for the success of a beverage brand?
Our brand is also very much inspired by Szczezin and family stories. But we also put a lot of research behind the branding. Knowing our target group is one of the most important factors besides the product quality, the branding, the target group, the distribution channels, the marketing, the tone of the brand, the sales... So many things to consider. We’re a family-run business, a tiny company, we do basically everything ourselves, Aleksandra and me. So all of this is an extra challenge. But the principle is the same for every brand—knowing your audience.
What cocktail recipe or pairing would you recommend for Heritage Magnolia Gin?
I recommend what bartenders always say: try the Heritage Magnolia Gin in a classic cocktail. My personal favorite is the Negroni, and Aleksandra’s is the Bramble. For the simplest of G&Ts, we recommend the Heritage Magnolia Gin with Fever-Tree Mediterranean tonic and a slice of apple and lemon. You get a perfectly balanced cocktail this way. But it’s also worth tasting it sauté from a tasting glass, so you can really get the full flavor of all 19 ingredients used for the creation.
Magnolia Heritage Gin | Web | Facebook | Instagram