When I decided to do a Behind the Blogger feature I wanted it to be a way to showcase the passion that exists within the industry. There has been a lot of talk lately about bloggers being blaggers, and reviews being unreliable due to so many of them being gifted. I have been lucky enough to see the other side to this and know that the people I follow are not just gin drinkers but real enthusiasts. There are drink blog accounts out there that aren’t businesses, they simply geek out on getting people as excited about gin as they are! It’s not all about the big sell it’s about giving recommendations and sharing advice. And that’s why I wanted to go Behind the Blogger.
Jenny is my spirit animal, she rambles as much as me!! The way she talks about gin and life make you think you are chatting to a mate, she has a natural way of drawing you in.
Thanks so much for agreeing to take part Jenny!
Gin. All the gin. For a while I badly reviewed Brighton restaurants but it turns out I’m too piggy and don’t like being the person photographing my food, I would rather just dig in. So now I just drink and ‘review’ gin, tonics and mixers. A particular highlight/lowlight of the year is Ginvent – trying a new gin and joining in the conversations every day is fantastic, but writing a blog a day can be a bit mad!
I still plug away with my blog (www.jennyinbrighton.com) and use my social media to promote the posts and join conversations with other gin lovers. I know people are turning away from traditional long-form blogs, but I like writing and rambling on. Plus, honestly, I’m not a fan of super long social media posts. I get bored. Maybe I’m old fashioned but I think social media should be short and snappy.
What was the turning point that made you decide to get involved in the drink blogging world?
Just over five years ago I worked in an office of gin drinkers, and at the time I wasn’t a gin drinker. So I was bullied into drinking gin and lemonade (turns out, it’s just cheap tonic I don’t like) then I went to an event with Fever Tree and Langley’s gin and discovered gin and tonic can be rather delicious. From there I started trying a few more gins, and being the nerd that I am I started reading and learning about gin. People got bored of me throwing gin facts around and suggested I started a blog. Then Brighton Gin was launched while I was on holiday in Stockholm, ordered the last bottle via email and trekked to a shop on the other side of Brighton to collect it. That became my first blog post (and is still one of my favourite gins).
Did you set out with any goals? (did you want to write reviews for distilleries,make recipes or just want to write about something you were interested in?)
I had no real goals when I set my blog up, and frankly don’t now. I mean, sure, I’d love to be able to drink gin all day and not have to do my day job but I don’t think the bank will accept my gin collection as a mortgage payment! I just really enjoy trying new gins and learning more about the industry, plus I don’t get to do a lot of writing at work (bar reports on KPIs) so it’s nice to have a slightly creative outlet. I often put a lot of pressure on myself that I should be doing more on my blog, which stresses me out and then I find it harder to motivate myself to write. I feel like this year I’ve taken a step back from the blog – I’m still posting but less regularly, and I’m ok with that.
Do you have any drink industry experience and do you think that makes a difference to how people perceive your opinion?
I don’t have experience as such, other than my time at uni being mostly spent in cheap bars drinking vodka that tastes like nail varnish remover and bad cola. I have since got my WSET level 1 in Sprits which was really interesting and I highly recommend it. I only really know about gin, so learning about (and tasting) vodka, rum, cognac and more was a great day. Gin isn’t really covered in the level 1, so I’m interested in doing level 2 but find it hard to justify the time off work and expense of it. I’ve always aimed for my blog to be super accessible to normal people. I’m not an industry expert, I just like gin and want to help people discover new gins and distillers. I know I’m not the best writer, or the most followed gin person on social media, and don’t claim to be. I hope that people see my blog as a conversation you’d have down the pub with your friend who is recommending you something new they’ve tried.
Who are you when you are away from the gin and drinks pages? Tell us more about the person behind the name? By the way, where did you get the name for your page?
Outside of blogging life, I’m just Jenny McLaren. Grew up in Hampshire with yearly trips to see the family in Scotland, then moved to Brighton for university (note: I went to University of Sussex, not Brighton university. It’s a very important distinction for people that go to those universities). I managed to stay on in Brighton, working in a call centre for a few months before starting my events career. I now work in London, and was able to buy a house and moved into the Sussex countryside, so technically I should change my blog name but a) that’s a lot of work and b) Jenny in Haywards Heath doesn’t have much of a ring to it. Although don’t tell my Dad, when I set up my blog and named it jennyinbrighton.com, he said I should make it more generic in case I ever left Brighton. I was 25 and told him to stop being silly because obviously I was never leaving Brighton. So. Just shows how right I was… I’m an official supporter for International Scottish Gin Day, and accidentally inspired Negroni Club (I used to not like them, so told friends we should get together and they can teach me about them and it all went a bit mad from there). I feel like 2020 is the year of the Martini, I’ve got VERY into them (especially with a splash of olive brine) and we now also have Martini Club. Other than planning conferences (which is tricky right now) and drinking gin, I mostly read a lot, love to cook and shoddily paint my house bright colours.
Has there been anyone who’s inspired your blogging journey?
Full disclosure: I’m a terrible blogger I rarely read other people’s blogs. I’m a bad person. But, not to be a kiss ass, looking at your pictures makes me wish I put WAY more effort in. Your cocktails, your photo set up, home-made syrups, recipes. Absolute queen.
It would be nice to grow my blog and work with more brands, but honestly, if it stays at this level and I get to keep meeting lovely people and going to fun events and enjoy what I do, I’m quite content. Oh, but I do want to work out how to logistically do a tour of gin distilleries of the UK without anyone having to be a designated driver. But the time spent on trains between places is a good time to try all the pre-mixed tins now on the market!
Anything else to add?
Sorry I ramble so much!
You can find out more about Jenny and join her on her adventures here:
I was delighted Jenny agreed to take part in my Behind The Blogger Series, she is exactly what the drink blogging world is about. Passion and fun.
Join me next week for another Behind The Blogger interview!