Brits create a niche in the craft gin market on the Costa del Sol

Carolina and husband Chris (right) are using live music events on the coast to get the word out.
Carolina and husband Chris (right) are using live music events on the coast to get the word out. / SUR
  • Hayes Gin was founded by a British couple and a small group of their friends who all share a common love for the Mediterranean lifestyle

Hundreds of British expats head to the Costa del Sol with the ambition of opening a thriving business and enjoying a stress-free life in the sun.

Unfortunately, many of these dreams are quickly shattered because potential entrepreneurs fail to do the necessary research. Others, like Chris Tunmore, have the ability to spot an opening in the market and go on to create a niche in a specialised industry. With the help of a few friends who all have a common love for the Mediterranean lifestyle, the 52-year-old entrepreneur now runs a thriving artisan gin company on the Costa del Sol.

Born in 1967, Chris Tunmore came to Spain in the mid 80s. His wife Carolina, whose mother is Spanish, was also born in the UK. Carolina came to Spain with her parents in the early 1990s and met Chris a few years later.

The couple opened a printing business on the coast, but in 2010, they transferred to the USA to chase the American dream, only to lose everything and return to Spain four years later with just 150 euros to their name. However, the experience gave them motivation to start afresh.

As Chris and Carolina are lovers of gin, they decided to explore the craft gin business and began experimenting with their own brand: they now supply a range of flavoured gins to hundreds of bars and restaurants along the Costa del Sol.

The couple began by making different types of gin in their home in Fuengirola and then decided to visit distilleries across Spain until they found the correct German copper still that would create the bold flavours they were looking for. They spent most of 2016 researching the market and searching for the right suppliers. After selecting the right distillery in Madrid in 2017, they then began designing and developing the Hayes Gin brand at the beginning of 2018.

"We could see how the British gin market was moving more toward flavoured gin as UK distillers were getting more adventurous with their flavours. However, the large Spanish gin distillers weren't really experimenting with new flavour profiles. We wanted to create a line of premium gins using high quality Spanish ingredients. We can't go up against the large established distillers on price, so we decided early on that we had to create something different," Chris explained to SUR in English.

Chris decided to respect the brand's English and Spanish links by incorporating emblems from each country in the company's logo, although he points out that the name has no special significance.

"You will see there is a lion on either side of our logo: one is from the Spanish coat of arms and the other from the British. This represents our love for the two countries we are connected to. I would love to tell you there was romantic reason behind the brand name, but the truth is that after spending almost a year trying to come up with a meaningful name, we simply put several names into a hat and Hayes was pulled out," he said.

Hayes does not have the marketing budget of the big distilleries, so they are using live events, like the Marenostrum Music Park in Fuengirola, to spread the word. They are also hosting a gin festival in Elviria on the 26 and 27 July and hope to open their own distillery and brewery in Fuengirola in 2020.