Richie had always wanted to be a soldier, so joined the Royal Marines straight after finishing his A-levels. Soon after passing training, he deployed on his first operational tour of Afghanistan as a machine gunner within a close combat troop. Loving the operational side of military life, he immediately volunteered for UK Special Forces selection on return from Afghanistan, aged just 21.
After passing UKSF selection (joining the SBS) he then went on to have a varied military career. Highlights included military freefall parachuting at altitudes of up to 25,000ft; crawling into insurgent underground tunnel networks with a rifle and flashlight, to destroy them with plastic explosives whilst conducting night-raids in the mountains of Afghanistan; leading foreign nation strike teams on counter terrorism operations… and a few other bits and bobs.
“Having aspired to be a soldier my whole life, it was the privilege of a lifetime to serve in both the Royal Marines and the SBS for 3 and 9 years respectively. With the war in Afghanistan still ongoing, and the rise of the Islamic State, the pace of life was relentless, which suited me just fine. During my final years in the SBS, I also set up a clothing company “HMG Clothing” that I still run today, where I learned a lot about brand building & marketing, but also gained the belief I could do more in life than just soldier. After watching an episode of the apprentice, where the contestants created their own gin brand, the seed was planted in my head for setting up a distillery. Then with a chance discussion with Luke, we both became fixed on the idea of starting our own distillery. With that in mind and HMG going well I made the very difficult decision to leave the job that I still loved to take my life in a completely different direction. Also driving this decision was the desire to be closer to home to be around my family as my oldest daughter was soon to be born”.
The initial plan was to launch not long after leaving the military – January 2020. However, Covid struck and caused nearly 3 years of disruption and delays to the ECD project, as well as the rest of the world!
Fortunately, HMG was not too badly affected so kept a steady source of income, and Richie was also able to obtain private security work abroad. Using the delays as an advantage, and using the same designer from his clothing company, Richie set to work designing and bringing the bottle to life, which, like the building, was far from a simple endeavor…
“From the outset we wanted to create something unique, which meant we had to design our own bottles, from scratch. Alongside the same designer I use for HMG, I set to work on some ideas. This was a challenge in itself, as I had never touched on bottle design before.
Getting the aesthetics right is just the tip of the iceberg however…
We soon discovered that glass manufacturing is bound by rigid safety standards. Three failed safety tests later (each delaying the process between 3-6 months), we finally had the decorated bottles, which we were very happy with. Satisfied with the bottles, we then had to hope the labels and bottle stopper (designed simultaneously) fit in seamlessly with the bottle. It was a tense moment the first time we applied the label to the bottle, but thankfully it all came together. We’ve had so many compliments on the bottle so we must have done something right.”
“It’s been quite a transition leaving the military to enter the world of entrepreneurship and business. As with any big change, you always wonder whether you’re doing the right thing. However, all your support and encouragement has been so overwhelmingly positive, it’s been a great start to this new chapter.