Mixing Family, Business, and Spirits: Emma Watson and Brother, Alex, Launch Renais Gin
The entrepreneurial bug has struck a Harry Potter film alum again, with Emma Watson and her brother Alex expanding into new business opportunities. The siblings, along with their father, Chris, sat in conversation with the Financial Times to discuss their new gin brand, Renais.
The brainchild of Alex Watson, Renais gin (pronounced like Renée) is ready to hit the ground running in the spirit market. Emma backed her brother wholeheartedly in his new venture. She found herself on the creative side of production, overseeing all design and art aspects of Renais and bringing her business experience after investing in other start-up companies.
Alex is the expert on gin, and dad is the expert on wine, but it’s really nice to be asked to be involved. […] I couldn’t bear to let someone else do it because it’s our family, our history. We have to sell a product, but I think it would have hurt my soul if it had been done in a way that didn’t feel personal.
Renais boasts a unique flavor extracted from upcycled grand cru grape skins from Chablis, France, that would otherwise be discarded after the grapes are harvested for wines. The Chablis wine district sits in the northernmost part of France’s Burgundy region. The raw alcohol for this gin comes from a distillery in Beaujolais, France, “using grapes from the vineyards of Burgundy,” including one owned by the Watson family. These critical ingredients and various other flavoring ingredients are blended and distilled in a northern region of England. Alex says it’s a combination of the best of both the English world and the French world.
It takes the inspiration and the quality of the ingredients and the philosophy of France and applies that to an English drink. And we’ve made every effort to ensure that the juice is good, as they say.
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Renais is hardly a beverage or company built on a whim. The Watson family history is flush with the culture of French food, wine, spirits, and business expertise. Emma and Alex spent their infancy and early childhood in France but later moved to England with their parents. However, they “kept coming back to Chablis year after year.” Chris has an established presence in the Chablis district. Since the purchase of his first vineyard in 1991, he has worked to make his business a locally loved and supported part of the region. He now owns seven vineyards across Chablis.
It was a huge battle. I had to tick every box to be treated as a local. […] Initially, there was all this resistance, but once they realised I was not some outside speculator hoping to make a killing, but rather more Chablisien than the Chablisiens, it was fine.
Emma and Alex were introduced to alcohol at a young age. Of course, no tiny drunk members of the Watson family were running around. But a small amount of wine with lunches was their method of exposure. Emma recalled wine as an extension of the meals and an ingrained part of French food culture instead of an illicit or mysterious substance.
I was quite surprised when other children were very excited about the idea of getting their hands on alcohol. Dad had been giving me water with wine at lunch since I was a child. I didn’t think alcohol was for getting wasted. So I was quite confused when I was a teenager and everyone thought alcohol was this forbidden fruit.
Renais is described as having “citrus, white grape, floral notes, and a minerality characteristic of Chablis,” thanks to the tastings of interviewer Alex Bilmes. These lovely flavors are on sale now.