A START-UP gin business run by a former Scottish rugby professional is looking to expand into its own premises after creating its first two spirits at Eden Mill’s St Andrews distillery.

Garden Shed Gin was dreamt up by retired Glasgow Warriors and Scotland player Ryan Grant last year, with his wife Maxine as well as rugby colleague Ruraidh Jackson and his wife Kirstin getting together to produce the firm’s first two spirits.

Having distilled both its Garden Shed and Côte-Rôtie gins at Eden Mill’s premises and under Eden Mill’s licences, the business is looking to scale up its own operations, with plans underway to open a distillery in Glasgow by next year.

Recalling how the business started, Mr Grant said he was “looking for opportunities outside rugby" after retiring through injury and, because he studied environmental science, "the goal was to go to Eden Mill and propose to them to make their distillery more environmentally friendly".

“When I went there I ended up spending the day with distillers Mark Watson and Jasper Daly. I really enjoyed it and when I came home I said to my wife and Ruraidh why don’t we try doing it ourselves," he said.

“We bought a half-litre antique still on Amazon for £45, started filling it with vodka then spent six to eight weeks picking things from my garden and testing to see if we could make gin.”

After Mr Grant and Mr Jackson realised they “weren’t the master distillers we thought we were”, the Eden Mill team helped them perfect their recipe and, with Mrs Grant and Mrs Jackson coming up with the branding, they produced their first batch of Garden Shed Gin last year.

“Eden Mill gave us some old glass bottles they weren’t using then we walked around the west end of Glasgow in the week leading up to Christmas and sold 150 bottles in a couple of days,” Mr Grant said.

Three months ago the business started selling the first batch of its Côte-Rôtie gin, which is aged in a French wine barrel, with the aim being to scale up production once the firm has its own premises.

“We went down the route of applying for a licence to get a still in my shed but that was shut down by HMRC,” Mr Grant said.

“It would have been a fire hazard in a residential area so it was never going to work.

“We’re in the process now of looking to open our own distillery, which will probably be in 2020 and will be in Glasgow.”

As well as Eden Mill, Garden Shed Gin is in discussions with Perth-based Strathearn Distillery about using its facilities until it has a base of its own, with Mr Grant noting that he and his colleagues have learned a huge amount from both more-established businesses.

“It’s a constant discussion,” he said. “We’re just two rugby players and we don’t know a great deal about the gin industry; about batch sizes or demand.

“We’re still trying to get to grips with that but they have been really nice and very helpful.

“I think we were pretty fortunate to [make contact with them] through rugby circles.”

While Mr Grant’s original idea was to make Eden Mill more environmentally friendly, he admitted that it has been difficult for a business at Garden Shed Gin’s stage of development to be as sustainable as he would like.

As a result, the firm seeks to offset its environmental impact by planting a tree via Trees4Scotland for every case of gin it sells and then also donating the cost of each tree to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

“If there are no bees there are no botanicals so that’s a pretty important pillar of our company’s growth,” Mr Grant said.

“We’ve planted about 500 trees and whatever we’ve paid for them – they vary from a couple of pounds to about five pounds – we match it and give to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

“To date we’ve bought enough seeds to plant wild flowers to cover 28 rugby pitches. For a company that’s just a year old we’re pretty happy with that.”