Why would you go to the hassle of starting a company in your fifties when you’re already worth a fortune? When Howard Raymond inherited £75 million from his father, the notorious King of Soho, Paul Raymond, that’s exactly what he did – creating King of Soho gin as a tribute to his dad.
In the Sixties and Seventies, Paul Raymond famously amassed a huge publishing, property and pornography empire in Soho, including the infamous Raymond Revue Bar and cabaret and burlesque bar Madam JoJo’s. He became one of the UK’s wealthiest men and a household name, regularly in the tabloids for his life of drink, drugs and womanising.
Son Howard has also been involved in the leisure industry, with interests in restaurants, bars and property companies (owning properties in Mayfair, Covent Garden and Leicester Square) – and “going out a lot” – but these days his focus is his drink company.
He runs it from his office in Piccadilly, which he says is far enough away from Soho that he can get to it but not too close that anyone can come and aggravate him.
“When my father first came down from Liverpool to London in the 1950s he was a pale ale drinker. In those days there wasn’t much choice, but when you started going up in the world you progressed from pale ale or beer to gin.
“I have taken his favourite drink, removed some of the botanicals that people don’t like and have created an extremely nice tasting gin.”
“It took about four years from start to finish. It was the design of the bottle that took so long. It’s taking glass making to the very limits of its abilities and the bottle, it’s true to say, is very attractive and certainly stands out on the shelf.”
“We were trying to get the essence of Soho on the bottle. Paul Raymond helped Soho become an area rich in creativity, music, art and modern culture and it was these elements that we wanted captured in the design of the bottle.
“The elegant fox depicted represents the ‘Spirit of Soho’ character. His velvet suit reflects the hedonistic fashion of the area and his tail signifies Soho’s status as a former royal hunting ground. He is, of course, also a creature of the night.
“The trombone reflects Soho’s rich music history and the book its associations with the publishing industry and media.
“The peacock eye on the hat is a nod to those who wander round Soho thinking that they are looking in when in fact the people who live in Soho are looking down at you.”
“It is all self-financed and now it is self-financing. We are making a profit, which is staggering as we are only coming up to our third year and it normally takes five years to reach a profit, so we are very pleased.”
“We sell King of Soho Gin in the UK, Europe and recently launched in Japan. We are in talks with many other countries. We are stunned by how the European market has taken it. We don’t sell in supermarkets but in good local shops.”
You are much more relaxed and that’s a good thing. If I had started it in my thirties I wouldn’t have had the patience to wait four years for the bottle – I would have wanted it immediately.
For a very dry martini (known as the ‘in and out’ method):