In our new column N’EYES TO MEET, we encounter personalities with style and an unwavering passion for wearing premium eyewear – at least most of the time. Kicking things off, we present an interview with Gerald Koenen and Raphael Vollmar, the two founders of the legendary and award-winning liquor label SIEGFRIED GIN. SPECTR sat down with the two founders of the ambitious German distillery for a plush talk, replete with a tasting of their signature beverage and an in-depth conversation about the role of eyewear in the grand scheme of things. Cheers!
Let’s start off by addressing the elephant in the room: Is there a question you’re absolutely tired of hearing in interviews?
Gerald: (laughs) No, every question is fair game, no matter how many times we’ve heard it. But it’s most likely the question: “How did you come up with the name Siegfried for your label?”
In a nutshell it’s like this: We wanted to create a local product. So directly next to our hometown in Germany is the mythical Drachenfels – Dragon’s Rock – a tourist magnet where according to legend, Siegfried slayed the evil dragon. What’s more, Siegfried is not only the namesake of our drink and featured on the bottles, but also figures in the drink. Because when Siegfried bathed in the blood of the dragon, a leaf from the linden tree landed on his shoulder, which took the story for a dramatic turn. That’s why our main botanical is actually linden leaf, which lends our gin a warm note. With that said, the name is more than a marketing gimmick.
Does your SIEGFRIED GIN, also called ‘Siggi’ by connoisseurs, stem from a true love of gin or were you wearing beer goggles when you had the idea?
G: Both! My best friend and co-founder Raphael and I have been passionate gin drinkers for some time now. In 2014 we finally had the idea to launch our own gin brand. At first it was really a pipe dream since at that point we had no expertise, money or time on our hands. Overall not the best starting point for such an operation. But somehow, we couldn’t let it go and ended up acquiring the necessary insights gradually. Then we finally followed the mantra of a famous athletics firm: Just do it!
Limited Editions, April fools’ jokes, and gin without alcohol – are those all your own ideas or do you have outside help?
G: That’s another frequently asked question, since lots of folks expect our creativity to come from some kind of ad agency. But no, we do everything in-house, which we believe continues to be a major key to our success. As a consumer, you just know whether or not a brand message is real or not; at least that’s what we like to believe.
With what kind of accouterments is your ‘Siggi’ gin best enjoyed?
G: Everything people like is allowed. We prefer it classic in a gin and tonic with Fever Tree tonic and orange zest. But when it comes to cocktails, the sky’s the limit.
Raphael, you operate a department store for luxury goods in the tabletop, living and jewelry segments. And Gerald is a partner in the start-up incubator curtis newtown in Cologne. Are you still actively involved in these roles?
Raphael: We still support these projects but have made a full-time commitment to SIEGFRIED GIN for some time now. As you see, our professional backgrounds are rather different, but that’s actually a benefit since our experiences and skillsets complement one another perfectly.
You started out as a two-man business, how large is your team at this point?
R: Initially it was really just a pastime. But now it’s grown into an enterprise with twelve employees. Our dream came true – and we are incredibly grateful!
Aside from years of friendship and a passion for gin, the two of you have something else in common, namely wearing eyeglasses. Do your spectacles have a special relevance in your personal lives?
G: For me, purchasing new eyewear is always an adventure since I like to follow my gut feeling when it comes to choosing the next frame. Of course it needs to look flattering, but it’s just as important to me that not everyone out in the street wears the same and that there’s no visible brand logo.
Do you consider eyewear as a functional vision aid or something to express personal style and make a fashion statement?
R: Of course eyewear is far more than just a visual aid. Because individual style goes far beyond glasses. Everyone changes their outfit on a daily basis, and there are countless variations. A pair of glasses is your companion day after day.
Let’s talk specifics: What kind of labels are your favorite eyewear providers for your individual tastes?
Our current faves are glasses by TOM FORD (Raphael) and MYKITA (Gerald).
And finally, please complete the following sentence: An evening without SIEGFRIED GIN is…
…an evening that would have probably been much nicer with ‘Siggi’ (laughs).
Amazing, thanks for the spirited conversation, fellows!
Siegfried Gin | siegfriedgin.com |