Appropriately for a proud Scotsman, Sam Heughan makes it rain. After gathering a fiercely devoted following playing the role of Jamie Fraser in Outlander – take a glance at his fan fiction, if you don’t believe us – Heughan turned entrepreneur to launch his multi-award-winning and deeply Scottish spirits label, The Sassenach.

This new venture has proved a roaring success, with the Sassenach Spirit of Home whisky picking up multiple awards across the industry. Heughan has since founded Scottish food and beverage venture The Great Glen Company, starred in the travel series Men in Kilts, and penned two books, Clanlands and Waypoints. The latter was a New York Times #1 Best Seller.

We caught up with Heughan in Los Angeles, a bottle of his newly launched Sassenach Wild Scottish Gin in hand. Unopened, we should stress. It’s half ten in the morning…

Sassenach Wild Scottish Gin

How’s sunny California?

Sunny California? I’m enjoying the weather. Though, I believe I’ve just brought the rain because I’m Scottish and that’s what we like to do. So, there’s apparently about to be the biggest hurricane hitting California since 1939. I’ve had to scrap my plans to motorcycle to Idlewild this weekend.

Is that making you miss the Scottish summer? It’s midge season.

It is definitely midge season in Scotland during the summer. Yeah, these little midges come out, they’re like tiny little gnats that will eat you alive. I noticed they have mosquitoes here, and I’m not a fan of those, so it’s one or the other, right? But I’ll take the sunshine any day.

Your ultra-premium blended scotch, like your show, Outlander, has gathered a cult following. Now, after developing a tequila, you’ve launched Sassenach Wild Scottish Gin. Can you give us the elevator pitch?

Yes, certainly: Wild Scottish Gin. Obviously, I’ve been testing it myself just to make sure we keep it to a high standard. All the botanicals are from where I’m from in the southwest of Scotland, a place called Dumfries and Galloway. It’s a representation of that; a wild Scottish gin. Absolutely everything – all the botanicals in there – you’ll find in the glens and the forests of southern Scotland. We’ve got heather, we’ve got toasted oats, rhubarb, blaeberries, juniper, Scots Pine resin. It’s a very fresh, bright gin. We have crabapples in Scotland which are very sour and mostly inedible, but I wanted to make something that’s not traditionally a juniper-led or citrus-led gin. This is a really bright, innovative style that is full of flavour. We steep all the botanicals for 24 hours in our spirit, remove them and distil them so you get all the oils, but without a predominantly juniper-flavoured profile. So, it’s a very balanced gin. If you like vodka, you’re going to love our Scottish gin.

I believe I’ve just brought the rain because I’m Scottish and that’s what we like to do.

Other than Sassenach, are there any other gins that you’re in love with?

Scotland is obviously well known for whisky, but it actually has an incredible gin movement. In fact, it’s quite saturated because all the distilleries are making gins while they wait for their whisky to mature. Scotland has this abundance of great produce and great botanicals. We started with about 20 to 30 different botanicals, distilled each one and tasted them. We tried everything from seaweed to raspberries to gooseberries to oak leaf, then narrowed it down, then found that there were so many great, surprising botanicals in Scotland. Especially the heather, which I think is a really amazing, interesting botanical. Heather is synonymous with Scotland. I remember climbing a mountain and lying in the heather because I was exhausted, but it’s such a soft blanket to lie on and it has this amazing floral quality, but also earthiness to it as well. So it brings this great quality to the gin. But yeah, to answer your question, there are a number of amazing Scottish gins actually, and I wanted to bring something out that really did represent Scotland and that the rest of the world can really approach and be accessible as well.

Many stars have white-labelled spirits brands, but you’re known to be involved from the bottom up. Can you tell us how you’ve been involved?

Yeah, look, I think the celebrity spirits business is something that’s a bit of a dirty word, especially among spirits enthusiasts. But I would consider myself just that: a spirits enthusiast. I started off with a whisky and I absolutely adore whisky, I’m a huge fan. And yeah, I wanted to make something that really is mine, that I would be happy to put my name to. So I didn’t want to white-label anything. I was approached by a brand to do that and I decided to create my own brand instead. And so, everything from the bottle to the logo to the design to the liquid inside has been chosen by myself. And we’re self-financed, too. It really is a representation of everything I love about Scottish whisky or Scottish gin. You should see my house; it’s like a laboratory. There are botanicals everywhere, there are bottles. We did 16 different distillations. I was testing the gin, trying it in cocktails. I would leave them overnight to see what they tasted like in the morning. I really wanted to R&D the hell out of this gin to make sure that it stands up – and it does. So, I’m really proud of it.

You’re known to have some fiercely thirsty fans. If Jamie Fraser were a drink, what type of drink would he be? And sorry for putting you on the spot.

SH: Look, it’s really obvious. It is; it’s obvious! Because he has to be a scotch whisky and it has to be mature, but bright, lively, smooth, slightly caramel – or ‘redheaded’, should I say. And of course, he says the word Sassenach a lot. So it has to be my Sassenach Spirit of Home. It’s multi-award-winning. It’s won 12 double gold medals and a platinum. I mean, it is literally a unique spirit and it’s the best, the top of its category. And that’s what Jamie is. He is a unique person. There’s only one of him. And look, yeah, it’s a great representation. So I think Jamie Fraser would drink Sassenach whisky if he could.

And do you have a favourite date-night beverage?

SH: Oh, God. And this is terrible because I’m just going to plug my gin, but I love making cocktails. I’m really into it. I love classic, three-ingredient cocktails. And I think, once you start to play around, you realise how many options there are, the different histories behind the cocktails and where they come from. With the gin, I’ve been really enjoying trying it in different ways and refining the perfect martini. We like to serve it with an apple slice, which gives it a crispness and freshness, and you get a little treat at the end after it soaks up some of the gin. But, I love making different kinds of cocktails. At the moment I’m enjoying the French 75, really easy to make, good for summer. It’s got champagne in it, obviously, and you shake it with an egg white, gin and lemon juice. It’s a really fresh cocktail. But yeah, date night I think I would start off with a French 75, something to whet the appetite, maybe some charcuterie, and then we move on to something more robust. I don’t know, a Rob Roy or a Manhattan made with the Sassenach.

Mr Sam Heughan enjoying the fruits of his labour

Dream date that you’d drink that with?

Oh, a dream date. Well, I suppose it has to be someone that likes a cocktail and likes to indulge a little bit. But I think that really, it’s all about balance, so probably someone who’s also maybe done a workout with me or hiked a mountain beforehand. So, off the top of my head, who could that be? Someone that likes to hike, likes a cocktail, and is probably someone who’s decent at cooking who would want to cook with me. So, I guess, applications are open!

Favourite gin bar?

Oh, a favourite gin bar? That’s a good question. I wouldn’t say a gin bar, but Chinese Tuxedo in New York is run by my friend, Paul, who is the executive chef. He’s a Scotsman himself and we’ve enjoyed a few libations there. And yeah, it’s a great spot with really amazing Chinese food. Yeah, I would say get yourself down to Chinese Tuxedo and enjoy a gin or a whisky cocktail before savouring their great food.

And what’s next? Vodka? Rum?

SH: I do have a lot of ideas and we’ve been playing around, but look, I think we want to continue to establish the brand. The whisky’s obviously doing extremely well and the gin just won its first gold medal at the San Francisco Spirit Awards. We want to expand and grow, so I want to introduce people to the gin. I think we’re going to release a bunch of easy, accessible cocktails to make our recommendations on the perfect serves. But yeah, I’ve got a few things I want to experiment with. For now, it’s all about the Sassenach gin and, as you can tell, it’s going down very well.