Travis Cunningham is an Australian in search of an alternative to the “where to look for the best place to establish a distillery?” type of quest. “We needed to find somewhere where we could have access to barrels, so we looked at Spain, France, we looked at different places, Mauritius, Panama, South Africa, and then we decided that instead of setting out a distillery somewhere and then import Port barrels, why not just move to where the Port barrels are? So that’s how we came to Porto”.
This expeditious search led him and his family to Porto, and he reveals that despite having looked at places all around the world he decided Porto was the best place to start his dream business: a Gin Distillery. He describes his distillery - Scoundrels Distilling Co. - as “a Portuguese distillery run by Australians”.
This is the short story. The long story is, well, a bit longer. Travis Cunningham moved to Portugal, Porto back in 2017. He had worked in the insurance business, agriculture, and in the banking sector, in many places all around the world, but his life’s dream was to establish a Gin School and a distillery and he is pretty sure that his Scoundrels Distilling Co. might as well be the first Gin school in the Iberian Peninsula (for sure the first in Portugal).
“There are many Gin schools around the world using Portuguese made steels, but we are the first Gin School in Porto using alembic steels that are actually made here in Porto. So, it’s a first. The first urban distillery, the first urban Gin School, what a first!”, Travis enthused.
“Porto is a beautiful city, I really love the city, I’m excited about this area, this is a revitalisation zone for Porto”, Travis added, furthering that “the Matadouro is 200 metres from here”, and he is really happy that “now things seem to be moving forward, following so many delays”, as regards the works in the Matadouro.
“When we first moved to Porto, we chose this area, near the Praça da Corujeira, [because] it feels like a village, but within the city, and that’s what we were looking for, a home where there was a sense of community”.
“This is our first steady home since we left Australia, about 12 years ago. We really enjoy the city, we fell in love with it the first time we came here and decided to move here”, Travis shares with Porto. “It’s taken some time to be a part of the community, but now we’ve been welcomed by everyone, everybody is very supportive of what we have been doing here and we just want to succeed”.
Additionally, that entire area, with the Terminal Intermodal and the revitalisation of the Corujeira are the signs that that part of the city is approaching a new dawn, and that suits Travis and his family perfectly.
One of his first disappointments, though, was the attempt to register the distillery as “Porto Gin”, as he was told by the Porto Wine Institute (IVP) that he couldn’t, due to the appellation of origin. A friend suggested “Why not Invicta, then?”, and Invicta it is.
Travis enhanced that “if we translate it literally, it means our gin is unrivalled, which works fine”. The goal is to take the Invicta Gin to the European market. Also, Scoundrels and the Invicta Gin will also carry Portuguese products alongside their mission.”
Aware that the market is always “creating waste”, Travis leads a different take on his manufacturing process and does not want to just “put another product in the market”. The Invicta Gin is bottled is specially designed bottles that may have other uses; they can be reused and there are no corks because they “would not be able to be used over and over again”. Even the water used in the distillery production is used to wash the space and there are herbs and spices that are recycled as soap.
Scoundrels is open to the public as a Gin School, as well; as such, visitors can head to the Praça da Corujeira and “learn more about distillation, about the history of gin, learn how to make their own gin and take it home”. Everything is done in copper alembic barrels with the Portuguese seal of quality.
But there is also something else that is new about this place, which is the fact that it has a dedicated wall to display art from local artists. It suffices to have a talk with Travis and make things happen. Scoundrels wants to succeed in the community. It started already, now it is going all the way forward.