Downtime with Scottish Rugby star Ruaridh Jackson

Scottish Rugby star Ruaridh Jackson may be best known for his skills on the pitch, but turning his hand to gin-making, he and his Garden Shed Drinks Co team are taking the drinks industry by storm.

Talking about growing up in Aberdeen, his rugby highlights and dream superpowers, here’s what he had to say…

I was a football-crazy kid but my parents kept nagging me to try rugby. In Primary 4 they finally convinced me to go to Aberdeen Grammar Rugby and I fell in love with it straight away. ‘Scary Mary’ was my very first coach at Grammar – she was an absolute legend. She lived up to the name! After that I went to Robert Gordon’s College which has a big rugby scene and one thing led to another. I had absolutely no plans of being a professional rugby player because I had no idea that you could do that. Then in the car one day with my mum I got this phone call and I thought it was a hoax. It was Sean Lineen – the Glasgow head coach at the time – and he said ‘I’d like you to come down and join the cavalry and see how things go.’ I turned to my mum and was like, ‘Mum? Can I? Can I go?’

I’m sure some teachers would argue but I think I was relatively sensible at school! I passed! But everything was pretty much geared around sport. I just always wanted to be outside doing something – whether it was football, rugby, golf or cricket, I just loved training. I got signed straight from school, so I was 18 when I signed my first contract. So this is my 13th season. I’m one of the old boys now and my body is just about holding up!

I had a quality year last year. I was offered the chance to go and play for the Sevens at the Commonwealth Games. I hadn’t played Sevens since I was 19, so it was a baptism of fire. The game’s fairly changed since I last played – it was tough but epic. It was definitely one of the highlights of my career getting out to The Gold Coast in Australia. Being with all these athletes who have dedicated all their time to be part of the Games – that was a cool thing to be part of.

My ultimate highlight was kicking the winning goal for Scotland against Samoa at Pittodrie. As an Aberdonian that was pretty special. I supported the Dons as a kid, so going to the stadium to kick a ball – admittedly a different-shaped ball – and getting some points was incredible. That will live long in the memories.

Days off rugby are spent working on The Garden Shed Drinks Co. Whether it’s pushing sales or having business meetings with Ryan, Maxine and Kirstin [co-founders and creative masterminds], it’s definitely a fun industry to be in. As I got older, we’d often just go home and crack open a nice bottle of whisky or wine to unwind. I developed a passion for good quality spirits. So one night I was crashing with Ryan and Max at their place. We were chatting and Ryan had the idea, ‘I reckon we could make gin’, and we all went, ‘Yeah, yeah, any more great ideas?’ Next thing we knew we’d ordered a still off Amazon and were making gin in the back garden. The first few batches were interesting to say the least, but we got there!

One day we’d love to have a countryside distillery on a loch somewhere just outside Glasgow. We’re aiming to have a fully sustainable company, growing a bunch of botanicals, having an environmentally-friendly company. Hopefully with a few different spirits on the go.

I’d love to be able to say, ‘Right, I want to be in Barbados drinking our rum’ – then I’d click my fingers and be there instantly. That way I’d never have to put up with travel and public transport and all that nonsense. I actually used to have this dream when I was a kid that I’d start running in my garden then the next thing I knew I’d just take off and start flying. Being able to fly would be amazing too.

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