How far back can you trace your family history?
To be honest, I haven’t ever really sat down and checked how far back you can actually go with our family story. My grandfather teased me when I was very young that we could trace our ancestry back to the Queen of Sheba and I did fall for it at the time!
I know there was a chap called Wido St Maur in the early Middle Ages who set up shop near Monmouth. St Maur was the family name until it was corrupted to Seymour. Ours was originally a Norman French family so there are probably one or two who rode with William the Conqueror. There are many branches you could look into, as with all families.
My great grandmother was the daughter of the 1st Duke of Westminster, for example, and my grandmother, the current Dowager Lady Hertford, is the daughter of a Belgium Prince, Alphonse de Chimay.
On perhaps a sad but topical note, my great aunt was a Lady of the Bedchamber during the early years of our late Queen’s reign, and I know they were close. Whilst my father is the 9th Marquess of Hertford, and one day, hopefully in many years yet, I will inherit the title, the senior branch of the Seymour family sits with a cousin, the Duke of Somerset.
Family fortunes didn’t really hit the big time until Jane Seymour married Henry VIII. But ever since then, you could throw a rock into pretty much any page of English history and “Seymour” would probably jump out. Now I have two sons, I’ll probably need to look it all up so I can explain it to them.
How does it feel to be related to Henry VIII's favourite wife, Jane Seymour?
Having a family history like mine to point to is hugely inspiring and motivating. It means you are reminded that a life lived will inevitably one day be measured by what you make of it, by how you are remembered, and what you hand on. And by that I don’t mean in the material sense. I want mine to be a life lived well and, to bring us back on topic, St Maur is definitely part of the play there.
Regarding Jane Seymour, although she is famous for being Henry’s favourite, and the mother of his son, I suspect hers was a rather tragic life. She never got to see her child grow up.
Do you have any "favourite" ancestors and if so, why?
My ancestors cover the full gamut, and there is a real mixed bag to choose from, from some firmly in the rogues’ gallery, to others who made great contributions to their communities, country, and their times. It would be difficult to choose a favourite.
I do have soft spot for Francis Seymour, the 5th Marquess, though, who introduced the red legged partridge to Great Britain, and in doing so gave St Maur our partridge mascot “Percy” who appears on our bottles.
You turned St Maur Liqueur into a full-time business at the beginning of lockdown. What was that like?
We didn’t choose to launch St Maur at the beginning of lockdown, that was just what was going on at the time, so from a business point of view it was just something we had to adapt to.
We have a mantra at Drink St Maur, which I think comes from Eleanor Roosevelt, which is to make the best of what you have, when you have it, where you are. It’s a can-do attitude that really resonates with us.
We had already taken the decision to set about stepping out as entrepreneurs to build a family business and brand. We were going to do that. We were fortunate that we were a new business at that time. It was a time of rapid evolution in the market and in consumer behaviour, and you have to be agile to address those things. But we did not have an enshrined business culture or a big overhead, or a machine to feed, so we could make our decisions fast and act on them. That gave us great freedom to operate.
What do you enjoy most about mixology?
For me, mixing a great cocktail is less about the show and any razzamatazz, and most of all about the sensuality of the product. That’s the basis on which we created St Maur itself.
We balanced St Maur like a good cocktail, with a base spirit, sweet and sour elements, flavour, look, and feel, so that it works on the lips, as a drink to enjoy on its own and as a hero cocktail ingredient, as well as through an evocative story that comes with it.
The same applies for me to mixology in general. What I most enjoy about mixology is the human reaction, when the end result is placed in front of the person I’ve made the drink for, they put it to their lips, and they go “Wow, that’s lovely!”
Other than St Maur, what are some of your favourite cocktail ingredients, and why?
We are already working on our next products, and, I hope, those will become favourites alongside St Maur!
Winning 4 industry awards within 18 months of launch is quite an achievement. How would you like the story of St Maur to evolve moving forwards?
If you are going to step up in business with a drinks company, the first rule has to be: make sure you make a great drink! That’s why in the early days we put our drink to the test by entering a few international competitions, and, reassuringly, why we have achieved the international awards and accolades we have with St Maur.
St Maur started as a drink my wife Kelsey and I produced as a celebration drink for our guests at our wedding. It has always therefore been a drink that was “made for moments”, and that’s how I would like to see it evolve in popularity, as a drink for our consumer to love, share, and enjoy, wherever they are in the world, and whatever the moment is for them.
Then we have imbued St Maur with a sense of place. Look on our bottles and our logo and you will see map coordinates that will take you to a grove of wild elders, in a woodland that passed to me directly from my grandfather, in a landscape that has been in my family for six hundred years, that sits beside a carriage way laid out by Capability Brown, in Warwickshire, in the bucolic heart of England.
There are the trees from which we pick the elderflowers that give our drink its evocative flavour. In St Maur we make a little drop of England’s heart, and it is my ambition to see St Maur shared, enjoyed, and loved on a world stage.