Since gin reinvented itself as a fashionable spirit, the consumer appetite for unique, craft-focused drinks has seen the emergence of the craft gin movement.
Putting provenance at the heart of its brand is award-winning Sippin Drinks, a Jersey distillery that launched in 2018. The company has a simple ethos: crafting perfectly balanced drinks with a focus on using local produce. And its this celebration of local ingredients that sets this Jersey drinks company apart, its owners believe.
‘The gin market was booming, however, there was a lack of flavoured gins produced locally, and nothing that took local products from our beautiful island and explored the flavours they create. Sippin was the first on the island to take a classical product, put a modern twist on it with a real focus on flavour,’ said Paul Dufty, who with wife Tara Dufty, and chef Dany Lancaster, created the company.
The team behind Sippin Gin
Paul, a born and bred Jersey man, worked in hospitality across the world before returning the island in 2010 with Tara to take over Suma’s, a family-owned restaurant. Tara is from Toronto, where she spent her university years working in top restaurants, mentoring under classical French chefs.
Executive head chef at Suma’s since 2016, Dany’s CV includes some of the best Michelin star restaurants in the UK and he’s worked for leading chefs Gordon Ramsey, Jason Atherton and Nigel Howarth. Dany moved to Jersey in 2011, working at Bohemia and The Atlantic Hotel before joining Sumas.
Creating the product
Inspired by the popularity of gin, Suma’s decided to host a pairing evening. Dany created a batch of rhubarb gin specially for the event.
‘The feedback was so well received, we decided to bring it to market, creating our new business venture,’ said Dany.
Sippin Rhubarb Gin was born, the company’s first product, which uses rhubarb sourced from Longueville Manor Garden.
‘Gin is a product that has no boundaries. Core botanicals need to be used in the distillation process to create gin but after that you can really invent and add layers of flavours to create individual styles of gin. This can be done by a blending process or by adding local ingredients to the botanicals in the still,’ Dany explained.
‘We wanted to use local produce if we possibly could. Rhubarb has a nice long season, usually from April to September, so this ensures we have a lot of time during the year to pick and produce. Not only does it bring a beautiful pink colour to the gin but, as it is a vegetable, it is not naturally sweet, which lends itself to making a good quality gin.’
Sippin Rhubarb Gin proved a hit, winning awards from International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) 2019.
Growing a company during lockdown
In June 2020, Sippin launched a trio of premixed cocktails. The products had been in production prior to lockdown, but the pandemic’s devastating impact on hospitality provided the impetus to get them on the market. They are now on sale at Marks and Spencer, Lovewine.je, Randalls, and valleyfoods.je.
‘The lockdown had a profound effect on the hospitality industry, and we saw a knock on effect on the sales of gin in our local restaurants and bars. However, we used the time to add another dimension to the business and focus on bringing our ready-to-drink cocktails out,’ said Tara.
‘Customers are spending more time at home and now can enjoying a bartender service in the comfort of their own house. The cocktails are also proving popular with local businesses who are reducing number of bar staff behind the bar – having a ready-to-serve cocktail allows them to offer the same service under the restricted circumstances.’
The future of Sippin Drinks
Even prior to lockdown, local produce and products were enjoying growing interest from increasingly conscientious consumers. The pandemic, however, saw a love of buying local intensify, and it’s a shift in mindset that Tara hopes will continue to thrive out of lockdown.
‘Many islanders are passionate about supporting locally but the pandemic really showed the support our community has for the local businesses. Our Island has rallied around everyone from distributers to our fisherman and we hope this will only become stronger as the years go on,’ she said.
‘We have really passionate businesses in our community and hopefully with the support of our government, they will help us all continue to grow and create great products and produce for islanders to enjoy.’
As far as Sippin Drinks is concerned, the craft gin and pre-mixed drinks markets are ripe with potential, as is the drinks market beyond Jersey.
‘We are also looking expand our product range in the future with lots of ideas in the pipeline.’