As part of International Women’s Day at Savora we wanted to celebrate the incredible women that inspire our team. We sat down with craft spirit producer Sam Espensen to discuss her Bristol-born naturally infused spirits, how she started, and the future opportunities for women in the drinks industry.
Hey Sam! Can you tell me a little about what drew you to the booze biz?
So I grew up in an environment of entertaining and sharing hospitality with friends and family. My father’s family is Danish, and my mother’s is from Somerset – and there is a love of booze on both sides. So one of my earliest memories is of a ‘special’ bottle being brought out to toast special occasions – it was usually something homemade. I associate spirits with those special moments. And I have been making my own spirits for about 20 years now – starting with a very popular spirit in Somerset – Sloe Gin, before creating my own recipes, like our Ruby Cuby Rhubarb & Custard Vodka.
Tell me a little bit more about Espensen Spirit, what are you most proud of about your business?
Espensen Spirit produces delicious infused spirits in Bristol, inspired by nature. We have our core varieties that we make all year, then our special editions and collaborations, like our Christmas Pudding Liqueur and Chapterhouse Gin, which we created with Bristol Cathedral. Chapterhouse Gin was inspired by herbs and spices grown and used by monks like those who lived, worked, and worshipped in the Augustinian abbey which later became the Cathedral.
I am most proud of the way we run our business – both from an ethical point of view but also from the way we work with our staff and suppliers. It’s good to be one of the good guys!
I love your branding and unique packaging – what inspired you to make something different from any other booze bottles?
Thank you! I worked in alcohol marketing and design for a few years, and it is on the whole fairly regimented and classic. And there aren’t too many women owned and run spirit brands on the market. So I really wanted the branding to reflect who we are and the kinds of people we know will love our drinks.
What are you most excited for about the future of your business?
Doing more brilliant collaborations with organisations and people that inspire us. I’m also really excited about working on some new drinks recipes, as that always fires me up.
As a woman in a male-dominated industry, what more do you think can be done to promote young women getting into the drinks industry?
I think that the spirits industry is somewhat behind the beer industry, which is seeing increasing representation by women. And I am not sure how to change that – although Espensen Spirit is giving it a go!
In all seriousness, 90% of the bartenders and mixologists we work with are men, but a lot of the pub managers I know are women, so I guess encouraging more women to learn about spirits and mentor them would be a good start.
Are there any other female led businesses in the drinks sector that inspire you?
Well currently my favourite mixer company is Double Dutch – which is women owned and who are doing excellent work in that market. Then on the beer side – there are a LOT of great women owners/part owners – some of my faves being Annie at Lost & Grounded, Lara at Newton Park and Meg at Arbor Ales. Spirits wise – I don’t know any personally – hopefully that will change this year!
What do you think about Tequila? Any thoughts about making an Espensen Tequila? We have some mixers in mind that could work perfectly…
Funny you should mention that but Tequila is on my wish list to make. However, in the meantime, I’m wondering if I’ll get into trouble if I pair Savora with Espensen Spirit…
Thank you to Sam for answering our questions and talking us through the details of her business. Be sure to check out @Espensenspirit on Instagram or online at www.espensenspirit.com. We’ll be definitely giving Espensen Spirit and Savora a taste!