We were really lucky to get the chance to Interview Liz Baker, from Wilkin & Sons, famous for their jam and now creating some gorgeous gin liqueurs.
Hi Liz, can you just explain who you are and what your role is at Wilkin & Sons?
Hi, I’m Liz and I’m the first Marketing Manager that Wilkin & Sons have ever had, since 1885! That’s a true story, although marketing has been part of people's roles throughout the 132 years, we are a very traditional company and our products have previously not needed too much explanation as we are lucky enough to export to over 60 countries. Now that we have launched new products into new categories including fruit juice, chocolate spread, and fruit gin liqueurs, these need more explanations and inspiration for how to serve. For instance, our fruit gin liqueurs have some great stories.
Also, before we go any further, what's the difference between Wilkin & Sons and Tiptree?
Good question! Wilkin & Sons Ltd is our company name, and Tiptree is our brand name. Tiptree is also the location where we are based in sunny Essex. We answer to both. Many people know us as different formats of the name e.g. Wilkins, Tiptree jam etc, but most will usually recognise us when they see our iconic brand oval.
What's the story behind Wilkin & Sons?
The Wilkin family have been farming at Tiptree, Essex, since 1757, and making quality preserves since 1885. We grow a wide range of traditional English fruits and use them to make conserves and condiments in our nut-free factory by the farm. We received our first Royal Warrant from George V in 1911, and remain Royal Warrant holders as purveyors of Tiptree Products to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Every member of staff is part of our Employee Benefit Trust, giving each a keen interest in the future of the business.
Our farm is LEAF Marque accredited (Linking Environment And Farming), recognising that we work sympathetically with our environment and encourage links with our local community. Fruit crops include strawberries, raspberries, mulberries, Morello cherries, rhubarb, damson, Victoria plum, greengage, quince and the curious medlar. Where we cannot grow our own crops, we buy the best quality fruit from trusted sources, such as Seville for our marmalade oranges. Our signature fruit is the Little Scarlet strawberry, a tiny wild variety, that is very difficult to grow and to harvest. We believe that we are unique in the world in growing this remarkable crop, but it is worth it for the depth of flavour that it provides.
Our products are made to cherished recipes and are free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. We inspect and prepare our fruit by hand then cook in small batches using traditional, copper-bottomed pans. As well as our jam factory, we also have an artisan bakery and a steamed pudding factory. We supply an extensive range of conserves, marmalades, honeys, sauces, condiments, fresh fruit, teas, cakes, biscuits, gift packs and even Christmas puddings. Our products can be found in over sixty countries across the world, and are available in fine retailers, premium hotels and quality airlines.
More recently, we have expanded our portfolio to offer natural English Fruit Juices and Fruit Gin Liqueurs, all made using produce from our farm; and also Chocolate Spread, Salted Caramel Spread and Banoffee Spread, using Belgian Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt from nearby Maldon. In each case, we have worked closely with local, like-minded businesses to craft top quality items for new markets.
We have a growing estate of quintessentially English Tea Rooms throughout Essex and are introducing more relaxed style Cafes. At our home in Tiptree, we also have a Museum of Jam-Making, a Gift Shop, and countryside walks around our farm. Our on-line service will deliver a jar of Tiptree jam direct to your door, and can offer a personalised label service for weddings and other special events
How and why did you start making gin?
It’s a funny story, as we initially looked into making a gin flavoured jam, but we then realised that it would be much better to reverse it, and to use the fruits that we grow on our farm at Tiptree, and to add these to gin. Here at Tiptree, we grow all of the fruit that we can, and are always looking at innovative ways to use this fruit. We thought that it would be a great time to make fruit gin liqueurs, as gin has had somewhat of a renaissance.
We sent some farm grown fruit; strawberries, raspberries and damsons, to our friends at Haymans, who are local to us and who make a lovely London Dry Gin. We decided to make a small batch to see what it tasted like, and initially sold it locally through our own shop at Tiptree. We were very pleased with the results, so we decided to make a little more…
Can you tell me more about the 3 gins?
We have 3 fruity flavours; Little Scarlet Strawberry, English Raspberry and English Damson;
Tiptree Little Scarlet Strawberry Gin Liqueur offers bright, clean strawberry notes with a crisp background of juniper. Little Scarlet Strawberries are unique to the Wilkin Estates at Tiptree, Essex. These tiny, wild berries require great care whilst growing and picking, but are worth every effort.
Tiptree English Raspberry Gin Liqueur bursts with the fruitiness of proper English raspberries. Raspberries are amongst the most traditional of crops farmed at Tiptree. Each year we wait until they are perfectly plump and juicy before picking.
Tiptree English Damson Gin Liqueur offers the deep, velvet sweetness of damsons with more than a hint of almond on the finish. Every Autumn, vibrant blue damsons bring a splash of colour to the Tiptree orchards. Each damson plum is carefully hand-picked into a basket.
We pick our farm grown fruit and send it just up the road to Hayman’s Gin distillery. Hayman’s are the only family of Original English Gin makers still distilling today. They use an original family recipe of 10 trusted botanicals to make their award-winning signature London Dry Gin in their copper pot still “Marjorie”. Tiptree berries and plums are then rested with the gin to imbue their beautifully rich fruit notes.
How did the relationship with Hayman's distillery come about?
It was always a natural partnership to work with Hayman’s Gin. They are local to us and we are both family businesses with a long heritage in what we do. We initially met to discuss some gin and fruit jam ideas and our fruit gins were the result!
It has exceeded all of our expectations. The first batch was produced just before Christmas in 2015 and happened to be in the car boot of my boss Scott’s car, so we took it to a local Christmas market where it created an absolute frenzy!!
Whenever we have sampled it since, we find that people love it, finding a favourite flavour depending on their taste. The best compliments have come from people who initially say “I don’t like gin, but… I love this!” which is a real compliment!
How do you prefer to drink your gin?
Currently… and this does change, as there are so many ways to mix them…. I enjoy to sip our English Damson gin on the rocks, our Little Scarlet Strawberry gin with lots of ice and Elderflower tonic, but possibly my favourite is our English Raspberry gin splashed into Prosecco to give it a tangy fizz.
We are currently looking at a new flavour, using a fruit grown on the farm at Tiptree… its too early to say at the moment, but please follow our social media for updates….
What’s the best thing about what you do?
Essentially, I get to tell stories for a living. It’s an honour to work for a company with such an authentic heritage, and to talk about genuinely great people and remarkable products that I am very proud of.
Sampling our salted caramel spread with edible spoons isn’t bad either!
Do you have any favourite gins?
I’ve sampled a fair few now, but still have a lot to try! I enjoy trying different combinations with mixers or in cocktails. Hayman’s have a wonderful range, I love to sip their London Dry Gin with tonic, as it's fresh and citrusy.
Have you ever been to a Gin Festival?
Yes, I have been to the Gin Festival in London, it was great! I went with my mum, she sampled a few fruit gins and had a great time. It was lovely to be able to sample different gins under the one roof, with expert advice.
Wilkin & Sons English Raspberry Gin Liqueur is our Gin of the Month. We have a limited number remaining, and with every bottle bought, you'll get a free jar of their original raspberry jam too!
Offers ends 31/03/2017, only available while stocks last.
The gorgeous Piùcinque is our January Gin of the Month, bursting with bright, sunny Mediterranean flavours.
January's Gin Of The Month is proudly Italian through and through.
We love Christmas, festive fun times and all things seasonal. We will admit though, that there may be the odd moment when it’s lovely to be tackling the big day with a G&T in hand!
Follow these 7 steps for the best festive #ginnightin you and your gin buddies have ever had *cheers*!