Tessa Wienker: Co-Founder of Elephant Gin
If ever you needed an excuse to justify that post-work G&T, Elephant Gin is it.
With 15% of profits from every sale going to support African elephants, each sip leaves you feeling good in more ways than one. My Little Black Book meets inspirational co-founder, Tessa Wienker.
Time to fill up your trunks…
My Little Black Book: Tessa, you’re the co-founder of Elephant Gin, an artisan gin which contributes 15% of all profits to support African elephants. Gin and elephants: it’s a novel idea! How did it come about?
Tessa Wiekner: In 2010, I went to South Africa mainly for some photography and filming, but became involved with a foundation called Space For Elephants. I was immediately drawn in by the people I met, grew passionate about the work they were doing – and since then was determined to find a way to aid elephant conservation further.
Back in London, I wouldn’t stop talking about my love for and need to protect African elephants. My friend and co-founder Robin Gerlach had a similar passion, but in his case he wouldn’t stop talking about gin distillation. While an odd combination, we merged the two passions into one product and that is ultimately how Elephant Gin evolved!
We were inspired by the pioneering spirit of 19th century explorers and the botanical discoveries they made, so really Elephant Gin is produced for adventurers and travellers of today.
We are really proud of the end result: an artisan London Dry Gin of 45% alcoholic volume which is uniquely committed to conserving the land which inspired us in the first place.The company contributes 15% of all profits to Space For Elephants and Big Life Foundation to support the preservation of the African wildlife and help ensure future generations will be able to explore these beautiful landscapes.
MyLBB: Tell us about the gin itself. What sets it apart from the other products on the market?
TW: A striking difference between Elephant Gin and other gins on the market at the moment is the ingredients and the distinct flavour profile.
We spent a lot of time selecting and sourcing fourteen rare botanicals from the length and breadth of Africa, to make sure that the gin itself reflects the African heritage behind it: for example the savannah’s “superfruit” Baobab, the Buchu plant which has a flavour similar to blackcurrant, and African Wormwood introducing a sharp floral note.
The gin’s distinct nose first yields a subtle juniper aroma, with an undertone of mountain pine and other herbaceous notes. The taste is complex but strikingly smooth, encompassing floral, fruity and spicy flavours which can be enjoyed both straight and in a cocktail.
The custom-made bottles and hand-written labels help Elephant Gin stand out physically. Elephant Gin’s values and inspiration are portrayed in the packaging; each batch is named after past great tuskers or elephants that Elephant Gin’s partners currently help to protect.
Of course, an exceptionally unique characteristic is that with every sip, you are helping to conserve a magnificent, endangered animal. As we say on our website, there is no better excuse to drink than drinking for a cause!
MyLBB: Getting into the drinks sector is notoriously difficult, especially with so many dominant brands in the market. How did you manage it?
TW: I think it’s important to create a niche product that offers people a completely different experience. To achieve this, lots of thorough research is required.
People are interested in the fact that we use rare botanicals that have never been distilled in this way before, and that we are directly linked to conservation foundation.
Adding to that is our continuous passion in what we do. Together with Henry Palmer, who has been with Elephant Gin since the start and became the UK Director of the company, we have worked effortlessly in bringing the product out on the market.
MyLBB: What is it like being a woman in the drinks industry?
TW: Historically, the drinks industry was dominated by men running breweries and distilleries. These days, things are changing which is great to see. There are a lot of amazing women in the drinks industry whom I have met through launching Elephant Gin and I think it’s vital that younger women see other women succeeding.
MyLBB: What interests you most about your job (aside from the obligatory gin tasting, of course)?
TW: I still use my experience and knowledge in film and photography; many of the images you see on Elephant Gin’s website and in our marketing materials were shot by me. It’s really exciting to be part of the journey from initial ideas and conversations to a physical bottle you can buy from a shop.
My main interest still remains the work with the foundations and knowing that every sale will benefit a worthwhile cause.
MyLBB: You’re responsible for Elephant Gin’s brand development. How do you approach this?
TW: We established brand pillars early on so really it’s about ensuring that everything we do upholds these core values. In future, I hope to raise wider awareness and involve more people directly with conservation, such as with exclusive opportunities for Elephant Gin customers to work with our partner foundations and have their own African adventures.
MyLBB: Pairing conservation and alcohol together into a brand is a unique concept, especially as some might say the former is ethical and the latter, with its potential to be abused, unethical. Why do you think it works?
TW: I think our positioning is clear; we are an artisan product with an ethical cause at its heart.
We encourage the responsible consumption of alcohol and our gin is best savoured slowly to appreciate every nuance of flavour.
We pride ourselves on the passion and integrity that is at the heart of Elephant Gin, and we have found that in return people are appreciating the gin.
It is also important to remember that our work with the foundations and interest in helping them in their cause was the main trigger for developing the product – not the other way around.
MyLBB: Where do you see Elephant Gin in three years’ time?
TW: Having launched just a couple of months ago, Elephant Gin is already stocked in fantastic stores like Selfridges as well as a number of reputable bars around London. While Henry is focusing on tapping into the UK market, Robin has been reaching out to stockists in Germany and Scandinavia, so more people can experience our gin. In three years time, we are hoping to have introduced the gin to South Africa; a place that has given us an incredible amount of inspiration.
MyLBB: And finally, what is your favourite way to enjoy Elephant Gin?
TW: I have been going back to Mr Fogg’s in London to enjoy a special cocktail, which mixes apple, lemon, mint, a hint of elderflower and Elephant Gin!