Photography - HIRO
Text - MINA
Photography - HIRO
Text - MINA
Co-founder & Master Distiller
Photography - HIRO
Interview - MINA
“We were walking along the path on French Beach, and that was where the idea of Seaside
Gin came to us. The Nootka rose was blossoming, and the wind was whispering around the
trees. We asked ourselves, 'How can we capture the sensation of this and put it into a gin?’”
The name Sheringham comes from the former name of Shirley, a small community on Vancouver Island. Situated along the pristine coastline overlooking the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean, Shirley is famous for the historic Sheringham Point Lighthouse established in 1912. Behind it lies the vast expanse of the Pacific Northwest rainforest. It is where the sea and mountains meet, representing a scenic panorama of abundant natural beauty. Sheringham products are crafted as if bottling each beautiful scene one by one. Their flagship and award-winning Seaside Gin captures the refreshing scent as if strolling along the beach. It is made from sustainably harvested seaweed off the coast of Vancouver Island and petals of the Nootka rose that blooms by the seaside.
Inspired by local sakura bloom, the Beacon (Kazuki) Gin boasts a fruity floral fragrance reminiscent of the cherry blossoms that bloom abundantly around the lighthouse in spring, along with the locally cultivated green tea. The scent of the forest has found its way to the newly released Raincoast Gin, which combines nettles and oakmoss, effectively capturing the evocative scent of dampened trees and soil within the Pacific Northwest rainforest, refreshed by the region’s abundant rainfall.
Jason spent years as a private chef, working with various ingredients before venturing into the distilling business. He refers to his distilled spirits as "chef-created." This background uniquely positions him to faithfully express the sights and aromas of Vancouver Island through the medium of gin production. The once-small-scale distillery stemming from Shirley has now moved to Langford with global recognition, delivering the essence of the island across Europe, North America, and Asia. Each sip of Sheringham Gin takes you on a sensory voyage as if embarking on a short trip to Vancouver Island while instilling a subtle sense of nostalgia.
Jason shared his journey of distilling and Sheringham's commitment to honoring their local heritage and distinct sense of place.
VOICE(V): How did Sheringham Distillery come about?
Jason(J): My background is culinary. I cooked professionally for 23 years before starting
distillation, with a focus on French cuisine and regional ingredients. Whatever was abundant, good quality, and seasonal, I would cook with that to make the best possible menu. Aside from cooking, I had this burning passion for distillation, and I built my first still years ago when I was living in Jordan River. So, I had probably 10 years of experience as an amateur before we opened a distillery.
My wife, Alayne, has a background in sales and marketing, and she is a brilliant businesswoman. One day, she saw a place in the market for us to make a high-quality gin and thought I could do a great job of making one. So, we decided to put our other careers aside and start the distillery business. It all started very small on our property in Shirley, where we converted our carriage house into a distillery and operated there for three years until we needed further expansion.
V: How did you study to be a distiller?
J: I did a lot of reading, and I also had a mentor, Ken Winchester, who is a pioneering BC distiller and the creator of Victoria Gin. He loves food and wine, so I would often bring him food like wild mushrooms, wild game, and duck confit so I could ask him questions, come back, and bring some more things! We had the time of our lives.
V: What was the first product you made at Sheringham Distillery?
J: Seaside Gin. We were walking along the path on French Beach, and that was where the idea of Seaside Gin came to us. The Nootka rose was blossoming, and the wind was whispering around the trees. We asked ourselves, 'How can we capture the sensation of this and put it into a gin?' We looked to the sea for seaweed (winged kelp) as a part of the aspect for ocean sensation and rose petals and lavender for the floral aspect. And of course, citrus, juniper, coriander, and cardamom to give it a bit of spice. I wanted to create a product that has a big amount of flavor, like the food that I used to create, but where all the flavors would come together to create depth and balance. Our gin, you could drink on its own. Also, it could be versatile in a simple cocktail or a complicated cocktail, and still, you can taste all the botanicals in a balanced form.
V: How long did it take to finalize the flagship Seaside Gin?
J: Alayne said we needed a gin for Christmas release, and it had to be ready in six weeks. It was a very long and hard six weeks, working under pressure with many sleepless nights! I wasn't a gin drinker at the time, so I used all the techniques as a chef and brought them to distillation. I lined up all the local and international gins and started tasting them and categorizing all their profiles as a chef does with food and flavor when creating a dish. After eight different trials, recipes, distillation methods, and ingredients, we landed on number eight - our Seaside Gin. It's been the same recipe ever since.
V: What are some of your sustainable practices at the distillery?
J: We are a certified BC Green Business, going towards carbon-neutral by the end of the summer. We will also be looking for B Corp certification soon. Our water recycling program allows us to reuse water from the condenser for many other purposes. We use renewable natural gas which is derived from the biogas of animals and plants, for boilers. We use byproducts from distillation, creating new products in a line of bitters coming soon. We try to work with local harvesters and producers whenever we can. It is important to be conscious of sustainability for future generations and the health of the planet.
V: As your business expands, what are your unwavering principles?
J: As we aim to be the world's most approachable gin, we want it to be high quality and authentic.
V: What role do you think you play in the community?
J: In the coming fall, we plan to host Happy Hour events monthly to showcase the best local chefs and restaurant's cuisines. The event will bring everyone together and give them an experience.The City of Langford has given us a warm welcome, so anything to utilize any local businesses to work with one another, and we keep what we are doing.
V: What's next for Sheringham Distillery?
J: The Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle contacted us last fall to be the official gin in their arena and for Seattle Kraken, the NHL hockey team. That helps brand recognition and expansion in the U.S. and anywhere else. Expanding to different territories and being a global brand is what's coming for Sheringham.
V: Any advice you would give to people looking to start a distillery business?
J: Work very hard, work long hours, and do whatever it takes. That is the foundation of any small business. You will have many sleepless nights and feel hopeless, but it is very rewarding if you stick to it.
V: What is the best thing about Southern Vancouver Island?
J: So many good things that would amount to one sum! The rugged coastline, the ocean, the forests, the rainfall, hiking, being close proximity to any major cities, and the abundance of quality producers on the island. We are so fortunate.
V: If you would like to change one thing in the community, what would it be?
J: One thing I would like to see change in the distillery community would be having the maximum allowable annual production for craft distilleries be increased. We passed the limit, so we have become commercial, but there is a lot of room for growth for craft distillers.
V: What is your favorite place in this region?
J: Anywhere with my friends and family is my favorite place.