Lush Life Podcast Transcripts: How to Drink Avallen Calvados with Stephanie Jordan and Tim Etherington-Judge (#184)

Lush Life Podcast Transcripts: How to Drink Avallen Calvados with Stephanie Jordan and Tim Etherington-Judge (#184)
How to Drink Avallen with Stephanie Jordan & Tim Etherington-Judge

After years of working in the drinks industry, Stephanie Jordan and Tim Etherington-Judge wanted to produce the first planet positive spirit. They had no idea that it would be Calvados, but now it couldn’t have been anything else.  Apples were the key to it all. 

We three explore what Avallen calvados is, how it’s made and why their choice had to be Calvados.

In this episode, you’ll discover:

This episode originally aired on March 23, 2021.

You can listen to this episode here, or any of your favorite podcatchers.

Please enjoy this transcript of my interview with Stephanie and Tim. Just remember that I own the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of Lush Life podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as my right of publicity. So if you want to use any of this, please email me!

Susan: So before we get right into Calvados, Avallen, apples, bees, all that stuff, why don’t you introduce yourselves. Steph? You want to start?

Stephanie: Sure. Well, hi there Susan, my name is Stephanie Jordan. We like to call me Queen Bee or I like to call me Queen Bee. so I’m the co-founder of Avallen Spirits alongside Mr. TEJ. I have been in the drinks industry for well over 15 years. I was raised basically out of a barrel in Burgundy, France, and I am incredibly passionate about, basically, driving education, purpose, and strategy in wine and spirits.

Susan: Fabulous.

Tim: Hi, my name’s Tim. I have the craziest long surname. I’m the other co-founder of Avallen and also Stephanie’s tech support. I come from a bartending background and grew up in sunny Cornwall in the Southwest of England. I’m super passionate about sustainability and environmental protection.

So from being a teenager, I’ve strapped myself to petrol pumps and campaigned and protested towards environmental protection, so Avallen is an extension of that side of my personality as well.

Susan: Well, there’s so much more to it than that, but they can listen to your histories when I interviewed you guys separately. But there must’ve been a time when you met, you came together and you decided to create this gorgeous product. So why don’t you tell me about that?

Stephanie: We have different stories. So I’ll let Tim go first.

Tim: Every time we do interviews like this, she’s like, yeah, we met at some point stuck in a room. So me and Steph first met when we were both working at Diageo. They run this giant competition called World-Class and back in 2000 something or other, it was on a boat, I think it was 2013 and they held it on a boat in the Mediterranean.

So it did Monte Carlo, Nice, Saint Tropez, Ibiza and Barcelona. I was the Global Ambassador for Bulleit at the time and Steph was the Spanish Reserve Ambassador. Steph was chaperoning the Spanish competitor and I was running all of the competition bars. We met on that boat.

Stephanie: And said Spanish competitor, David Rios, won the whole darn thing.

Tim: Yeah, and that’s how we met and we became friends. We ended up working on the same team. So, Steph joined the Global Ambassador team as the Tanqueray Ambassador, the first female, the only Global female Tanqueray Ambassador in history, and then the friendship was born from there.

Susan: How did you all come together and decide that you wanted to create Avallen or even go into Calvados?

Stephanie: I suppose it actually happened in a really kind of serendipitous way. We both left Diageo around about the same time for different reasons personally, but ultimately that kind of consistency around our values and wanting to be a little bit truer to ourselves and step into careers and lives that truly did reflect what we need to be true in our hearts.

Which is a lot of what we’ll talk about with Avallen, which is this planet positivity, and it is giving back more than we take and proving this concept – that there’s such a thing as positive profit. Basically we were both out for about a year. Yeah. Tim set up Healthy Hospo which some of you will know about. It’s a happier, healthier hospitality industry, a platform dedicated to the wellness of bartenders tenders, etc.

I was doing some consultancy with Drinking Out Loud and I actually think Tim missed a flight  and ended up spending a night over ours in Amsterdam. We were sitting around a kitchen table, as you do, chewing the fat and the idea was born. I was pretty determined that I wanted to create my own spirits brand.

Tim had some ideas brewing for a while and I don’t mean to quote him. He said, if I was to do with anyone, you would be the only person I would ever do it with. We put together our life savings. Tim has 10 more years of life to me and we had this whole entire gigantic minuscule pot together.

And we said let me see, is that even feasible? Is that anything at all? The starting point was we were going to do something that would prove that you can do things in harmony with mother nature. You can enjoy delicious, amazing drinks, without giving the planet a hangover. So that was the starting point, before we even got to Calvados.

Susan: See? With missed flights, you never know what’s going to happen, right? Something gorgeous can come out of a missed flight. So we’re here to talk about drinking, not only Avallen, but Calvados. We’ll get to how you decided to embark in making it a new Calvados. But what did you know of Calvados before? Had it been part of your lives? Where did you even encounter it for the first time?

Tim: I’ve been a big fan of Calvados for a while. Growing up in Cornwall, you grow up around apples. Around here, there’s a lot of apple orchards, a lot of local cider. Now, we’ve got two apple trees and a pear tree in the garden. You’re constantly surrounded by that.

I knew from my bartending days, as well  of this fabulous Apple Brandy from France. It’s one of the three great brandies from France, Cognac and Armagnac, but it’s the only one that’s not made from grapes. Also Cornwall has very strong connections with Normandy which is where Calvados is made.

It’s quite funny to me. It’s a shared historical language, which is actually where the name Avallen came from. It means apple tree in both old Cornish and old Breton. Breton is the language of Normandy or the historical language of Normandy and Brittany and the shared languages of Cornish and Breton are almost identical. The distillery where Avallen is made is about 40 kilometers from Mont St. Michel, which is the big tourist attraction. Where I grew up in Cornwall is about 10 kilometers from St. Michael’s Mount, which is the English version of Mont St. Michel. It’s exactly the same kind of a monastery on a rock out at sea that you have to get to by a causeway.

Stephanie: Yes. It’s not as famous.

Tim: But we still have a proper causeway. We didn’t build a road.  It was still very traditional and…

Stephanie: Do you get 4 million visitors a year?

Susan: Okay. Wait, wait, wait.

Tim: So I digress. I’d known about Calvados for a long time and I’d been a big fan of it, but we didn’t set out to make a Calvados. It was a category that we knew of. We’d have a lot of friends that have gone out and made brands in categories that they love.

They’ve said to themselves; I love rums. I’m going to go out and make a rum, or I love tequila. So I’m going to go out and make a tequila. We came at it from a very different angle as Steph already alluded to. It was that goal to create the world’s most planet positive spirits brand and show that you can make a successful brand that turns a profit and does good for the planet at the same time.

That was the goal for what we wanted to do. We had no idea whether we were going to make a Calvados and it was through a lot of research that we did that we ended up at Calvados.

Susan: Now, Steph, what was your relationship with Calvados? Because you’re from France.

Stephanie: We have a bit of a mishmash. I mean, my dad’s Colombian, my mom’s British, we were raised in France, in Burgundy wine land. My parents have always been in the drink trade, so there’s been all forms of booze kicking about the house from my youngest age.

I used to tell my friends that my parents drank gold because they had little minis of Goldschläger in the freezer, which, if no one knew, is huge in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s this aniseed spirit that had bits of gold-leaf floating in it.

Susan: Of course.

Tim: My dad loves that Goldschläger!

Stephanie: I know. It’s retro – a parent’s things. My parents drink gold, not that any of us did. So obviously exposed to a lot of Calvados. Growing up in a rural agricultural winemaking setting in France, you were exposed to Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados and all forms of eau-de-vie.

And actually interestingly enough, Calvados is specific to the region of Normandy and the geographical region that defines that production, but you can make apple brandies or eau-de-vies elsewhere in France.

What tends to happen, and it is the original method of why the category exists. It’s just a form of preservation. The truth is what really floats my boat with Calvados, is the terroir. It is the fact that you’ve got this beautiful production process from blossom all the way to bottle, the transparency of the raw material. It is far more similar to the world of wine than it is, potentially, to the world of gin.

I remember when I started my career at Diageo, I’d already done my WSET up to level three. I joined as a grad, I was 22 and I had my first trip up to Scotland and I was asking them a bunch of questions over at the distillery. One of them was where’s the cereal from, this barley, the raw material, because that’s what I knew. What was the harvest like and what’s the land, what’s the terroir and what was the climate?

They just all looked to me like I was crazy because the story for them really began, if anything, at germination, maybe fermentation, obviously the big thing they like to talk about is the distillation and the maturation. I always felt like we were missing that starting point of what you make it from. That’s something that you find again in the world of Calvados in a way that’s just take totally mesmerizing.

Susan: Okay. For people who might not know what I’m even talking about, what is Calvados? Maybe you can talk me through literally what it’s made of and how it’s made.

Stephanie: I’ll give a headline and then Tim can go into specifics. Calvados is French apple brandy. Brandy is a spirit made from a fruit. This is a spirit made from a fruit that must be made in France and must be made in the region of Normandy. The fruit must be apples and some pears. The rule around Calvados is that everything has to take place in Calvados or the apples, the orchards, the pears must all be within Calvados.

There are very specific rules about when you harvest, how you harvest, pressing of the juice, fermenting of the juices into ciders, how you distill. You can use column stills or pot stills, but the big rule is that it must be aged for a minimum of two years in French Oak barrels. So it is a French apple brandy aged for a minimum of two years in French Oak barrels. That is what Calvados is.

Susan: So even in Cornwall which has its own Mont St. Michel, that’s not Calvados!

Tim: The easiest way to think about it is like brandy and cognac. So you can make apple brandy from apples, anywhere in the world, but you can only make Calvados in Normandy. You can make brandy from grapes anywhere in the world. You can only make cognac from the Cognac region or like tequila and mezcal in Mexico. It’s a similar, very specific regulated type of apple brandy.

Susan: Now, when you were starting to think about making Calvados, who was drinking it, did it have a reputation?

Tim: Calvados is generally drunk at Christmas. So a lot of people have it at Christmas and then a lot of older people drink it as a digestif after dinner.  Or in France, quite often between courses, you’ll have a little nip between courses.

We also found that bartenders actually really love it. When we started to talk to bartenders about Calvados, Everyone was just like, we love Calvados. People like Erik Lorinz and Declan McGurk, Ago from The Connaught, all of these bartenders just adore Calvados. Because of the way the category had been in decline, these brands that were resting on their tradition and the old way of doing things, they hadn’t engaged with this new cocktail revolution and these top end bars.

The spirit got forgotten a little bit. When we’d taste it, we’re like, who doesn’t love apples, so delicious!

Susan: Was it like, oh my goodness, of course we have to do Calvados, once you did your research on your spirits?

Stephanie: Yes, but also, oh my goodness, wait, what, why is no one done this? Are we mad? We ended up in Normandy. We tried so many things. We started talking to some of the top guys in the trade, but also to friends and family and everyone was like, it’s amazing. We love it. Why don’t you drink it? Oh, I don’t know.

Okay. Then there’s no big global spirits group invested in the category and no innovation for a bazillion years. All the liquids are quite heavy and brandy-esque and really, really aged and going towards Christmas cake, but actually shouldn’t it be fresh and vibrant and zesty and tastes of apples?

So very quickly, we kind of unpicked it and there was just this absolutely huge hole for some form of innovation just staring at us in the face. When something’s that obvious, you’ve got to ask yourself, surely we’re not the first people to spot there’s opportunity.

Tim: I think we were the first people to look at it in the way that we looked at it. We had set out in this mission to create this purposeful brand –  the world’s most planet positive spirits brand. The research that we did into raw materials….we said, all right, if we’re going to start a brand that’s going to have the sustainability credentials and be better than anything else on the market, we have to go right back to the very start and this goes back to Steph’s love of terroir and the agriculture.

We can go back to the raw materials and we’re going to start our questioning at the raw materials. So we looked at all of the raw materials that are used to make alcohol. So grains sugar cane, agaves, grapes, then we assessed them on four separate metrics related to climate change, biodiversity loss, water usage, and pesticide and fertilizer use.

Through this bit of research, apples came out on top, hands down. We scored each one out of 20. So I think sugar cane scored four out of 20 and apples got 80 out of  20. We have to go with apples if we’re going to be true to this goal that we want to have, in this mission that we’re going to set ourselves on.

That’s what really led us through the journey of Normandy and Calvados. Then what we found is what Calvados has that maybe some other categories are missing is this love of both the agricultural side of the production and also the industrial side, so Calvados very much starts in the orchards and the orchards are such an important part of the process. Whereas maybe with Scotch, you don’t really talk about the fields of barley and all of the intricacies.

Stephanie: They’re starting to a lot of field to faint. There is an evolution. You’ve got Jura that are doing some great things as well, but definitely 10, 15 years ago. No, I think interestingly, if you look into what’s been really booming recently, i.e. in the world of gin. Yes. There’s all the spirit around the botanicals, but really the origin of that botanical becomes the story versus the base spirit that you’re drinking and 9 times out of 10, you’re drinking grain. Then when you sit and you are in a bar and you’re looking up at the shelves of all these beautiful, sparkly bottles, you come to realize that there’s just a total lack of biodiversity.

We have been drinking monocrops for the past 50 years and industrialized at high scale and of which 90% of that backbar, by the way, belongs to a global group. So this concept of independent craft spirit brands, everything’s branded to look indie and cool and independent, but you are just feeding huge conglomerates and stock exchange level businesses.

I think we feel really, really passionate about actually investing in a small rural region. Calvados has up, until recently, been in decline. The category has not seen booming sales all around the world, because they just haven’t known how to market this stuff.

Susan: Saying that it’s not as if you can move to Normandy, grow your own apples, that would take a long time to have your own orchard. How was it to go into an area that doesn’t see new people?

Tim: Yeah, thank God, Stephanie not only speaks French, Stephanie has this wonderful ability of speaking multiple languages, but she speaks with the accents in each individual language which is a real talent. So when she speaks French, she sounds French when she’s in England, she sounds English and when she speaks Spanish, she sounds Spanish, so mean we rocked up and Steph sounds like a local. I think that that really helped.

Susan: Did you practice your Normandy dialect?

Stephanie: Yeah. You’ve got to be people of the land. Tim has been a fervant vegan for 20 years. Thank god he has; he balances out some of our carbon footprints. Rocking up with a vegan into Normandy, we couldn’t get the man food. A man who won’t eat eggs or cheese, they were very confused.

Susan: You ate a lot of apples?

Tim: We had a hilarious time. We drove down – I called the hotel cause we were running a bit late last fall. It was the French charging network, so we arrived at the hotel and they’d put the food in the room and Steph got to her room. She had breads and cheese and I got there and there was a plate and what they’d done is they’d grated some carrots and they’d cut up some cabbage and cling filmed it down to a plate. It was like, you’ve literally made me a plate of coleslaw, but without the mayonnaise. They thought that was my main meal.

Stephanie: I got a card with my name “Stephanie Jordan “and Tim got “Tim Judge  – Vegan” in brackets.

Susan: I love it. At least you got to a distillery. They called the hotel. So I knew you, you now you’re working with the distillery, but to back up just a little, was it difficult to find someone to work with?

Tim: We lucky.

Stephanie: I think this is where we feel that everything for us is kind of connected and just magically found its way to fit together. No, it should have been really, really hard. We found the right person, he’s third generation, private distillery, the third biggest one actually in Calvados. He owns his own orchards in part, and actually makes his own cider, so complete and utter traceability. We actually met his father before we met him just one of those fusional instant, this is it relationships, without that, that none of this would’ve been possible.

Susan: So he saw your vision?

Tim: 100% Yeah. Pierre is one of the younger guys out of Calvados. I think he may be the youngest owner of a large, cavernous distillery. He doesn’t come from a traditional Calvados background. He came from banking and was working in Mergers and Acquisitions and then came back to take over his father’s business.

So I think it was partly also a case of two young people turning up going, “Hey, we want to make Calvados the next hot thing” and him just going,” Oh my God, some young people that know what they’re doing, please be my friend.”

Stephanie: That’s what happened.

Tim: You can say that we manifested this story through doing good stuff or you could say it was luck, but meeting Pierre was a major part of our journey towards Avallen. We’d met a few other people; we’d had conversations with some other distilleries and it never quite felt right. They were always trying to push what they thought Calvados was onto us, rather than taking on what we wanted Avallen to be.

They were always like, this is what Calvados is, it always has sugar in it, it always has some caramel and that’s what you’re going to have. There’s no discussion about taking the sugar out and doing a Calvados that has no sugar, no caramel, no boise. We don’t do that. Whereas Pierre was is like, “I’ll do whatever you want. I can make it,” which was very refreshing compared to some of the other producers we spoke to.

Susan: I know you have these rules to make Calvados, but I assume that the end product tastes different or you wouldn’t have different Calvados. How long, or what was the process to make the Calvados that you liked.

Tim: It didn’t take that long at all, actually. We met with Pierre and we told him what we wanted. We were very keen on a young Calvados. Despite all the Calvados on the market, the entry into the category has got older and older and older. It’s gone from Fine to VS then to VSOP partly as a response to declining volumes and aging stocks in the warehouses.

All of the people that we spoke to, all the Calvados experts say Calvados is best at a young age. It ages quite a lot in the barrel and changes rapidly. It goes from being this fresh vibrant and floral apple flavor through to a much more dry fruit and spicy flavor. Really old Calvados can taste like aged rums, heavily aged rums.

We wanted something that was young, fresh, vibrant and without the sugar, without caramel, without boise, so a completely natural product. It didn’t take us long to be honest, working with Pierre, to get to a product that we were really, really happy with. We were moving with pace. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who have gone, Oh yeah, we spent two years perfecting the recipe for this. What were you doing wasting two years when you could be building a brand, starting a new product. so we moved with pace. We tasted a lot of different distillates, but I guess it took us less than maybe a month to come up with a Calvados we were really, really happy with.

Stephanie: I think that goes back to also clarity of vision, right? If you know what you want and I love that Tim said manifest, right? It’s just a matter of making that thing manifest in real life. We were just both so in tune and so on the same page of what we were going after. Again  I don’t want to make it sound easy, cause it’s not.

Actually getting to launch was the easiest part, Since then, selling and growing the business is the much harder part. But everything, just serendipity, destiny has a way of doing things

Susan: What was your vision for your Calvados? What was the idea that you had when you went in of how people would consume it?

Stephanie: That I would say is something we knew, implicitly. Given both our backgrounds, we knew the power of perfect serves. We understood that we needed a really simple way for people to drink to this with a mixer and a garnish. Actually as much as we love the on-trade and bartenders and want to actively work with them, for us, this was about finding our way into people’s home bars and becoming a staple.

For that, it was very much the gin and tonic vision. We know why gin has boomed. It isn’t just about gin and juniper. It is so much more about mixability, experimentation, personalization, but it goes down to a simple thing – no more than two ingredients, ice and a garnish. Avallen Calvados drunk with a tonic, ice, and a slice of apple is the simplest most delicious, refreshing thing and launching in a market like the UK, we knew that people would be ready for that kind of serve. Right. Tim.

Tim: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Susan: Were you thinking always, I want this to go with tonic?

Stephanie: It had to be a long mix, refreshing. I think that the tonic piece, it just, it works well and it’s easy to understand. People understand “and tonic,” right? So, but ginger ale, some people prefer it a little spicier. It brings a bit more of autumnal flavors into the drink. Apple juice is fantastic as well. Bitter Lemon works and, the point being, it’s just about mixability.

Tim: That’s my preference. Yeah. I mean, that’s also with tonic. It is how it’s drunk quite often in Normandy as well. So it does go back to the local roots. A lot of Normans will drink, when they drink Calvados, which is surprisingly not as often as you would imagine. It can be quite hard to find Calvados in bars and restaurants and normally but when they do drink it, it’s quite often with tonic.

Yeah. It’s mad. When you go to Scotland, if you go to a local bar and in say, Dufftown, you can literally only get Scotch. Yeah. If you walk into a bar in Normandy, just around the corner from the distillery and you’re like, excuse me, can we have some Calvados? They’re like, I think we have some?

Stephanie: And that’s a real shame. The Normandy people apparently are very different to the Brittany people. The Brittany people built ships and explored and came back and were full of pride and confidence almost that regionalism and the Normandy folk are just much more rural and more inward and more inland for a long time.

The region was held as the larder of Paris. They had all the cows, the camembert, the cheeses, the creams, the butters, and cider was the drink of peasants. They were just really contained in that energy and it’s continues to be that way. I mean, the AOC of Calvados is actively trying to work with the Normandy region and the department to try and get some more of that local pride. It’s the second most visited place in France after Paris, there’s huge opportunities. They’re not going for the low-hanging fruit. So we are here to try and help because it deserves a little bit more recognition.

Susan: And going on from that about breathing some new life into this. I’d really love to talk about how you brought sustainability to your company and how that manifested itself.

Tim: Sure. Right from the start, we set out to create a brand that was true to ourselves after those years of working at Diageo and living those luxury lives. We weren’t true to our hearts. So creating a brand that was extremely sustainable, but also came from the land and spoke of terroir and nature was really me and Steph being very true to ourselves.

That sustainability element was super important as someone that gave up eating meat at the age of 21 and has campaigned against environmental destruction most of my life. It was really important to me that we set a new benchmark for sustainability within the drinks industry and the whole journey of that really starts in the orchards.

If you look at almost all raw materials that are used to make alcohol, they are all grown in a monocrop. This modern, agricultural technique where you take a vast area of land and grow a single crop in it, whether that be corn to make your bourbon or rye and barley and wheat for Scotch, sugar cane for rums, increasingly agaves as well. They’re cutting down natural forests to grow agave fields.

It’s having a huge environmental destruction. Monocrops have the biggest impact on loss of biodiversity of anything along with beef farming. So for us, it was really important that we had raw material that wasn’t a monocrop, that wasn’t responsible for enormous biodiversity loss.

So looking at the very traditional orchards of Normandy, they are what you imagine a very traditional European orchard to be. They’re small, contain maybe 10 different varieties of trees. One of the rules of Calvados is you’re not allowed to plant the same species of tree right next to each other in a row. So you’ll have 10 different types or species of apple tree in an orchard. Quite often, you’ll have pears in there as well. A nice natural defense is that they will plant pear trees around the outside of the apple trees, because the pear trees grow taller and the roots grow deeper.

They act as a natural wall to protect the apples inside. Then you’ll have a hedgerow around the outside, which obviously brings great biodiversity. The trees are planted five meters apart, and then you have grass in between, but a meadow habitat as well. So you’ve got this really rich mosaic habitat of three habitats coming into one.

I’ve been to the cornfields in America when I worked on Bulleit and you can get out of the car and look at the 360 degrees and all you can see is corn, nothing but corn, like no other plants, no animals, nothing but corn and the road.

It was great to have these very traditional old fashioned orchards that were such a beautiful space for biodiversity. Then we started off from the agricultural side of being in a great place, then in the region that has been pesticide free since 2016.

There’s no artificial irrigation in the orchards. They rely on natural rainfall. Water is the most commonly used ingredient in producing alcohol. So that was really great as well. That there’s a very low water usage when it comes to making Calvados.

Then from the production side, you literally take the apples from the orchard to the cidery or the distillery. It’s one of the few distilleries that has orchards, cidery, distillery, maturation, and bottling plant, all on-site. All you do is you press the apples and you get juice out and then you can ferment the juice, there’s no need to malt.

You don’t have to malt it. You don’t have to add extra anything. There’s no cooking of anything. There’s just nothing, you just juice the apples and that’s it and there’s even wild fermentation, there’s not even any yeast added. We rely on the natural yeast on the skins of the apples and also in the air for the fermentation.

So every single step of the process of Calvados is a step ahead of the game when it comes to sustainability and extremely low energy use in converting from apples into the cider. Extremely low water usage, great agricultural products. Yeah, it was just a win-win all around really. Then once we got the liquid, then the rest of it was fairly easy – super lightweight bottle, labels are made from a waste apple pulp, and also recycled wood fibers. We don’t use any toxic chemicals on our label.

So quite often you’ll see bottles that have those metallic foils and you’ll see lots of spirits bottles and they really stand out on the shelf and they give a real pop and look amazing. But those inks, those dyes use quite toxic chemicals to make. We use completely natural inks and dyes, our cork and our stopper are undyed and unvarnished natural cork, which helps protect the rich biodiversity of the cork forests in Portugal. We don’t use a plastic tamper-proof seal; we use a paper one. On our boxes, our shippers, we only use a single monochrome print which reduces in process.

We don’t use bleached cardboard. So every step we have always asked ourselves, the question – is this the most sustainable decision we can make at the price point? And that goes through everything from who we bank with, to what cars we hire to, what our business cards are made, from every single aspect of the business  and we try and incorporate that sustainability question.

Susan: Steph, can tell me about your relationship with bees because you are the Queen Bee of Avallen. Why did you decide that each bottle a percentage of it would go to bee conservation. Where did that link come in?

Stephanie: So I think again, looking back at this production process and biodiversity, ultimately all of this wonderful world of apples and Calvados highly depends on wild bees doing their thing and pollinating our blossoms. The truth be told is that wild bee species are in decline. More than just in decline, they’re under complete and utter threat of extinction.

Our very survival depends on them thriving. It depends on what you define survival to be, but if you like, eating and drinking anything but bread, then you kind of want bees to stick around. So it was just a really simple way for us to start to articulate some of our beliefs.

Bee positive for us is an attitude, it’s a philosophy by which we live at Avallen and specifically working to preserve wild bee species is a simple way to start to articulate some of the good work that we want it to do. Ultimately at the size of business that we’re at, we have to work in through organizations that are dedicated and specialized in doing this preservation work.

Hopefully as we grow, we’re going to be able to create a trust and a fund within the company itself, who knows, one day appoint a kind of Head Bee positive honcho, which I think Tim will probably take as his sole and unique role, whereby our good work goes beyond just preservation of habitat for bees, but into some more urgent Issues that there are around the environment and beyond,

There’s a thing that we’re really passionate about and we want to start talking about a lot this year, which is gender equality. There’s a lot of data that started to showcase that there is a direct correlation between closing the gender gap between men and women and educating women in poor rural regions and how we can actually start to combat global climate change.

So ultimately what we really care about from a meta perspective is to preserve the planet, so that we can all continue to live hopefully in harmony with mother nature and caring for the bees is one kind of chapter of that.

Tim: I think that’s a really important part to expand on is that piece of research and the reading that we’ve been doing around the climate crisis and how we can mitigate the worst effects of climate change, because this is not a battle of stopping climate change. Climate change is here and it’s already happening and it’s going to get a lot worse.

Our battle now is to minimize the effects of it as much as possible. The single biggest thing that we can do to help reduce global carbon emissions is the education and empowerment of women in rural and low-income areas. It has a bigger impact than driving. If we all switched to driving electric cars or turned our electricity to be renewable or went vegan.

It’s really important that if we are going to be true to a sustainability ethos of being the world’s most planet positive spirits brand, that we address that issue and we are actively working to help educate and empower women within those communities.

Susan: Well, I know, as a consumer, I want to be drinking those things that I know are helping the world. If I have to choose, I’m going to always pick that one, the world positive one so I think getting the message out there as you’ve done, is the first step. That’s why it’s great to be promoting these and drinking it.

Stephanie: I just think ultimately the attitudes are shifting we’re in the middle of a pandemic, which has caught us all off guard, this kind of trend, some of them have called it. Sustainability is here to stay and the conscientious, we’ll call them a consumer or call them a citizen.

We aren’t just here to consume. We aren’t just here on this planet to take, take, take. We are here to live in community and harmony and balance, so that conscious citizen has actually come to the foreground in a much more accelerated fashion, due to the pandemic.

So, in that, there is a positive. A lot of people have said that they would never change and they have, and I think the important thing is not to hold people accountable just for what they did in the past, but it’s really to celebrate people that are making those small proactive changes.

We believe in the power of collaboration. We believe in the small changes that we can make in our day to day. it’s easy to feel small.  We’re faced with governments and policies, but actually every single purchase you make is a vote for the planet. I think people get it with food and it’s time that trickles down into drink.

Tim: Yeah, let’s not beat around the bush here. This is the single biggest challenge and threat that our species has ever faced. No, nothing, nothing. No, there’s no world war, no coronavirus that even comes close to being the threat that global climate change is. So we have to take serious action.

It’s not about what you did yesterday and what you’ve done in your past. It’s about what you choose to do today, what you choose to do tomorrow and going forward in the future. That’s what’s going to make the difference. So choosing products, choosing brands, choosing services that are actively working to combat climate change and environmental destruction has to start. They should be the only choices now, because this is such a severe threat to our species and to all species on earth. If we don’t tackle it, the, the future looks very grim indeed.

Susan: God. I’m getting emotional. I’m sorry. When you started to talk about climate change being the worst thing that is happening to our world right now, a little bird just started to sing with you as if it was either underscoring or proclaiming how important that message is. In fact, the little bird is still singing.

Tim: It is a frightening, message to say, but it doesn’t mean that it’s all doom and gloom, because what we have now is we have the opportunity in front of us to create such a beautiful future, a future that is free from pollution, that embraces nature, that is sustainable, and stable for future generations.

We live at one with the planet. Whereas at the moment, we are at war with nature, we destroy nature for money and for personal profit and gain. Yet we have the opportunity now, and we’re beginning to take little steps towards it to build such a beautiful world for the future, that doesn’t do any damage, that thrives and embraces nature and encourages it. For me, it’s such an exciting, beautiful opportunity that we have.

Susan: It’s extremely exciting. Now, let’s talk about drinking it ,because we want to enjoy it because we’re changing the world. So someone’s got the bottle, they bought their tonic, they know the Avallen and Tonic. They’re in a Normandy castle and it’s cold out there, give me some ideas of how you could work with Avallen to create the cocktail that you want to drink.

Tim: So in the Normandy Castle and the winter, you could have a couple of options. Make a delicious Toddy, so some Avallen, a little bit of sugar, spices, hot water or probably honey actually, instead of sugar, you just get that kind of nice, mulled cider, warm cider flavor, super delicious.

Then the other way is how it’s very commonly drunk in Normandy, which is with hot coffee, called a Café-Calva, so even like an Irish coffee style you can use. It brings in some nice apple flavors or just direct with a nice coffee. What’s great about Avallen is it just brings apple flavor to things. It plays very well with other spirits. It fits very well in other drinks. There’s a good friend of ours who says that every cognac cocktail is improved by using Calvados instead of cognac.

Stephanie: You could also just drink it neat, because it is 11 and this is the morning and I’ve been sipping on it since we started talking and that wasn’t the intention as you think. there’s not that many chateaux in Normandy, it’s really more kind of the old school Tudoresque, beam farms.

Just fresh apple juice is delicious if got it at hand. If you don’t honestly, yeah, there’s all the old school ways. It depends what you’ve got available. We love sours, but, with debate where the citrus right now. Is it the most sustainable thing for us to be focusing on, especially when we’re in Europe. So whatever’s in season really tends to be a really good option.

Tim: So I remember growing up as a bartender. I love classic cocktails if you go back through lots of the old cocktail books, from the turn of the 20th century, and then maybe a bit later, there are lots of old Calvados cocktails in there.

The Pan-American clipper, that delicious sour, then Jack Rose, which was taken by the Americans, and has Apple Jack, but lots of great old cocktails I find that you can add a little bit of Avallen into these drinks and bring that little bit of apple flavor. One of my favorite drinks I had last year before getting into lockdown was a Sazerac twist with plantation pineapple and Avallen. It was just like a tropical floral appley fruity twist on a Sazerac.

Stephanie: Every Avallen Sazerac I’ve had has been absolutely bliss.

Susan: Now on the reverse side not the winter in the castle, sorry winter in the farmhouse, we’re going right to the beach. Would you just grab a six pack of tonic and a bottle of Avallen, what would you put in your thermos to take to the beach for friends?

Stephanie: I lived on a tropical Island in the middle of the Indian ocean for two and a half years of my life called Réunion. They were obsessed with Johnny Walker and they would drink Johnny Walker Red Label by just pouring it straight into a fresh coconut. Fresh coconut milk and or water ultimately and scotch is amazing actually. Doing that with Avallen is even better. It’s bright, it’s vibrant, it’s refreshing, it’s got subtle sweetness of which all of it is totally natural. I just pour Avallen into coconuts. That’s what I’m doing.

Susan: Oh my God. That sounds amazing. Now this can be Avallen related or not, but I always ask my guests for the top tips for the home bartender.

Stephanie: Now I do a tip one, and then to follow with my first tip is ice. Ice is always such a joke at home. What are you saying? Oh, it took your one.

Susan: No, no, it’s so funny. Every literally everyone I interview starts with ice. It starts with ice. I could do a whole show on ice. In fact, maybe I will.

Stephanie: Also train  whomever you live with to help make ice. Again, my partner uses up all the wonderful ice I make in my nice fancy mold, then when I come to get one, there’s nothing left. Just empty molds in the freezer.

Susan: Okay. A lot of people have said ice. Give me your exact instructions on how you make ice. Is it that it just should be fresh or is there a specific way? One at a time, first because you, because you brought it up Stephanie first, you tell me, and then Tim.

Stephanie: I am not that geeky. I think as long as I’ve got nice water and that isn’t chlorine and grossness, so filtered water at minimum, and I’ve got a freezer and a mold, then that’s quite good. Like if I don’t have a mold, I can use a big glass bowl or a cup of water and I can smash into it. But the point is I like chunky, big ice.

I’m just not a fan of buying it in plastic bags in supermarkets. so yeah, that’s, that’s my ice tip, but it’s pretty, pretty basic. Tim might have a way geekier version of it.

Susan: Okay. Tim. Remember we’re talking to the home bartender so they can’t whip out any sous vide machine or anything like that. What is your perfect way of making ice?

Tim: So my advice to the home bartender is to go to your local cocktail bar and ask them for their professional ice mix. It’s a little secret that all bars have special ice .You have to go to your bar and go to your bar and ask the manager for their special ice mix.

Susan: Are you teasing us?

Tim: When I used to be a bar manager, when we got new barbacks in who were very fresh and young, we used to send them to the local bars to get a bag of ice mix. So it was just this fun little game where we used to send people around the bars. We used to send them a fallopian tubes!

Susan: When my boyfriend comes home, when he goes to the supermarket, he comes home and he has bought a chocolate. He always says to me, yeah, Oh, they were giving the chocolate away free with whatever he bought whatever he was supposed to. I used to believe him. So I have one last question to ask you. All right that’s, if you could be anywhere drinking right now, where would that be? And what would you be drinking?

Stephanie: If I could be anywhere right now, Susan, I would be in Somerville, Boston with my little sister who I haven’t seen for over a year, drinking heaps of Avallen tonics, and giving her the biggest squeeze in the world.

Tim: Where would I like to be anywhere in the world? If I could be anywhere in the world right now, I would like to go back to my favorite country in the world which is New Zealand, this most beautiful country in the world. It doesn’t matter where you are, if you’re in Oakland

Wellington, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Nelson.

Susan: Is there a specific cocktail there that you like or a specific drink that they make?

Tim: So my very good friend Jacob Briers created a drink,  when he was the bar manager at the Matterhorn, which unfortunately no longer exists, but it was one of the great bars of New Zealand and one of the only two bars from New Zealand that ever made it into the 50 best bars. I was as a young bartender in New Zealand, it was a church to cocktails.

The whole bar was designed around my favorite house in the world, which is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water. Jacob created a drink called Falling Water, which was 42 Below Feijoa flavored vodka with sparkling water from New Zealand called Chi, which is a herbal sparkling water, and a slice of cucumber.

It was called Falling Water and it’s the most iconic New Zealand cocktail that I know of. Just brings back so many happy memories of being in New Zealand and friends and having that drink and. I don’t even like cucumber, I hate cucumber.

Stephanie: As a vegan, I don’t know how you survive.

Susan: Yeah, I know exactly. Well, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it. It was so great to know even more about Avallen, even though I know so much about it and for you to introduce Calvados and Avallen to everyone. So hopefully the next time I’ll be seeing you, we can toast together an Avallen & Tonic or one of those delicious cocktails that you told me about. So see you soon. I hope.

Stephanie: Thank you for your time. Susan, stay safe.

Tim: Thank you so much. It’s been wonderful. Again, chatting with you.

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