Avallen Spirits - Stephanie Jordan

We chat with the co-founder breathing fresh air into Calvados.

Calvados, the traditional French Apple Brandy, has a long history, a deeply respected pedigree and can even boast a protected AOC status.

Despite this, in recent years it fell out fo sync with the modern drinker, while on an international stage it lost relevancy and became marginalised. That is, until Stephanie Jordan and her Avallen partner, Tim Etherington-Judge launched Avallen and injected the category with some much needed youth and energy.

We caught up with Stephanie to find out more about what drove her to make a new brand and more about the Avallen journey.

Before we talk Avallen, let’s just go back a little – you were the face of some of the industry's most iconic brands as an Ambassador. What did you work on? 

I hugely enjoyed my role as a Brand Ambassador in Spain for brands like Zacapa, Don Julio and Johnnie Walker culminating in 9 years at Diageo as their Global Brand Ambassador for Tanqueray. 

Talking to bars, trainings, travel all over the world - being a Brand Ambassador is an exciting job. For many, the burn out can be real too. What was the experience like for you? 

The job was as thrilling as it was tiring! None the less, it gave me the platform for an incredibility diverse and international network of industry peers, the opportunity to eat and drink all over the world, and understand the importance of education and advocacy in all parts of life. 

You founded Drinking out Loud, a consultancy to support brands and open their routes to market. It’s quite a big difference going from a Diageo scale operation to doing it yourself. What’s it been like?

Before I mention the highlights, there’s of lowlights as well! Waking away from an incredible company, a monthly salary and awesome colleagues is a hard thing to do. 

Ultimately, for me it was a question of values and true self. Today, I am my own brand, I work in what I believe in and where I use my energy, passion and drive to positive impactful change. 

Also, in theory I am my own boss, which again is good and bad, as I’m pretty strict on myself! 

As drinkers we all want to see exciting, dynamic brands everywhere but it’s such hard work and takes a lot of graft for them to cut through. What’s the one thing you wished more drinkers would do (or say) that would help craft spirits get “on shelf”? 

The reality of our industry that most drinkers don’t realise is that over 90% of all global spirits sales are dominated by global corporations. That means getting on shelf is much harder when you don’t have the huge marketing budgets to compete. 

None-the-less there is a way through thanks to E-comm, independent retail and bartenders with true criteria. The best advice I can give is ‘pour with purpose’ the same way you ‘cook with consciousness’. Knowing where you drink comes from ie. how it’s made, who makes it, what is their company ethos and when you buy, buy from independent companies (ie. Spirits Kiosk vs. Amazon). 

Appreciate the nod, conscious consumption is something we've tried to champion over there. So, you’ve launched Avallen, a pioneering new Calvados trying to bring a modern face to a traditional French classic. Why Calvados and what sparked that journey into life? 

Ultimately our journey began with a question ‘what is the most planet positive sustainable spirits brands we can make that gives back more than it takes?’ We very quickly realised that the raw material you make stuff from is the most fundamental ingredient of the supply chain when it comes to environmental impact! 

Our studies indicated that apples were by far the best base to make a planet positive spirit from, and as we all know, the best apple brandy comes from Normandy in France – Calvados! 

The traceability from blossom to bottle of Calvados, and consequently Avallen, is game changing, and the liquid simply delicious. Our mission, alongside saving bees, is to bring back biodiversity to the bar, as we have been drinking products made from monocrops (cereal, sugar cane, grapes etc) for far too long! 

It's a fascinating mission to embark on. What’s behind the name – where did that come from? 

Avallen is an old Cornish world meaning ‘Apple Tree’.  Aval, meaning Apple, and Avalon ‘Island of Apples’. Tim, my brother in arms at Avallen, is from Cornwall, a land that shares many cultural and historical connections to Normandy. 

Where is it made and how have you found working on production side of spirits? 

Avallen is made in the beautiful pesticide free region of La Manche, bordering Britany and Normandy, just 42km from ‘le Mont Saint Michelle’ at distillery Coquerel. We are made with nothing but apples, water, and time and spending more time production side is an absolute blessing. Anything that gets me closer to land and local people working in harmony with mother nature is just pure joy! 

A lot of Calvados’ perennial forgotten status have been around awareness and education outside of France. Many British and American drinkers we talk to don’t know what it is or how to drink it. How would you recommend they drink Calvados (and in particular Avallen)?  

Calvados is a long-lost category post WWII after which it was at its hight due to Germany occupation in Normandy. Up until now it has mainly been drunk traditionally, either neat as a digestive, in a ‘trou Normands’ or a ‘café calva’, none of which are ideal serves or inline with current drinking trends. 

That’s why we made Avallen fresh, vibrant and apple forward perfect for mixing with tonic, ginger ale, or apple juice. 

You talk a lot about sustainability when you talk about your spirit, with a percentage of the profits going to organisations dedicated to restoring and protecting bees. What was so important about bees and what inspired you to make that a core part of the brand? 

Since our launch on world bee day 2019 we have been actively working alongside the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust in the UK. 

We have just announced our joining 1% for the planet whereby we will continue to donate to the BBCT via this amazing organization founded by Patagonia back in 2007. In response to why are bees important, short answer is a utter survival as a species depends upon them, and we also need them to pollinate our beautiful French blossoms in delicious crisp apples! 

How much have you been able to raise and donate so far and what does it go towards?

To date we have donated several thousand euros to the BBCT, who work on projects across the UK to ensure the protecting and survival of the UK’s native bumblebees. 

Nicely done, congratulations! You have amazing ‘Positively Charged’ reports on your site that are filled with ways people can contribute and enable change. What’s the response been like so far and what have you got planned for the year ahead?

We want to be a force for good, a company that inspires and ignites the sustainability conversation in the drinks industry. 

Our Positively Charged series is about actions that we can all take to bee the change the planet needs and deserves. The response has been amazing, as a lot of us understand that collaboration is the only way forward. This year we will be addressing the direct correlation between global climate change and gender equality for women.

Spirits Kiosk
Avallen Calvados
Avallen Calvados

21 March 2021