American Craftsmen in Britain: Jared Brown

Shinola and Jocks&Nerds came together to create a unique project exploring the importance of craft in the 21st century and how it can help build and shape communities both locally and globally. We met up with five Americans, all now living in the UK, to see what makes them tick and why they like to get their hands dirty.

Jared Brown, drinks historian and master distiller,
Sipsmith Independent Distillers, London

Where are you from?
A small city in upstate New York, four hours from Manhattan. Mine was a childhood spent in the countryside.

How did you end up working as a distiller?
One couldn’t buy cider in upstate New York in the 1970s. So, aged 10, I brewed my first batch - truly awful stuff. Later, I graduated with a degree in food and hospitality management. From there I worked in the hotel trade - everything from scrubbing pots to tending bars; most notably I created the drinks menus and supervised service for the 2005 and 2006 White House Correspondents' Dinners.

What makes your job special to you?
Raising consumer sophistication. It's an upward spiral that has already hit food and wine. Now, people are happy to spend a bit more on great drinks, made by talented bartenders who are using the best available ingredients. I'm happy to be part of this. If I leave this world having made people drink better, I can die a happy man.

Is there a community aspect to your profession?
My work is oriented around building communities of likeminded people. There's no greater joy than discovering that others share your passions. Social media allows us to create a circle of friends based on tastes and values rather than geography.

Why did you come to Britain to work?
My wife and I were living in New York and working in Scandinavia. Due to the flights, we found ourselves in London a lot. In 2005, we were here 24 times. We took the hint that we should move here.

How do the UK and USA differ?
At the beginning, I could communicate better in France than Britain; but now, I’m almost fluent!

Any similarities?
People are people wherever you go. Treat them with compassion and respect, and you will receive the same. 

Why do you think there is a resurgence in craft in the 21st century and why is that important?
Globalisation has lead to uniformity; global brands are the new vanilla. The ultimate indulgence - the ultimate luxury - is artisanal local products. There is a sense of discovery when it comes to artisanal products. Personally, I’d rather spend my time raising plants to understand the life cycle of my ingredients than sit in marketing meetings. As long as my hands are connected to the soil, I know I'm still making a craft product. I'm overjoyed that people are appreciating that today.

As someone dedicated to working with traditional skills, why are they important in the 21st century?
Demand for hand-crafted products keeps traditional skills alive. There's no greater motivation for someone to pursue their passions than the possibility of earning a living doing it.