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Meet the Manchester spirit distillers Tarsier making waves around the World with a taste of Southeast Asia

Tarsier Gin have may well be one of Manchester's best kept gin secrets.
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Set up by Sherwin Acebuche and Tim Driver, the unique flavours of their beautiful gins have been inspired by their travels around the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Sherwin said they felt inspired by the flavours and botanicals they found across Southeast Asia, and became determined to capture those flavours and bring them back to Manchester.

You may not know it, but The Philippines is the biggest gin drinking nation in the world.

Sherwin, who was born in the Phillipines but came to Manchester in 2009 decided to launch Tarsier Gin from a small distillery in Styal, using a start up loan.
10% of the profits raised by Tarsier Gin are used to fund the Philippine Tarsier Foundation with Carlito Pizzaras, aka the Tarsier Man, to preserve the much loved endangered animal.

You can watch his story here:

However, the brand initially struggled to resonate with its Manchester Audience.

Their tagline at the time was “Inspired by Southeast Asia, Distilled in Manchester”, but for whatever reason the brand failed to land here.

Tim and Sherwin

As a result, Sherwin and Tim decided to look abroad.

“For whatever reason, we didn’t really capture the imaginations of Manchester’s gin drinkers. We began looking a bit further afield and eventually we got a message from a cruise company in Cambodia who were interested in stocking our bottles.

“They charged some crazy amount for the cruise so it was really high end stuff.

“It was successful and we made some solid money so we began to think, maybe our audience is out there!”

In October 2018, they borrowed money from their parents to exhibit at one of the biggest bar shows in the world, Bar Convent Berlin.

And they were away. Tarsier was named as one of the gin brands to watch and received a huge commendation from judges at the event, allowing them to find a European market in Germany, Estonia and Switzerland too.

Following this they were listed on The Alchemist, and picked up a contract with Robinson Brewery and Sukhothai Restaurants too.

It was a big break for the brand, who then decided to move into a much larger premises in Stockport to keep up with demand.

In 2019 Sherwin and Tim were invited to Hong Kong to exhibit at HOFEX with the Department of International Trade.

As fate would have it, an importer from Taiwan happened to be in Hong Kong and saw their posts on Instagram.

After a few drinks, they signed another export deal to Taiwan. They also sealed the deal with a Hong Kong based importer too, marking a hugely successful trip.

Hard at work!

A deal then followed for Singapore.

Sherwin said: “After a while we seemed to have really found our feet in the global market, so we decided to go out on the road and organised a series of bar takeovers to boost our profile in these new countries.

“We went to Singapore, Taiwan, Philippines and Hong Kong. Travelling to different cities,  I worked behind the bar to serve Tarsier cocktails, and we also did masterclasses with the key bartenders in these cities.

“We really felt that 2020 was going to be our year – but we all now how this story ends.”

Like all in the hospitality sector, the Pandemic was devastating to Tarsier who instantly had to change their business model to survive through turbulent times.

They switched their gin distilling operation to create hand sanitiser and help Greater Manchester Combined Authority who distributed it to fire services and GP Surgeries across Manchester too.

The time off, did have its benefits, said Sherwin.

“For the next year we just sat down and thought about how we were going to develop the brand. We were able to just sit down and think about what we needed to do to move forward.

“So we put together a collection of gins called the Backpacker Series, a collection of gins that let you travel in taste, immersing yourself in a particular location.

“I think they were nostalgic for people who couldn’t get away during the pandemic, you could transport yourself without travelling.

“The first of the series was Khao San Gin; the first destination for every backpacker heading to Southeast Asia; bringing the taste of Thailand to life.”

You can check out their full selection of gins by clicking here.

Tarsier upgraded their two 60L stills which made 75 bottles a day to a huge 500L still which now can create up to 180,000 bottles a year.

The end of 2020 saw the gins enter the French, Belgian and Luxembourg markets too.

They scored another huge coup as they were voted by GQ magazine as the second best gin out of 79 featured ‘For a perfect Gin and Tonic’.

Later in 2021 they made their first foray stateside, with export deals to California, Georgia, Texas, Arizona, Kentucky, and even a deal to sell their product in Denmark and Canada too.

Over the following six months Tarsier were a finalist for UK Exporter of the Year by the the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore, and they were also a finalist for Export Entrepreneur or the Year by Food and Drink Heroes.

In mid 2022, they sent their first container shipment to Australia and were also featured on Sunday Brunch as one of the top three sustainable gin brands in the UK, their first experience on Live Television.

As of January 2023, Tarsier has sealed deals in China, India and Thailand and now operates in 21 global markets – and they are hoping many more will follow.

Sherwin said: “It’s been a bit of a strange journey, but one we’ve loved from beginning to end.

“We’ve gone from producing 35 bottles a day from a shed next to Manchester Airport to shipping tens of thousands of bottles worldwide.

“We’re not very well known in Manchester still but we’re all hoping that 2023 will change all that!”

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