Jess Henrich
Home News News around Africa How South African Jess Henrich Created the World’s First Ocean Water Distilled Gin
News around Africa - March 2, 2022

How South African Jess Henrich Created the World’s First Ocean Water Distilled Gin

To be different from the saturated market, Henrich and her partner experimented with different ingredients from seaweed to citrus.

The journey of South African entrepreneur, Jess Henrich, is one where creativity meets innovation. She is the founder of A Mari Ocean distilled gin, a business born out of sheer grit. With no previous experience in the gin industry, Henrich’s persistence has built a successful business.

How A Mari Ocean Gin Started

The inception of A Mari led to a total pivot from being a brand strategist and copywriter to the gin industry. During a dinner party in Ibiza, a Spanish island, she heard about the Ibiza preservation fund and applied for it. The fund promotes agriculture on the island by giving free land to people with agri-projects.

Although she had no idea what to pitch, she still prepared for it. She wrote a business plan for a distillery and pitched it. In selecting what to pitch, she considered certain things.  In an interview, she said, “…the island is covered in juniper, and at that point, there wasn’t an Ibiza gin, plus I had worked with wine and am fascinated by plants and alcohol.”

The pitch was a success, so she moved to the Island to start her business. Just like every business challenge, Jess Henrich was not left out. Within six months of relocating to the Island, she could not get a licence, and the Finca (farmland) could not be used for the distillery business because it is not an industrial area.

The Launch of A Mari Ocean Gin

Jess Henrich
Source: Spiritz

Due to the initial setback, she returned to South Africa and worked for an advertising firm. However, the business idea was still on her mind though there was no fund to start it. She later meets Neildu Toit, her old university friend and new business partner.

After having an in-depth discussion about the gin idea over dinner, Neil came on board. Just as every business venture is filled with risk, they both decided to quit their jobs.

To be different from the saturated market, they experimented with different ingredients from seaweed to citrus. It got to the point that they had to take 12 hours of rotation each to ensure the right temperature for the batch they were distilling. This was because the main water was connected over Neil’s bathtub, and if someone flushed the toilet or on a tap, the temperature would be ruined.

These measures, according to Jess Henrich, was needed for the business. She said, “…we wanted to do something different to what was on the market… We spent three months playing with recipes and coastal plants and trying it on our friends”.

Through months of experimenting, they stumbled on the idea of distilling with water. Although the venture was self-funded and could only produce one batch on the distillation day, it was still successful.

Jess Henrich said being an entrepreneur has taught her to be resilient. She said, “You get knocked down as that is the nature of the game. You just get back up stronger and more determined”. The time, effort, and money invested by the two founders gave birth to what is known as A Mari Atlantic gin. 

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