New Felixstowe gin honours one of Britain’s most heroic explorers

Sean Crean of Felixstowe with his new gin - Pioneer Picture: Sean Crean

Sean Crean of Felixstowe with his new gin - Pioneer Picture: Sean Crean - Credit: Archant

Ancestor of Tom Crean launches the London Dry spirit this week.

It is a story that endures. Sir Ernest Shackleton, buoyed by a new record to the farthest southern latitude and a dangerous climb of Mount Erebus, set his sights on crossing Antarctica from sea to sea via the pole.

Accompanying him as second mate on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914, quiet Irishman Tom Crean, whose 35-mile solo walk across the Ross Ice Shelf to save the life of Edward Evans during Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition earned him the Albert Medal.

Famously the ship Endurance could not live up to her name, becoming set in unforgiving pack ice and sinking, leaving Shackleton and his crew drifting for an astonishing 492 days. Never one to give up, Crean volunteered, alongside others, to undertake a boat journey 800 nautical miles from Elephant Island to glacial South Georgia, seeking help for the party.

This historical tale is one that is certainly familiar to Felixstowe solicitor Sean Crean – an ancestor of the adventurer who returned safely home and lived out the rest of his days in relative solitude without much pomp and circumstance.

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And it has formed an important part of Sean’s own intrepid adventure, launching his first gin – Pioneer, named in honour of Tom.

“In Ireland he’s pretty famous,” Sean says. “And it’s the most incredible story. On our bottle you’ll see a map of Antarctica and a photo of Tom’s face. Not many people here talk about him – he’s a bit of an unsung hero, so I hope people will buy the gin, see the picture and start to ask questions and find out more about his life.”

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Pioneer gin has been a two-year project for Sean, who’s been in the legal profession for over 20 years.

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“I’ve always been interested in starting up other businesses and had, for example, looked at Jack Daniels and wanted to start a business like that brand really. Obviously that’s a way off, but that was the inspiration to set up my own drinks company.”

Sean spent a long time researching (including what he says is the easiest bit – trying samples) working out the type of gin he might like to produce.

“That was the fun part. A friend of mine who’s a drinks buyer for Hilton Hotels put me in touch with a company which produces gin in Italy because I didn’t want to make it myself. I don’t have the space to distil gin. Cisoni, near Bologna in northern Italy, are long-established. I told them the sort of gin I wanted to go for after my tastings – one with a good balance in all four main areas of spiced, herbal, floral and citrus. They initially sent over one that had too much aniseed, so we asked them to tone it down a bit and the next batch was absolutely perfect – exactly what we wanted in a London Dry Gin.”

It’s taken two years to bottle, brand and label Pioneer – a sipping gin with top notes of bitter orange and rose hips, that’s ideal alone over ice or served with a neutral tonic and a slice of orange.

“We’ve now got 5,000 bottles and we’re ready to go!”.

The gin is available soon online at as well as at bars, pubs and restaurants in and around Felixstowe including The Alex and The Fludyers.

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