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Supporting Indigenous Communities With Suncliffe Gin

by Kyrsta Anderson

Suncliffe Gin is a woman and LGBTQ-owned and operated Arizona business highlighting native botanicals and supporting local communities. In the Spring of 2020, co-founders Thomas Giddings and Ryan Lawence were exploring the Juniper forests around Sedona, AZ. Intrigued by the native botanicals, they hand-foraged 3 different species of juniper that grow in Sedona together and began experimenting on a gin recipe. Taking their creation to NYC, they teamed up with their friend + co-founder Clare Byrne to embark on an exciting project: producing an incredibly smooth and unique gin with a balance of earth and fruit-tasting notes. A year later, their first bottle was proudly sold in AZ.

What is your distillery process? Tell us about the native botanicals you highlight and the local communities you support!

We distill in Napa with a custom CARL copper combo pot and column still. Our meticulous process involves suspending a selection of botanicals in a silk bag within a chamber. As the spirit is gently heated and transformed into vapor, it passes through these botanicals, allowing their delicate essences to be preserved. Our botanical lineup includes three species of juniper, ponderosa pine bark, manzanita, and western elderflower. Notably, we had to receive FDA approval for the use of ponderosa pine bark and manzanita berries as the herbs and fruit had never been used in a spirit before, making our recipe truly unique.

A connection to Arizona's indigenous communities is tied into Suncliffe's architecture, as 100% of proceeds generated by Suncliffe’s online merch store are donated to DigDeep's Navajo Water Project, going directly toward funding water access to families who need it most on the Navajo Nation. Today, at least 2.2 million people in the United States don’t have running water at home. In communities across the country, Americans are living without the sinks, showers and toilets that many take for granted. Race is the leading indicator of water poverty: indigenous families are 19 times less likely than white families to have access to running water in the US.

The Navajo Water Project is one of the regional programs of DigDeep, a national nonprofit organization working to ensure every American has running water inside their homes. The Navajo Water Project is Indigenous-led and locally staffed, run by Diné activist and Executive Director, Emma Robbins. It is the first project of its kind in the United States.

What was the inspiration for the bottle design and your logo?

Our bottle design draws inspiration from the captivating red rock landscapes of Arizona and the modern spirituality of Sedona that are the essence of the region. The bottle features a blue cap etched with a spiral symbolizing the renowned local vortexes, evoking a sense of intrigue and mystique

What have been the biggest challenges in starting your business? 

The challenges we encountered while launching our business turned out to be valuable learning opportunities. Tasks such as assigning roles, delegation, and navigating the complex alcohol laws across different states posed significant hurdles. However, we consider ourselves fortunate to have received guidance from individuals who generously invested their time and energy, helping us overcome these obstacles. Their support has been instrumental in bringing us to this point, and we are grateful for the knowledge and expertise that continues to be shared with us along this journey.

What are your personal favorite gin cocktails?

Ryan loves The Martinez, Clare is feeling the Gin Daisy for Summer - a take on a gin margarita - and Tom likes experimenting with different styles of Negroni. 

What are your future goals for Suncliffe?

Our vision for Suncliffe is to establish a tasting room in Arizona, providing a dedicated space for our patrons to experience our offerings firsthand. Additionally, we aspire to foster collaborations and create opportunities to showcase and celebrate other remarkable desert brands. By joining forces with like-minded ventures, we aim to create a collective platform that showcases the unique essence and creativity of the region.

Click HERE for Suncliffe's Gin Daisy recipe!