These delicious crisps bring snacking to a whole new level of sophistication – and happen to pair perfectly with a G&T.
Alex Albone can tell you the precise moment he started Pipers Crisps: the 9th of April 2004, at 12:30pm. He can also reel off the names of the people and places that led him to his nine incredible flavours – sea salt from David in Anglesey, cider from Julian near Glastonbury, cheese from John at Lye Cross.
Alex is also a farmer, and his crisps have become famous for their incredible flavour. But the beginnings were a bit humbler.
“I had a mate who had four pubs,” Alex says. “I took 20 boxes of crisps and delivered four to each one of his outlets and then sold the rest to a farm shop on the way home. I said, ‘This is easy! You bring the crisps and people will buy them!’ We didn’t really understand – we just knocked on doors and built a business all about quality.”
These days Pipers is a bit bigger, with a factory and space on the shelves at Harvey Nichols. But that emphasis on quality has remained, as has Alex’s insistence on knowing exactly where his ingredients come from. His vision is local, even when his ingredients come from further afield. Such is the case with the richly scented Wild Thyme and Rosemary crisps in November's Gin of the Month box. They’re a new adventure for Pipers.
“We don’t bring out new flavours very often,” says Alex. “We go through an enormous amount of work before we get to the right flavour. We’ll never do a flavour just for the sake of it – it has to taste right.”
Alex was fielding endless questions about introducing a beef flavour when a well-timed gin and tonic, garnished with a sprig of rosemary, ignited a spark of inspiration.
Alex explains, “People are always talking about meat flavours, but we thought, ‘why not look at herbs?’. So we found out where the best rosemary and thyme come from.”
That place, it turns out, is the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, near the Algerian border. Here, shrubs of wild herbs are the only thing holding the desert back – if the land fell out of use, sand would slowly overwhelm the landscape. Local families bid on local plots for a period of years; the winners get the right to harvest the incredibly flavourful wild herbs and bring them down the mountain to market.
All the harvesting is done by hand, with the help of a sickle, in the 40-degree heat. After cutting, the rosemary is left to dry in the sun for three days. It is then placed onto a tarpaulin and beaten with a stick to separate the leaves from stems. Alex has seen the process first hand; he visits all of his suppliers, wherever in the world they happen to be.
Made using herbs of the highest quality and potatoes grown locally in Lincolnshire – cut to the perfect thickness and batch cooked in pure sunflower oil – these crisps are truly a thing of beauty. They also happen to be the perfect match for a G&T. And with a flavour this vibrant, it’s easy to keep on eating.
“We’re known for big flavours, and this is unashamedly rosemary and thyme,” Alex says. “We’re not shy about ensuring that’s the case!”
So pour a drink and pop open a bag – you’re in for an unforgettable treat!