A family started a beverage company with a twist.
The Tiny Tipple Company in The Mall, Maidstone, specializes in selling miniature drinks and gift sets.
Glasgow-born Shirley Nedley founded the company with her daughter Kimberley and partner Steve.
“It’s original and we wanted to do something completely different,” the 44-year-old explained. “You go anywhere and there really aren’t any other stores like this.
“We tell customers when they ask ‘what is it’ – you can walk in and say ‘I’ve never tried this drink’ and get a small bottle of it.
“If you don’t like it, you’re not going to waste your money on a bigger bottle. But if you like it, you can get a bigger version!”
She added: “For example, all these mini whiskeys we have are £40 or £50 a bottle.
“However, you can come here and spend £4 or £5 for a ‘taste’.”
The family trio all had separate jobs just over a year ago – co-manager Steve Gore having been in the drinks industry most of his life.
He ran two unlicensed stores in Week Street and Lower Stone Street called Premier Cellar.
Shirley worked in one of the off-licences and her 22-year-old daughter, Kimberly, was the delivery manager for Pizza Hut in Upper Stone Street.
After selling the stores, the family decided to work together on a new project.
Steve commented: “We have bottles here from 99p to £299. Our most expensive miniature is the Remy Martin XO, a 5cl cognac priced at £12.99.
“I tried to count them the other day, got to 900 and lost my spot. I think we have just under 1,000 different lines in the store.”
Shirley added: “We didn’t want to open just another off license, we wanted to create something a bit niche that didn’t exist yet.
“The best part is we’re spending more time together, which is a big bonus.
“It’s more exciting when you work for yourself – you want to get up in the morning and go to work. You want it to thrive.”
The team sources miniatures from three or four different wholesalers and importers, or deals directly with the brands themselves.
Bottle sizes range from 2cl (20ml) to 3cl (30ml), and up to 5cl (50ml).
One of their current bestsellers, AU Vodka, was founded in 2015 in Wales.
Its design incorporates the periodic table, with the symbol Au for gold and the atomic number 79.
“They’re the new kid on the block and extremely popular,” Shirley said.
“The color on the bottle cap is the color of the vodka itself, which is a nice gimmick.
“A new version we have is the bubblegum flavor – it changes from blue to pink when you add a carbonated drink.”
The store also stocks local spirits, including miniatures of Maidstone Gin Distillery in Market Buildings and Anno Distillery in Marden.
Shirley’s favorite bottle is the Crystal Head Aurora, a Canadian skull-shaped vodka.
The design was created to celebrate the Northern Lights and has an iridescent finish that reflects in the light.
“It’s so pretty! A lot of people buy them just for the bottles,” she adds.
But one of the weirdest miniatures they stock is Mezcal Lajita, a unique drink similar to tequila but made from a different agave plant.
However, it contains an unexpected surprise.
Kimberley said: “There’s a worm inside…you’re supposed to eat it.
“Apparently the creature was supposed to be a hallucinogen. There are such weird things there.
“Some traditional drinks still contain scorpions and snakes.”
As December approaches, the family is busy getting the store ready for Christmas.
They stock up on miniature Baileys gift boxes, classic gin bottles and glasses, and ‘jar sets’ which they sell for £25.99.
Shirley added: “The jars fly away – they’re a mix of five small bottles of spirits and malts – plus you can keep the jar afterwards.
“Other shop owners have warned us that it will be a lot busier, but we are already busy like that.
“We’re really excited for Christmas, but at the same time we’re thinking ‘oh my god’.
“I also expect to have some last minute shoppers near the big day!”