This time last winter, we recruited bartending guru Shaun Layton for The Weathered Project, our ongoing denim break-in experiment. At the time, he was setting up the bar program for the modern Cascadian restaurant Juniper in Vancouver’s Chinatown. With another successful venture under his belt, he’s moving towards new frontiers in 2017 and has picked up some new cultural inspirations to fuel his upcoming projects.
His Imogene + Willie Barton Slims almost seem to tell the story of his eventful year – every whisker and honeycomb hints at each adventure, skill and story he collected in 2016. Read our interview below to learn more about Shaun’s evolving bartending methodologies and why raw denim is his uniform of choice.
You just got back from a trip to Barcelona – how was that?
It was a really good trip to Spain – I did a week in Barcelona and a week in Madrid. It was a lot of eating, a little bit of drinking. I just love the food culture there. The tapas bars are especially really cool. Architecture and art are also incredible and I caught two amazing soccer games! It’s crazy, we went to FC Barcelona and Athletico Madrid games and they were a totally different spectator experience. Everyone went nuts, but nobody drinks in the stadium, no one really talks to each other, it’s just all about the love of the game. That was really cool.
How does the bartending culture differ in Spain?
Spain is obsessed with gin. Gin and tonics are huge there – that’s sort of where I got the idea to do that program in Juniper. So a lot of their bars will have 30 different gins, maybe 15 tonics and they’ll accompany each one accordingly. They also drink a lot of beer and cava. But they stick to a lot of Spanish ingredients, apart from the gin – they get that from all over the world. You can get a good gin and tonic almost everywhere – it’s quite aromatic, it’s refreshing and works with their warm weather. Plus it goes really well with the tapas.
When we last spoke, Juniper was settling nicely into the neighbourhood – do you have any upcoming projects that are grabbing your attention these days?
There’s one in particular that I can’t talk about yet, but it will be really cool when I can! You might see me working a few shifts around the city until we reveal this project. In the meantime, I’ve got some events lined up. Every year I do Cornucopia in Whistler, so I’ve done two seminars up there. I worked with Oyama Sausage Co. for a sausage and sherry pairing. Then I also did a seminar on the gin and tonic.
As for your jeans, how different do they feel now compared to when you first started wearing them?
They’re much more comfortable – they broke in pretty quickly because I was wearing them behind the bar nearly every day, 10 hours a day. I didn’t wear them over the summer a lot, because they’re pretty dark and heavy jeans. So once Fall hit, I was in a good mood because I got to wear these jeans again! They feel great – I love walking around in them, they’re warm, they’re comfortable and they still look sleek!
How has breaking in this denim differed from other pairs of jeans you’ve worn in the past?
It’s been a much better experience – after almost a year, they’re still very wearable, in fact they’re getting better with time. Whereas a lot of denim that’s washed after a year, they start to feel really loose and they just don’t look very sharp anymore. They get retired quickly. There’s many years left in these Imogene + Willie jeans. I love seeing how they’ve transformed with the whiskering around the pockets and the honeycombs behind the knees.