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How To Open A Distillery: Part 2

how to open a distillery
How to open a distillery Da Mhile Distillery
how to open a distillery
How to open a distillery
Written by Gin Foundry

Our abridged 10 part guide to opening up a new distillery continues here… If you missed the first part, click HERE to read it.

Step 6. Making it all come together!

It’s time to find your location and get it licensed as soon as possible. Again, we’re not going to dish out advice here as US laws are significantly different to those in the UK, let alone Germany and Australia, so it would be too varied or too simplistic. The key thing to understand is to get this part going as soon as possible.

Some distilleries have been forced to wait for months to get the paperwork approved, others like Sipsmith, Citadelle and FEW Gin have had to change the law in order to make it happen, taking even longer! Others have had full approval in less than two weeks. It will be fraught with pitfalls but stick with it if it’s not going your way.

So, who are the people to look towards for inspiration? Dodd’s Gin and Bombay Sapphire distillery have both invested heavily into eco-friendly, sustainable practices. Both have been highly commended for doing so too and should be hailed for taking the lead in this area. Even if you don’t go as far on an ecological or restoration perspective, they are good examples of distilleries that have invested in where they are placed and why it was important to them. On the other hand, NY Distilling, City of London Distilling and East London Liquor Company have all chosen to integrate their primary route to market in-house and have built an adjacent bar. Could this be a possibility for you?

Wherever you choose to set up, you will have an impact on your local area – so why not try and make it a neutral one for the environment and a positive one for the neighbourhood? They will be your loudest fans or your worst enemies so it’s worth taking the time to get it right. It will also set the tone for the rest of your operations and the way you go about telling your story too, so even if it’s not something you have much time to do, make some as it’s worth having a long think about options at this stage.

Step 7. R&D & Suppliers.

Possibly one of the best parts of the journey! Trying out various recipes and finding the right people and companies to help get you what you need is quite challenging, but incredibly rewarding. Finally, you’re making!

Langley’s Gin famously took 8 attempts before choosing their recipe and thus naming themselves Langley’s Number 8 Gin. Warner Edwards went through many more attempts before returning to the very first recipe they made and choosing that. Most distilleries average somewhere between 10 and 25 recipes before fine-tuning their chosen one. There are even some distilleries that when pushed, will reveal they changed recipe on the third or fourth commercial batch after release too. It’s one thing to do that if you really feel it needed improving, but much easier getting it right and putting some time and some budget aside to do it properly beforehand.

Test it out on bartenders and people who you trust to tell you it’s insipid if that’s the honest truth. The last thing you want is being that person on the talent show who is tone deaf and amazed to hear a negative review from the judges because his friends and loved ones couldn’t find the courage to say the truth. Make them do blind tastings if necessary.

It’s a game of roulette to get it right and it’s a tough juggling act to mix the fun of creating a new gin with the analytical side of what is required to improve on each attempt and what will capture the public’s imagination. Don’t forget to find a balance between personal opinions and the general consensus. Try and please everyone and it’ll become a homogeneous snoozefest of gin, whereas try to be too “unique” and you’ll be bust within a year.

Where possible - go local with your suppliers and botanicals. It makes sense. Amongst many things, that’s what craft distilling is all about. Regional accents are a good thing – being a craft distillery shouldn’t just be about size. Try and take a grain to glass approach with all elements. Can you grow it? If not, can you find someone local who makes it in a unique method to anywhere else? When all is said and done, working with what’s around you will be your best method to being inimitable. After all – if everyone takes their botanicals from the same place and their inspiration based on a global and conveniently priced selections, you are bound to come up with similar results…

Obviously, this isn’t always possible. Juniper berries don’t grow in abundance in downtown LA, nor in South Africa, so there will always be compromises to be made. Be a realist, but have ideals that you try to always achieve.

The best advice we’ve ever heard from a craft gin producer is to think: if someone found out the whole truth, from start to finish in all the gritty detail – would they still love it? Would you be embarrassed and most of all, would they see that you’ve never been disingenuous? You can’t be totally transparent all the time, there is simply not enough time to explain everything to everyone either. However, you can be totally honest and ensure that if that level of scrutiny is ever exerted, you stand up to inspection. It’s a good exercise to discover where your weaknesses lie too, so long as you are willing to work at improving each area – otherwise it’s just an annoying invasion of your space!

If you start masking items or stating false truths, it’s a slippery slope and the comeuppance can have a huge impact. Suffice it to say that consumers are much more informed than you think.

Step 8. Designing the ‘package’.

We live in a world where design matters. No one will taste your gin if they never pick it off the shelf. You are directly competing with over 300 other gins so it needs to have a personality. It doesn’t need to be over the top, but it does need to be more than a bottle with a home made label.

Tell your story through your choices. Show transparency on your website, be contactable. Be human. Drinking and enjoying gin is a personal and social activity. Set an idea that has room to grow or that is rigid and which is followed at every stage. Be consistent with your branding and don’t flip- flop around. Look at the best in the business, Hendrick’s, Tanqueray, and Bombay Sapphire – they have carefully considered, 360 branding where identity is consistent on every level.

Step 9. Routes to market.

You’ve got to get out there. Social media is a good place to start but be warned – badly executed social media is worse than no accounts at all. Have a think about which platforms will work for you and for your tone of voice.

Look around locally. If you’ve done steps 5, 6 and 7 properly, local is your strongest advantage to begin with over any other brands. By this point, many of them should already be involved or have heard about your story. Local bars and shops will be supportive of other local businesses – or at least should be. Find retailers who also care about what they do and who share your values, as more often than not – they will pass that passion across to your consumers and that association will be mutually beneficial.

Don’t ever get caught up with what others are not being genuine about. Don’t look at it as you vs. them, that’s just unpleasant and won’t get you anywhere. Consider it as you being yourself and others who are doing their thing. We are all better off when everyone talks themselves up, rather than tearing others down and you’ll find that both consumers and bars will be receptive to it too.

Step 10. Starting all over again.

No, you don’t need to start all over again but if you’ve got a product on the market now - return to step 3 and start reading again asking a simple question – could you do any of this now, with a view on improving what you already have?

Could you do some research that would inform your next campaign? Could you take a look at other gins in the market and see opportunities they have created where you could also benefit? Could you improve the provenance, the consistency and the quality of suppliers you use? Could you be more accessible to fans and so on… Allow yourself to evolve by improving what you have, not just by creating a sister product.

Craft distillers in particular improve fast in the first two years. They become more efficient makers, produce better quality liquid and become more consistent and more knowledgeable. Gin brands move fast too, they grow and change. They become layered propositions and most of all, if you’ve set it up right, they become adopted by core fans. You need to allow room for it to grow organically and be taken by those who adopt them - while making sure you keep feeding it along the way.

The key thing to remember at this stage is to have fun. You’ve done well to get this far and its still hard work but enjoy the ride! Legions of Gin fans, like ourselves, will salute you in their little ways and you can rest assured they will support you in what you are doing.

Most of all… good luck!


Want to know how to establish a Gin Distillery? Got that burning desire to create your own gin and bring it to market?

Held in Gin Foundry’s HQ in London, this 1 day intensive workshop is for you…

Gin Foundry have created this workshop especially to provide a one-stop-shop for those seeking to gain valuable insight into establishing their own gin distillery. Here’s what they have to say about it:

As a team who have had a front row seat on the world of Gin since the current boom began in the mid 2000’s, we’ve seen the journeys of dozens of gin makers first hand. We’ve covered their stories before, during and after their launch and have experienced it from their perspective. We’ve even become micro-distiller’s ourselves and consulted on dozens of recipes and distillery set ups.

This 1 day workshop is aimed at those looking to get a crash course in the vast array of elements that have to come together in order to make a dream of opening a gin distillery come true.

Wide reaching, yet designed to give a comprehensive view into each of the essential components, we’ve fine-tuned the day’s activities to offer a perfect foundation off which to build from. Crucially, it will arm you with the right questions you need to answer to ensure your venture will be a success.

Next upcoming date for the How To Open A Gin Distillery Workshop is Friday 13th March 2020. Click here to buy tickets.

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