You might have seen photos over the past year of various members of the distillery gang at exotic locations around the globe, pouring samples and spreading the word about the distillery and our spirits. It's been a busy year for us – we dropped into festivals in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the States, Switzerland and various places around the UK. It’s one of the best parts of our job here, not just because we’re getting to travel to exciting new places, but because introducing people to our spirits personally reminds us all why we do it.
Glamourous as it sounds, these trips are hard work (no, really!) as you’re typically on your feet for 8 hours straight, talking to thousands of people and busily pouring samples until your arms are ready to drop off. But we never use agency or promotions staff for our stands (a common sight at these shows) because the important bit for us is not simply getting people to taste the liquid – it’s the conversations that we get to have with them, the questions we can answer and the enthusiasm we can demonstrate. The person handing you a taste of gin should be able to tell you exactly why it louches when ice is added, but more than that, should be able to tell you about the decision-making process that led us to release our cloudy gin. And the visitor should leave the stand with a real feeling for the company and what we do.
It also means that we can get feedback from gin and whisky enthusiasts – when you’re showing your product to 1000 people in a day it’s an amazing way to get people’s opinion on the look and taste of the thing, and you’re getting enough responses that you can get an idea of overall trends really easily. For a distillery that’s just starting out it’s a hugely useful resource. We have a much better idea of which elements of our production process are most important to customers, which trends in whisky or gin they’re passionate about and which won’t last – all stuff that helps shape what we do here. And seeing people’s faces when they try the spirits for the first time is ridiculously cheering, even at the end of a long shift.
And then above all else, the number one reason we love doing these shows is because it really makes you feel part of a community. It sounds corny to start talking about the ‘global whisky family’, but that is a bit what it feels like. You can turn up in a conference centre in a Belgium town and walk through the hall seeing people you’ve got to know from all over the world. Drop into another distillery’s stand because you’re excited to taste their new release and chat to the distiller about what casks they used. Say hi to your distributor in that country and meet the new brand they’ve just taken on. Meet the whisky club from a tiny village in matching t-shirts who tasted our spirit before it was legally whisky at last year’s show and can’t wait to try it in full whisky form.
One of the most recent shows we did in the Hague was the perfect example – our importer for the Netherlands had taken over the whole hotel so all their brands had dinner together every night, stayed up late chatting about labelling machines and char levels and drinking (probably a bit too much) whisky. And we left knowing that we’d made a load of friends that we’d see at the next show.
So even though we’re a really small team here with small budgets to match, you’ll always be able to see us at these shows - and hopefully more in the future, so send us your suggestions if you’ve got a favourite whisky show we haven’t been to yet.