... this is intended as an open and free List of practical ideas for all Independent Distillers in the World who wish to consider options for developing and promoting Craft Spirits (whatever they may be), bottling at cask or high strength (46%), free of artificial additives, flavour inhibiting chill-filtration and also engaging more deeply with customers whilst supporting local communities in mutually sustainable ways, ... free of Corporate cynicism, extravagant marketing and excessive margins, ... keeping the Banks involvement to a minimum.
... a big job,
... good luck.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Ideas 1 - 52

Please Note that many of these Ideas are already tried and tested whilst some are to the best of my knowledge original. ... Feel free to consider and adapt these ideas to suit yourselves.
This is aimed at the smaller Independent Distiller, but I do recognise the real world of Corporate Industry and I have no negativity to any operation that will ethically and responsibly provide a decent priced quality Experience, whatever that may be, big or small.

1 - Host a Community Fair/ Open Day inviting families from your local Community to visit and find out more about what you produce and how it's produced. Emphasise sensible alcohol consumption, and ensure you have play facilities for the kids.

2 - If you have a Special day or Local Community Event, mark it with a unique labeled bottle of what you produce. ... such things can become collector's items and their increased Auction prices may enhance the reputation of your Distillery.

3 - Education Days at your Distillery, purely to increase awareness amongst Educational Organisations such as Schools, Colleges and Universities as to what you produce and how you do it. Centers of learning can be valuable assets to a Business where relationships are seeded through interaction and mutual support, providing expertise and a customer base.

4 - Sponsor or help in setting up a local Community Credit Union with an Account as in this period of bad Bank behaviour, small local Credit Unions are a security and dynamic to Local Communities, and potentially a small liquidity option for a Business.

5 - Approach a local Celebrity and offer support for their Charity/Community Project of choice in return for endorsement and publicity.

6 - Offer small "Life Discounts" to a few regular customers and supporters whilst using the publicity as constructively as possible.

7 - Approach Local Artists and Musicians to contribute free to a booklet/CD/Memory Stick to be attached to a Limited Edition of your Bottling, promoting your location and community.

8 - Bury a 'Time Capsule" somewhere in your Distillery inviting schools and Community Organisations to contribute. Mark the event and location as a feature for visitors to your Distillery.

9 - Contain-Your-Carbon ... and be totally contemporary and 'Now' with your awareness of Climate Change and how your Distillery embraces it's responsibilities with varied activities including water conservation, heat exchangers, education programmes for visitors and investment in Local Community conservation projects.

10 - Get yourself on-line with a website, shop, news feeds and Blog. Keep it simple as you can as complex Sites are off-putting, confusing and slow to load in areas of poor internet connection.

11 - Be everything that big International Corporate Producers are not. ... Local, approachable, personal, 'terroire' aware and sympathetic. Have a Distillery open-access Policy with feature pets (cat, dog, aquarium !!!) and colourful characters (people, cat, dog, aquarium) that visitors can get to meet, and get to relate to.

12 - Consider participating in a National (then eventually International) Small Distillers Co-operative movement, which would advise, support, inform, generate publicity/markets, and importantly protect against the hostilities of Large Operators.
Importantly, a National Distillers Co-op would set, monitor and maintain Standards of production/presentation and in so-doing protect an established reputation for all.

13- Have a cafe, a Restaurant, Cottages to rent, business/conference meeting facilities, function tents, ... and anything else that might bring business to your door.

14 - If you have a good location, host a monthly craft & local produce market for the public.
Ensure the event is bright and inclusive with plenty of your product available to buy.

15 - Host a 'treasure hunt' with your produce, the treasure to be found in assorted locations.

16 - Host an on-line 'treasure hunt' with a reclaim token hidden at an OS map grid reference with the grid reference clues put into your web-site and Blog entries. Ensure you have a good prize, and milk the publicity for all it's worth.

17 - Twin-up with a wine/sherry/bourbon producer to help obtain better casks for maturing your own spirit. Make it a two-way arrangement by offering a week long job-swap for good employees and product exchanges. Anything to personalise the Business relationship to strengthen bonds.

18 - Get to know your Business 'Terroire' (what is unique and location-specific to your Product)
Perhaps altitude, local flora and fauna, proximity to sea or ocean, ingredient source/soil.
Anything at all that makes your Product 'different' in smell and flavour.

19 - If using barrels to mature your Spirit, consider non-oak woods as they can have a very positive flavour contribution. Knowing that Oak makes for the best Barrel for containing spirit, consider inner staves of ash, elm, birtch or a local wood thats suitable. This also allows you to use lesser casks as you are not relying on existing barrel-wood to facilitate all the maturation flavour.

20 - If seeking to create a heavily peated/smoky grain spirit, consider salvaging the draff from the previous distillation, and recycle this spent grain residue by drying it with peat smoke or wood smoke in the kiln and conclude by adding it to the next mash tun cycle along with the new milled grains. This increases the volume of peat/smoky content which cannot be carried by the fresh-milled grain alone. The end result should be a more intense version of what you are looking to achieve.

21 - Allow visitors the opportunity to smell casks prior to filling with your spirit. This should help to foster a customer connection with the quality of what you do. Creating a maturing barrel with back-lit perspex ends will allow visitors to actually see for themselves the maturation taking place.

22 - Set yourself the challenge of creating a whole new spirit never seen before using only what is locally/regionally available.

23 - Introduce a separate small still specifically for 'special occasion' distillations. Ensure it looks eccentric, odd, weird, ... and visually unforgettable.

24 - Introduce a tiny free-standing still for distilling perfumes, not spirit. A Distillery produced perfume of local ingredients is simply , ... publicity, variety, and revenue.

25 - Have a National 'guest still' small enough to be transported around the regional Distilleries where it will have a period of 'residence' before moving on. The differences in spirits produced from one (travelling) Still would be publicity, education, collectable and revenue.

26 - Twin with a Brewery. Allow them to mature their ales in your old casks, and guest-distill a batch of their 'special' ale for mutual publicity and revenue.

27 - Produce your spirit in a different way from normal by mixing prepared grain/root/fruit with a raw amount of the ingredient (in style of Irish Pot Still Whiskey which is a combination of malted and un-malted barley) ... if the results work, pursue it !!!

28 - Create a variant of gin by passing your spirit through a chamber of local sourced herbs/roots/fruits/grain/spices, ... establish your secret recipe, and promote it.

29 - Distill a unique 'bitters' combining woods, barks, spices and bitter ingredients.

30 - Create a cordial.

31 - Sell your pre-ferment 'juice' in cartons or bottles if it's tasty. (easy for rum Distillers)

32 - Write your book on the Distillery with comments, photos and stories. Make it an affordable small paperback that's cheap as a non-drinkers souvenir.

33 - Have bottles for sale disguised as books, walking sticks, clocks, hats ! ... it's different,
and merchandise sells ... ask Disney !

34 - Create Eau de Vie/ Aqua vite of your local area NOT using your typical ingredients.

35 - If building warehouses for maturation, give them feature ! Call them Lodges (Dunnage is such an ugly name!), turf the roofs, make them viewable to visitors, keep them traditional, and invest in eco-friendly appearances using 'natural' build materials.

36 - Don't be afraid to combo-distill ... e.g. barley and sugar (Rumsky), rye and maize (Bourye)
Agave and grape (Branquila)

37 - Create a NEW Still, Alchemists use glass, the Greeks used clay, Chinese used bamboo.
... You use your imagination.

38 - Distill terroire-specific versions of your spirit like some Italian Grappa producers do.
Even down to field, crops, time/date of distillation and identity of the Distiller. Must be Single Cask. (if appropriate).

39 - Distill Grappa using your own ingredients. (find out about Grappa, it's interesting).

40 - Host public challenges and competitions for new ideas or improvements to existing products.

41 - Create a sparkling Champagne-style version of what you produce as a novelty.

42 - Create a fortified wine (Port/sherry) version of what you produce as a novelty.

43 - Follow an internet site/Blog of growing interest, then sponsor it prior to it getting busy !
It could be a solo boat trip, Individual raising awareness/cash for a cause, round-the-world Walker !! ... or something more local.

44 - Feature at Wikipedia, and at specialist on-line retailers, and Spirit Forums and Blogs.

45 - Direct-fired Stills are the BEST for spirits, direct fire if you can, if not, scorch your ingredients prior to fermentation using raw spirit sprinkled over the ingredient and lit, allowing a controlled burning and carbon generation. ... Experiment.

46 - Put an electric heating element/paddle into your still prior to distillation to facilitate some regulated burning/searing of the wash to assist in spirit complexity.

47 - If you have space, introduce a Solera Vat as used by Sherry and Brandy producers.
It works wonders for Glenfiddich ! ... and would be a variation on your house-style.

48 - Each year create a special packaged product that is different from any other packaging.

49 - If you can, create your own unique shape of bottle that will be recognised as yours. The Label must also use unique colours, lettering and perhaps a seal or ribbon or wood/metal cuff.

50 - Have a lucky-dip barrel and play-place in your visitor centre for kids. Where young kids go, mums and dads follow !

51 - Give back to your community, not the Banks, ... grow slowly with stability and plan a long-hand strategy. Purchase of Spirits is cyclical and your best card is intrinsic quality. Every decision you make must address this. Read Distilling History for guidance on how things go.

52 - Think positive ! ... and believe in your Distillery. Even if you fail, don't fail for lack of trying.