A few early movers on the English whisky market are making a defensive movement, that stifles innovation. What they seek? A GI for English whisky. What that means? That English whisky will be a protected name. A distillery can only use it when they adhere to the rules stipulated by the so-called English Whisky Guild.
The proposed rules are sold as “innovative”, but are none of that. They are traditional, anti-innovation, and defensive in character. English whisky, the proposed GI states, must be made from English grain. Ok, whatever. But it must also be made via double distillation on copper stills. Last still can have plates, but straight potstills is what’s aimed for. Any type of wood can be used for aging, as long as it is stated on the bottle.
That’s not innovation, that’s back to the middle-ages! And it is totally self-serving by those that already entered the market place. Self-serving as in that it sets up a high entry barrier to others. It hands the playing field to those already there. And to the few that have deep enough pockets, and/or a lack of pride to not go for the best spirits possible, but to make variable quality whisky on old, outdated, toxic, and very expensive technology, instead.
I strongly oppose these kinds of market monopolization movements. Especially since in England there is no tradition of whisky making whatsoever. So what are they protecting? What “tradition” if there is none? None. They are simply protecting their markets and future growth before other, more advanced and innovative craft distilleries can take it away from them.
But, hey, I am not English, so it is not my fight. But if you are an English distiller, it is your fight, and a fight definitely worth fighting for. If you don’t, soon you’ll find you will not even be able to use the word “whisky” (without “English”) on your bottles. Their lawyers will fight that, I expect, pretty soon. Similar behavior to what we see from the SWA, basically.
Drs. H.E.J. (Odin) van Eijk – founder, owner, CEO of iStill –
When we introduced the NextGen iStills, one of our goals was to make our newest and latest generation of stills the best in the world. Not just in technology, but also in quality and longevity. We simply wanted to beat all of our competitors (if you can call ‘m that) on every aspect and measurement possible. Becoming the best supplier of distillation equipment doesn’t mean you excel in one area, to us it simply means we want to tick (and win) all the boxes.
How we achieved our goal
To achieve that goal, we introduced a new design philosophy that we called “2x”. The “2x” refers to the strength calculations that we use when designing and building an iStill. Ordinary still manufacturers use a “1x” model (and some not even that): they design and build a still according to the required strength.
For us, in order to overachieve on what others already brought to the market, we adopted the “2x” philosophy, meaning that we calculate required strength … and then we double that. Examples? If our calculations show that a 2 mm thick boiler gives required strength, we design and build that boiler at 4 mm. When we calculate that a certain boiler size needs a 1 hp agitator engine, we’ll design and build that unit with a 2 hp agitator engine.
Overengineering leads to increased longevity. Higher build costs, yes, that too. But it pays off tremendously, as the still triples or quadruples in longevity, where the cost price is raised by only 30%. For 30% additional costs, you get a still that will serve you (at least) three times longer.
Real world example
We have many iStills out there that have over 10,000 hours of service under their belt. All work fine, did not experience downtime or warranty issues. Underneath, let’s investigate a real life example of an iStill 2000 NextGen that’s used for on the grain distilling. Here are the stats of that real world example:
As the above iStill 2000 is used for on the grain distilling, the agitator is always on, when distilling. This unit, in other words, has been distilling for 15,501 hours. The heater banks show 13,501 hours, because heating hours are calculated on net 100% power. In other words: a slightly lower power setting of 90 or 80% translates into less total hours at 100% power input (therefore 13,501 at 100%).
This iStill has been in service for 4 years. In those 4 years it has been in operation for an amazing 15,501 hours. This equates to 3,875 hours annually or 80 hours per week. Put differently: this unit has been distilling double shifts for 5 to 6 days per week for 4 years. It has been in (close to) continuous operation, without any machine induced downtime or warranty issues. It has basically been “ON” for 4 years.
For comparison’s sake: a regular craft distiller uses his still for about 12 hours per week, on average. So for this “average craft distiller” scenario, doing much less hours than the distillery in the above example, the run hours of this iStill exceed over 25 years of service!
In its 4 years of almost continuous operation, the iStill worked flawlessly. And it did so in a harsh and hot environment with a distilling team that was willing to push the iStill to its limits. How we know? Well, not just because of the semi-continuous operation and the location where this distillery is set-up, but also because of the other numbers in the above picture.
In the past 4 years, the iStill has triggered an overtemperature alarm twice, signaling that the (non-iStill) chiller system they use might be undersized. Also, they forgot to put on the chiller in 121 (!) occasions, signaling they don’t really care for the machine, but that it’s just “pedal to the metal and don’t look left or right at intersections”. Luckily the iStill does that for them.
The message? This is not a “walk in the park”-scenario. This is a worst-case scenario, where the unit is abused on 123 occasions. Abused to the extend of maltreatment. Still, the unit works. Works, and warns, and intervenes when warnings aren’t followed up. Now, that adds a bit of drama to the mix, doesn’t it? Over 15,500 hours in under 4 years in an warm and abusive environment …
To sumarize …
Where iStill stands for? What this iStill user case shows the craft distilling industry? The above post and example make it perfectly clear. Longevity as in that we design your iStill to deliver for decades. Even in the harshest of environments.
Longevity and safety, in the most compact, controlled, versatile, and energy-efficient still in the world. That’s what we are all about. Now, how’s that for empowering the craft distilling industry? How’s that for us creating the tools you need in order to excel, not just tomorrow or the day after, but in decades to come?
As The World Atlas of Gin states, iStill is no longer just a brand name, but a type of still! Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley describe the iStill product category as follows: “The iStill is a modern style of still that has taken the concept of ease and efficiency to a new level. It works with computers rather than the more traditional copper stills, which are more manual in their operation.”
Potstill, plated still, continuous still, carter head still, and iStill …
Matchory, the smart supplier database, after researching 23 customers and 48 purchases, ranked iStill with the maximum 5 out of 5 stars! They also established that 52.1% of the customers had already placed previous reorders. As founder and CEO of this amazing company, I want to congratulate my teams on doing an amazing job, each and every day!
Best stills, support, and education result in highest customer satisfaction …
As 2021 draws to an end, the time arrives to start thinking about 2022. How will the year look like and what will be our good intentions? Even though it is not an easy prediction, to look ahead in these uncertain times, I’ll give it a go anyhow. On our good intentions for the new year? That’s easy, since we (mostly) have that in our own hands. To further the empowerment of the craft distilling industry? For sure, that is our goal. But let’s start with some predictions on the industry as a whole.
Craft distilling industry 2022
In 2020 the pandemic took us all by surprise. As hotels and bars were closed, more and more craft distillers focused on online and out-of-distillery sales. Long term plans were replaced by short term survival tactics.
The year 2021 started in good hopes. People were getting vaccinated and there was a general consensus that we’d go back to an old normal by summer. That didn’t happen. And as a new wave of regulations and lock-downs were prepared, the craft distillery dug in once more, focussing on making money during the summer season, while postponing major investments.
ACSA research showed that less than 25 new distilleries were openend in the USA, between August 2020 and August 2021. The world’s former biggest market space for craft distillers came to a halt. That’s like a tenfold downturn. Personally, I am proud that many, of the few that opened up, have chosen iStill. Of those 25 new distilleries that opened shop, 11 decided to work with our equipment, our team, and our educational facilities.
For 2022 I expect a further continuation of lock-downs and an intensification of regulation. Both will put pressure on the craft distilling industry. Yet, at the same time, the realization will sink in that insecurity and unpredictability are the new standards in our markets. Lots of investments that have been postponed will start to be released in the understanding that craft distilling has an amazing long-term future ahead, whatever the short-term future may bring.
I also expect a further focus on newer, more advanced distilling equipment, like iStill has brought to the industry over the last decade. From the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen a rise of our sales, in a market that took a nose-dive like never before. When I speak to distillers in general, and our customers specifically, they tell me that opening a distillery with equipment that is more efficient, more consistent, and that helps you save on staff expenditure is the future and thus the way forward.
As such, every crisis comes with its own benefits. A shift from hobby to business. A shift from production towards marketing. In these uncertain times it is adapt and thrive or fail while pretending everything stays the same. The old normal is no longer just around the corner, waiting to be reinstated. The pandemic pushes our industry into maturity at a lightning pace.
iStill in the global market place
In 2020 we plussed with 26%. In 2021 we will grow again. We expect strong growth for 2022 as well, but are also faced with the economic challenges that grip the world currently. We are crises-resilient like no other manufacturer, but we are not immune that what happens to the world economy in general. The following challenges are important to watch and monitor:
Global shortage of chips;
Rising material prices;
Rising transport costs.
As you have probably heard, chips are in short supply. We have purchasers on all continents, to counter the chip shortages. We also have a work around, where the iStill, in case of shortages, can be controlled and managed via a laptop or tablet. Problem solved, especially with the industry experts claiming that the chips shortage crises will diminish significantly in 2022.
Material costs have been rising throughout 2021. Prices for copper, stainless steel, etc. are expected to rise further in 2022. We have implemented a cost saving strategy in 2021 and have further streamlined our production processes to counter these price increases.
Transport costs are expected to increase with around 40% in 2022. Since we (all) are reliant on third parties here, there isn’t much we can do about this. Transport costs are a given in any situation, and higher or lower costs, well, they are just the cards that are dealt to all of us. For 2022? Higher transport costs, for sure.
Our good intentions for 2022
We have designed and perfected the craft distilling industry’s new, 21st century technology. It allows the industry to take on Big Alcohol. It enables each and every family that starts a distillery to make a decent living.
Our good intention for 2022 is to help make it easier for you to invest and grow. How? For the second consecutive year, we will not raise our prices. Yes, chips and material costs go up steeply, but – at least for the first quarter of 2022 – we will maintain our current pricing levels. With our prices staying the same, we expect it to become easier for (future) craft distillers to make a positive decision on investing and growing.
Secondly, we stop the software and support fees contracts, that are still in place with pre 2021 customers. We expect this decision to lower the costs of our existing customers, and that is – in these times of crisis – always a good thing.
Research via the Craft Spirits Data Project teaches us that, in the USA alone, the number of people employed in the craft distilling industry got significantly lower. In just one Covid-ridden year, the number dropped by over 43%. From 30,000 people being employed to only 17,000!
Laying off people is a way to reduce costs. Given the challenges many distillers face, as they are being confronted with government measures that limit their opportunities to generate income, a cost saving strategy makes sense. Often, craft distilleries find themselves in a “all hands on deck!”-situation.
Off course the total workload doesn’t become less, laying off people, meaning that it’s usually company ownership that need to fill in the gap. Production support staff gets laid off, and the owners – confronted with limited sales opportunities being available in the short term – take over production related tasks.
This choice works in the short term, but in the long term it’s the owner that needs to make sure new sales opportunities are developed. They are responsible for a strategy aimed at growing the company. An owner stepping into the production space basically results in cost reductions short term, but this decision also leads to turnover decrease in the longer term. Not sustainable. Not sustainable, unless you have an iStill.
Given the high level of automation, the ease of control, and the low maintenance and cleaning requirements our amazing technology gives you, an iStill saves you a little over 1 FTE (as in one fulltime employee) per year. As a business owner, you can have the iStill focus on production, where you invest your time in creating new sales opportunities. How’s that for making your distiller pandemic proof?
Here’s the second post in a short series of how iStill, with its amazing technology, is empowering the craft distilling industry. Every post highlights one topic or field that we are disrupting. We’ll explain what is different, how the change envisioned is empowering the industry, and what your specific benefits are.
Today? Today we discuss how iStill made it possible for you to fire your recipe developer and – instead – own recipe development yourself. Your recipes are your future money makers. You want them in-house not outsourced!
The old way
Traditionally, a business owner, that wants to start a craft distillery, needs to hire a recipe developer. The recipe developer designs the gin, vodka, rum, or whiskey you want to produce. What herbs will you use? What grains should you purchase? What standard operating procedure do you follow? Where are your cut points? What flavor profile do you aim for? What flavor intensity do you want to achieve?
And, to obtain answers to the questions asked in the above paragraph, how will your mashing and fermenting procedures look like? How do you extract flavors from herbs and berries? What equipment do you need in order to support the processes the recipe developer thinks you need? Will you age your products? If so, how? At what ABV?
The list of questions is almost endless. Distilling has always been considered something almost “magical”, with only a merry few being introduced to its secrets. Those are the master distillers and recipe developers we should all be after. That’s where the secret knowledge resides, that we want access to!
Of old, recipe development has been expensive and out of the business owner’s direct control. Here’s how iStill, with it’s disruptive approach, empowers you to become the master of your distillery’s future …
The new way
Our founder and CEO Odin designed the Holy Trinity of Distillation. It is a comprehensive model of how flavors are formed, concentrated, and selected in craft distilled products. The impact of understanding this model is so profound, that, the moment you learn how to work with it, you are able to create your own recipes. Better recipes than most other “recipe developers” out there, that pretent to possess “secret” knowledge, can deliver because they base their work on unproven, unscientific anecdotes, rather than the science the iStill University trains you in.
We support our theory of distillation with a set of amazing courses, that transform you into a recipe developer. Why? Craft distilling is all about flavor. Thus, the craft distiller should possess intimate knowledge on how flavors are formed, and how they can be concentrated and highlighted in your drinks. It is what makes you stand out. It is what will make you successful.
We support your training and recipe development with the amazing iStill Mini. It is small enough to help you learn from making a mistake or two. It is controlled to the extend that you can do your recipe development on ‘m. Before you scale up to the bigger production iStills.
What future do you choose?
As a craft distillery owner, you want to own your future. Maximizing growth opportunities while at the same time limiting risks, dependencies, and costs are essential in order to achieve the future that you envision.
Traditional ways hook you and set you up for failure. What if the recipe developer leaves? What if you disagree with his approach or the outcomes presented? What if you want to develop your craft distilled spirits in another direction? Who is in charge now? You? Not anymore, it seems.
iStill provides an alternative. Rather than spending 20k on a recipe developer, you can now spend half that amount of money with us. You get proper training. You get the R&D iStill Mini. You’ll learn how to make better spirits than the competition. You are back in charge of your distillery and your future. Isn’t that the future that empowers you? Isn’t that the direction all of us should take?
Here’s the first post in a short series of how iStill, with its amazing technology, is disrupting the craft distilling industry. Every post highlights one topic or field that we are disrupting. We’ll explain what is different, how the change envisioned is empowering the industry, and what your specific benefits are.
Today? Today we discuss how iStill made it possible to shift the existing and traditional system of staff-oriented distillery set-ups towards an organization that focusses on owner-controlled distilling processes.
The old way
Traditionally, a business owner, that wants to start a craft distillery, needs to hire a master distiller. The master distiller takes care of distilling. First thing he or she normally do is hire an extra set of hands. Running a traditional craft distillery asks for about 1.2 FTE. And that’s just for filling, emptying, and cleaning the still, as well as mashing, fermenting, and distilling. Bottling, labelling, and packaging isn’t even included in that calculation.
Traditionally, the business owner has a plan. He is responsible for marketing and sales and general management. The master distiller decides on the standard operating procedures, mashing, fermenting, and distilling equipment, as well as the aforementioned staffing.
The traditional way of setting up a distillery comes with risks. The owner is at the mercy of the master distiller. It is often his way or the high way, resulting in the business owner not having access to the actual recipe and standard operating procedure. A second associated risk has to do with the additional costs of the distillery hall staffing. A master distiller is expensive. A third risk is that the master distiller makes himself indispensable, preventing progress and efficiency gains on the work floor, because that would threaten his position of authority
The new way
Now look at iStill entering the market. The iStill distillation units come fully automated and based on a new theoretical model on how distillation actually works. The new model as well as the functionality of the new technology are educated at the iStill University.
Given the automation, the business owner no longer needs to hire extra hands. The cost savings are about 1 FTE. Given iStill’s educational facilities, the business owner is no longer dependent on a master distiller. The business owner is trained to own his distillery operation and standard operating procedures, limiting dependencies on hired staff and enhancing innovation and growth on the work floor.
What future do you choose?
As a craft distillery owner, you want to own your future. Maximizing growth opportunities while at the same time limiting risks, dependencies, and costs are essential in order to achieve that future that you envision.
Traditional set-ups hook you and set you up for failure. What if the master distiller leaves? What if you disagree with his approach? What if you want to develop your craft distillery in another direction than your master distiller is happy with? Who is in charge now? You? Not anymore, it seems.
And when the master distiller leaves, now what? Do you have the equipment to help move you forward? Do you have the expertise to take over and step in? And if not, do you really own your business and your future? Again, I am not sure you do.
The person that invested his money, that took all the risk, that hopefully understands the markets he or she needs to cater to … is left dead in the water. We have seen it happen all too often. We have even seen master distillers oppose a business owner choosing iStill equipment. The thought of a still entering the distilling hall with all of our advanced distilling knowledge incorporated felt like too big a threat for the “master distiller” running the production end of things. Heck, we have even seen “master distillers” turn as much of our automation off as possible, so that the programs they run become (sort of) their programs, and – there you go – they are back in the saddle again, ruling the future of your company. Ruling your future as an investor and business owner.
iStill provides an alternative. You save at least 1 FTE to start with. You own your business, your distillery, and – hence – your future. You are no longer dependent on a “master distiller”. You simply need a machine operator instead. You save a lot of money. You are back in charge of your distillery and your future.
Imagining a post-Covid world, where the economy recovers … what will the future of the craft distilling industry look like? Will it be a sustainable future? And under what conditions will it achieve long-term success? In this iStill Blog post our founder and CEO Odin does a deep dive on the above topics. He focusses on the US market, since that’s both the biggest market for craft distilling and it is ahead of the curve. Lessons learned in the USA are applicable internationally. They help paint a global picture.
A sustainable future depends on the ability of the craft distilling industry to make a difference, relative to the competition. Yes, there is a large customer base for alcoholic beverages, but who is going to serve that market?
Up until a decade ago, this market was served by Big Alcohol. A small number of big companies pushing out industrial quality spirits catered the market. Craft distilling is relatively new to the scene. For the craft distilling industry to attain a long-term future, it needs to take market share away from Big Alcohol. It needs to do so by growing its own market share and by then maintaining that market share.
Market share and adoption rate
What market share is needed? To what number does the craft distilling industry need to grow? More is better, but I feel there is also a very specific long-term goal. A goal that needs to be achieved in the coming decade. What that magic number is? It is 14%. For the craft distilling industry to take on Big Alcohol on the long term, 14% market share is needed.
Why? Here’s why! New technologies or innovations disperse in a standardized pattern. It is called “Wright’s Law”. At first a new innovation or technology grows at a slow pace, then that pace picks up, only to slack-down by the time full market potential is reached.
The reason that a new innovation or technology, like craft distilling, isn’t embraced immediately, has to do with how the human mind works. Some people love to try new stuff. Others hold on to what they know.
Based on purchase psychology, four categories of customers or consumers can be distinguished:
Early adopters (14% of the market);
Early majority (36% of the market);
Late majority (36% of the market);
Laggers (14% of the market).
An adoption rate of 14% is the overall minimum goal, since it means that all early adopters are wheeled into the domain of craft distilling. The strategic advantage is that this creates a defendable (and thus sustainable) market share. The more early adopters are “conquered” by craft distillers, the more difficult it will be for Big Alcohol to make intrusions in that trend-setting market.
A second strategic advantage, to conquering the early adopters market, is that it sets the industry (any industry, actually) up to grow further. The early majority will only try things that others, the early adopters, will try first. Late majority consumers and customers will only be persuaded to try something new, once most of the early majority (so close to 50% of the total addressable market!) is doing it.
Is a 50% to 86% market share feasible for the craft distilling industry? No, it isn’t. Not in any foreseeable future. Not in any sustainable future. But 14% is achievable. Achievable and important, because it creates both a defensive and offensive position that puts pressure on the competition from Big Alcohol.
Creating a sustainable long-term future all depends on value creation. I hope the above paragraph makes that clear. But how do we measure value? Well, that’s actually pretty easy.
Money has been invented a long time ago. It serves as a great way to measure value. We can use it to calculate the total value of the total addressable market. Here is a simplified example:
If the global market is 1000 bottles big, and the average selling price of a bottle of spirits is EUR 20,-, well, then the total market value is 1000 x 20 = USD 20.000,-.
So what’s the value of the craft distilling industry, relative to the total addressable market? The craft distilling industry holds about 4,5% of the value of the total addressable market (in the USA). Big Alcohol owns 95,5% of the total market value. Quite a discrepancy. How do we bridge the gap?
Craft Beer has been around for a decade longer than craft distilling. Their growth curve and our industry’s growth curve match very well. The market share value of Craft Beer is currently around 12,5%. It is therefore expected to see the craft distilling industry grow with similar numbers. Given a 12% growth, year over year, a market share of 14% is obtainable within a decade. As follows:
But why would consumers buy craft distilled spirits? I mean, Big Alcohol has taken care of consumer demand pretty successfully for over a century and a half now. What sets craft distillers apart? What “weapons” do we bring to the battle? Simply put, craft distillers can distinguish themselves by their personal approach, via the experience and storytelling they offer, and by producing better quality spirits. Big Alcohol takes the efficiencies of scale and low production costs, as well as huge marketing budgets with ‘m.
If you bring the price difference between craft distilled and Big Alcohol produced spirits up, it becomes clear that the craft distilling industry cannot compete on price. The 4,5% market share they have in value equals a less than 4,5% market share in bottles, simply because purchasing one bottle of craft distilled spirits is about 50% more expensive than a bottle that’s produced industrially.
This means that a personal approach to sales, the adventure of having a drink at your distillery, and – especially – the quality of your product NEED to be 50% better! That’s how the craft distiller carves out a living for himself and his family.
Sleeping with the enemy
All right! Bright future ahead then? Easy growth targets. Lots of amazing new entrepreneurs entering the craft distilling industry. All good, right? No, something is amiss. Something is seriously wrong. We – the craft distilling industry that is – has been sleeping with the enemy. And it is costing us dearly.
Craft distillers design their own recipe, produce their own spirits, and are responsible for selling the bottles they make. Leave anything out and you are either a recipe developer or a contract distiller or a producer that fakes in-house production.
Due to a lack of knowledge, a lack of funds, and a lack in modern spirits production technology no less than 2/3rds of so-called craft distilled spirits are basically outsourced and purchased at companies like MGP. Those spirits are bottled and labeled by the “craft” distiller, but they are not craft distilled spirits! Since they are bought in from Big Alcohol, 2/3rd of the 4,5% value market share is actually only 1,5%.
There you have it: the real value of the market share of the craft distilling industry in the USA is closer to 1,5% than it is to 4,5%. The real value market share of Big Alcohol isn’t 95,5%, but a whopping 98,5%.
This is harming for various reasons. First of all, with every new craft distillery that opens shop, it is actually Big Alcohol that is gaining more market share! Secondly, industrially produced spirits do not support the story telling at the distillery, nor does it provide the 50% increase in spirit quality. A 50% increase in spirit quality, that is needed to defeat Big Alcohol at their game! Here’s how the future numbers will look, if we do not change that:
As you can see, outsourced, Big Alcohol produced, so-called “craft distilled” spirits will be 9% of the total market value. Less than 5% is true craft distilling market value. Now, let me introduce a third reason why this scenario should be prevented at all costs. The USA government grants craft distillers substantial tax advantages over Big Alcohol. Based on the above numbers, Big Alcohol, within a decade, could make a successful push in terminating those advantages. Why give craft distillers an advantage, if they use it to source at Big Alcohol, whose advantageous position needed correction in the first place? Check mate craft distilling industry. Or is there another solution? Something that can turn the tide?
Our mission is – and has always been – to empower the craft distilling industry. We call out what’s wrong (see above). My team and I go the extra mile to help each and every person, that wants to become a craft distiller, with better education, better recipes, and vastly improved equipment.
iStill customers make most of their products in-house. Why? Because we educate our customers. And because we provide them with modern, efficient technology, that allows them to make spirits that are 50% better at less than half the costs.
Our customers show the industry the way forward. They win more medals, they have more success, they have better business cases than those craft distillers, that invest in expensive and outdated equipment, that invest in self-proclaimed “master distillers” that aren’t hampered by any kind of experience or information.
iStill aggressively pushes its technology, so that we can reach more craft distillers. We aggressively speak out when Big Alcohol backed old boys networks try to sell you solutions that do not support your competitive advantages.
Here’s what the future would look like, when the industry as a whole embraces true craft distilling. Where the stories that we, the craft distilling industry, tell our customers actually add up to us designing, making, and selling the product. In-house. If we do so, in just about 10 years, we will achieve a profitable and sustainable future for the craft distilling industry. For our businesses to grow, for our families to prosper. This is how the numbers, in terms of market value division, would look like:
iStill University is the industry’s leading educational facility. The iStill Laboratory has helped design over 450 recipes for customers all over the world. iStill provides the advanced distilling (and mashing and fermenting) technology you need to take the next step and to bring spirits manufacturing in-house. To become a true craft distiller. To kick Big Alcohol’s butt.
It’s the only way forward and the ball is in your court. Wanna play? I am available at Odin@iStillmail.com.
Here’s an interview with Jesper on how he started distilling his own gin first, but now distributes globally made gins via Denmark’s biggest craft gin network. I hope you find it an inspiring story, that stimulates you to think out of the box regarding your own local distribution. Or maybe Jesper’s initiative offers you iStillers a springboard to enter the Danish market with your gin, rum, or whiskey? If so, and if you want to learn more, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Jesper directly via: email@example.com.
Jesper, can you tell us a bit more on how you got involved in the alcohol industry?
It was a coincidence that I ended up in this industry. About 3 years ago my wife was fired from her job as an international sales manager in a big Danish company, as the company was sold and moved. As a consequence she had a lot of time home with a salary from the job.
She wanted to start up a company, but didn’t know what. We were following a lot of sites who sold companies, and suddenly we saw that BeGin Copenhagen was up for sale. At that time BeGin was a concept developed around a RTD (gin/tonic) by two students – as part of their exams. My wife e-mailed me the case and 48 hrs later we owned BeGin. We then started to produce RTD. So by a few random factors I ended up as Co-owner in BeGin – first as a RTD producer.
BeGin’s gins …
And what about Gin Butikken? How did it come to be?
Ginbutikken.dk was one of our biggest customers in BeGin Copenhagen. Ginbutikken.dk is one of the largest gin-webshops in Denmark – with around 500 different gins on the shelf. I started to work with Ginbtuikken.dk as one of the first customers in BeGin Cph.
A year ago my wife had the opportunity to buy a part of another company in Denmark, why I took over BeGin Copenhagen myself. I needed someone to help me with sales, marketing, and staff. On the side I run a law-firm as well – so I had my hands full to be honest :)I started to work with Ginbutikken.dk as a lawyer as well – as I helped them with company setup, knowledge and so. As our cooperation started to grow on several fronts we decided about 9 months ago to join the two companies.Today I own 50% of Ginbutikken.dk and BeGin Copenhagen, and my partner Kenneth owns the other 50% of the companies.
6 months ago we moved both companies to a new location, setting up our online webshop with new facilities. We will open a new showroom/shop in about a month. We just finished our new distillery at the same site, and are currently building a gin school after some good inputs from Shakespeare Distillery (also iStill Customer) in the UK. Big thanks to those guys 🙂
We currently employ 4 people beside Kenneth and me – so we are growing. The idea is to make Denmark’s most exciting gin-house, with a shop with all kinds of gin, a gin school and the distillery.
Over 500 gins are being distributed …
What makes Gin Butikken different or special for the consumer?
First of all – we do everything to please our customers and to give them the best experience. We import a lot of gin from the craft distillers ourselves. We do that from all over the world. We love that, and that is our main goal. We prefer to be the first mover. Some of the things we import we also sell to bars, restaurants, and events. People know we have a wide selection of gins and other liquor. So we also have a wide range of B2B-sales.
The consumers love our variety – love we have the gins they can’t find anywhere else in Denmark. They also love our prices, as we often can sell to a reasonable price, as we do our own import.
How could Gin Butikken help out craft distillers?
We would love to import spirits from craft distillers and expand our range of superb quality. We could provide a good starting position for export to Denmark and a growing market.
Croatia’s famous “Old Pilot’s Gin” is already represented by BeGin …
The Gin Butikken model is mostly tailored towards bringing in gins from all over the world but distributing them primarily in your home country Denmark. Would the Gin Butikken model work for other countries? Would you enjoy playing a role to maybe scaling this initiative up to 1. Other countries; 2. Other drink categories?
At the moment we only sell to Denmark mostly. But we are finalizing some cooperation plans with a partner which would give us access to some of the Scandinavian markets, as they are state owned. That would give us some very interesting export solutions. We also have other spirits than gin – but gin is currently our main goal. We would love to do more whiskey and rum as well – and are buying more and more of this. Again, we would love to have what you can’t find all over. iStill owners might both do rum, whiskey and gin – and that could be very interesting to have a whole range of that in our shop.
Craft gins from around the world on display …
What is your connection to iStill? How did you find us and what is your feedback on working with us?
BeGin Copenhagen is a customer of iStill – and we just set up our brand new distillery with iStill equipment. We love it. I was introduced to iStill by a friend of mine who works in the beer-industry. I asked him a few years ago which still I should buy when I should set up my new distillery. He told me to look at iStill, and a month later I bought a Mini, completed the course and started testing and testing. I love to work with the Mini. So far I have enjoyed every moment of cooperation – always friendly, direct and easy to communicate with iStill and the employees.
Any final thoughts or ideas you’d like to share with the audience?
All iStillers are more than welcome to visit us in Denmark – to see our setup. If anyone is interested we would love to get in touch to start up cooperation or exchanging liquors.
BeGin’s own gins are produced on iStills …
Post Scriptum by Odin
Many years ago we thought it a good idea to help create a global distribution network for craft distilled spirits. With education, training, and the efficient production of high-quality spirits solved by iStill and the iStill University, it made sense to tackle the next big problem, AKA distribution.
The idea resonated through the industry, but never really became more than, well, just that: an idea. Analyzing why such an a priori good idea didn’t become a success taught us that a global craft distilling network could not be organized centrally. It HAD to be a bottom-up, grass-root movement. By and for the craft distiller. Not by iStill.
Do we see, in BeGin’s approach, the beginning of such a bottom-up, grass-root movement? To be perfectly clear: I do not make any claim that we helped inspire this. Not at all! I am only stating that the approach explained above is inspiring. To me and hopefully to many other craft distillers.
I find it inspiring that craft distillers wanting to enter the Danish market now have an outlet. Or a market entry, for that matter. I find it even more inspiring to think about what power it brings to the craft distiller that decides to become an importer and distributor of other craft distilled spirits, from other countries and continents. The B2C sales helps you bypass other distribution networks. And B2B sales might benefit hugely, because you now have so much more to offer than “just” your drinks!