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hen people come to us looking for information and


advice about starting a distillery, we always start the conversation with


some tough love. We’ve got the talking points down: production capacity vs. debt service and the cost of undersizing equipment or

move to the background. If a rising tide lifts all ships, then surely the inverse is true as well. A receding tide may strand all ships. The importance of this concept is

not limited to your brand but crosses through a customer’s impression of micro distilling as an industry.

square footage. Then we move into the joy of the job and why

Giving a customer a poor or unremarkable experience with your

it resonates so greatly with us, and we end with the advice that

brand can carry through to their next spirits purchase. I can’t

we feel is most critical: In all aspects of the company, focus on

count the number of transactions Headframe Spirits has had in

selling the customer a second bottle.

the last two years where the first question from the bar manager,

One of the things we, and other players in the micro distilling

liquor store owner, distributor or retail consumer is, “It doesn’t

industry, consistently observe is the critical need for strong

taste like that stuff from (insert other micro distillery name here)

production controls. Consumers expect that they’ll have a

does it?” or “You’re not charging more than this great 12 year

consistent experience between their first bottle of Maker’s Mark

Irish for something aged 6 months are you?” The ripple effects of

Whiskey, Absolut Vodka or Beefeater Gin and the second, even

customer perception extend much further than the pebble drop

when purchased years apart. The standards of identity were

your brand left on their minds and palates.

developed in support of this very concept. Micro distilleries have so many details to worry about – did

Exacting standards, attention to detail, a strong focus on quality control and the knowledge that it may be ultimately

the closures show up, will the bottling party put the labels on

less expensive to dump a batch down the drain than it is to put

the right way, can we get product into bottles – and sold – in

underwhelming or just plain bad product out in the market are

time to finish paying for those bottles – that they often wind up

things we learn along the way. Some of those lessons are learned

taking the customer for granted. Here’s the caution: If you’re

easier than others. More importantly, some are more recoverable

not concentrating on the reason the customer will be a repeat

than others. Unfortunately, the lessons each of us have to learn

customer, it may be the last bottle you sell to that consumer or

are repeated by damn near all of the players in our industry.

that account.

Selling the second bottle is a sign of a job well done, by you

Reasons for failing to achieve that second sale include quality, and by your competition. It raises the profile not only of your price, brand recognition, market saturation, pressure from larger

distillery but of the industry as a whole. It’s a demonstration of

brands, trends and a host of others. Those of us in distilling

quality, of hitting an appropriate price point, of great storytelling

have all seen examples of the above and if you track online

and often of local pride as well. For the larger players in our newly

forums where industry players discuss topics like this one, you’ll

emerging national industry, these sales are often of national or

find detailed discussions about all of these issues. In the end, international significance. And the best part, to my mind, is that there are components of a missed sale which cannot be entirely

the strength of your brand helps pave the way for my brand to

controlled. The best advice is to keep the focus on how to sell

be taken seriously, and vice versa. When each of us opens an

the second bottle and allow the noise of other distractions to

account with a quality product, we make that account that much


Profile for Artisan Spirit Magazine

Artisan Spirit: Summer 2014  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.

Artisan Spirit: Summer 2014  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.

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