for the state of Wyoming that said just 4% of the spirits sold in-state are in the super-premium category, a category that includes the vast majority of craft spirits, including Backwards Distilling’s products. Yet premium products comprised 25% of the market, indicating fertile ground if the Pollocks could come up with a way to offer a lower-priced spirit for the local market. So they created 307 Vodka, named after Wyoming’s area code, which is made with higher-yield ingredients and distributed in a more streamlined package to cut costs. “307 will never leave Wyoming,” says Amber, but says it’s helped them penetrate the on-premise market. Simple distance is another thing to consider. Wyoming is big, and its small population is spread far apart. A two-hour tasting at a liquor store can mean more time spent behind the wheel just getting there than actually pouring samples and talking to consumers. “It’s a lot of time when you’re really not selling anything, you’re just driving.” At the same time, the relatively modest number of other
distilleries in Wyoming keeps in-state competitive pressures low. Another challenge stems from cultural realities: Wyoming is beer country. “We are not a cocktail mecca, by any means,” says Amber. “So it became pretty clear to us that if we wanted people to be drinking our products, we had to demonstrate what that could look like.” That means the Backwards tasting room has developed an ambitious and high quality cocktail program, serving up to 30 different cocktails at any given time. “We’ve got more than 50% of our workforce in the tasting room,” says Amber. “We’ve really worked to make this a big part of the business.” Amber has always been motivated to give back, a quality that led her to her first career as a classroom teacher. Initially, she wasn’t sure that managing the tasting room would give her the same opportunities as teaching to stay connected and engaged, but then she realized how important a vital community gathering place was for their 50,000-person town. “Shaking cocktails in and of itself is not necessarily fulfilling.
It’s the interactions with people, having people bring their family out when they come into town, the way they’re proud this is in their community, the support we get. That’s where it gets to be something more,” says Amber. In addition to serving cocktails and offering tastings five days per week, the Backwards tasting room also hosts regular events, including cocktail classes, live music, and even happy hour yoga classes. Even though it’s not in the center of downtown, the Pollocks say the customers keep coming; last year, the tasting room accounted for about half their revenue. “We could have moved the distillery to Colorado, and had a ton of access to other people and a lot more competition,” says Amber. “But I feel like having roots is important. We’re from Wyoming, and so we opened it here. That was what won out.”
Backwards Distilling is located in Wills, Wyoming. For more information visit www.backwardsdistilling.com or call (307) 472-1275.
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www.iscbarrels.com Chad Spalding • 270.699.1557 firstname.lastname@example.org