- I've just set up my own distillery company!
It’s very easy actually! £12 to Companies House, all done online, heard back within 24hrs. But there’s more to it than that…
The back story:
Last year I got my PhD and have been struggling to find work since I moved back home to rural Dumfries and Galloway. I’m currently on New Enterprise Allowance to help get a photography business off the ground, but it’s something I really don’t feel is going to happen. So, at the moment, I’m time rich and with some ideas.
The long term plan at home is to take over from my dad in managing the family estate. We’re small fry, like most private estates, with a steady but small income. I’m looking to diversify the estate’s income from a traditional model of farming, rented housing and forestry but developing some under used estate assets.
One option is the conversion of the home farm steading, a 200 year old building that has largely sat empty for the last 30 years or so. My dad looked at converting to housing years ago, but opted instead to build new houses across the road. I want to do something commercial. So, without any prior knowledge of the industry, I’m thinking of opening a distillery in part of the building!
Where I am now:
The most important thing right now is to cost up the process from conversion to manufacturing a product. I have access to some capital from a recent farm sale, but with no experience here I’m currently trying to work out the capital costs involved in converting an old farm building, buying in the kit, raw materials, employing a distiller, marketing, etc. I’ve been in touch with a couple of consultancies who will, I hope, give me a number I can work with. It won’t be cheap, as I’m looking to do the whole distillation process myself (fermentation to bottling).
Next (well, at the same time), I need to figure out the market! There are loads of distilleries opening, or planning to open, in Scotland in the next year or so. All are aiming to capture the current surge in microdistilling. I need to look at how my product would fit into that market, and whether I can sell the volumes I need to at least recoup the expenditure. But that’s not what I want; I want to make money from this. It’s not a hobby, this could be a significant part of my and my family’s livelihood and future.
And finally, for now, I need a product. I know what I want to make, although I’m going to be deliberately cagey at the moment until I know whether I can afford to do this (sorry!). Been in touch with Heriot-Watt uni to help develop something, but I need to get some homebrew kit and try things out myself. Hopefully I won’t poison myself 😀
I’ll know in a month or two whether things are going to stack up financially. From that point the real work starts (planning permission, detailed design, HMRC licenses (God that’s going to be a headache!), product development, design, marketing, retailers…).
I’m keeping firmly realistic about this. It may not happen. And if it does, it’s going to be bloody hard work making it happen, let alone turning a profit. But I figured there’ll be some here who are interested, so will try and keep this thread updated as I go.
Advice, hints and tips welcome! And if you’re looking to get involved in any way, drop me a line Kit[dot]Carruthers[at]gmail[dot]com.
Cheers,Posted 2 years ago
Dormont Distilling Limited 😀TrimixMember
I would work out the marketing/revenue side of things before you do any more.
Work out the revenue opportunities first. Otherwise you will get sucked into doing it, then run out of money and end up as a bankrupt alcoholic.
Focus on one thing and one thing alone. I know a lot of ex-photographers, I cant recommend that as a line of business.Posted 2 years agomonkeysfeetMember
We have the Lakes Distillery just up the road in Bassenthwaite [Cumbria] .They are doing really well after only a few years, they are selling Gin and a blend [whiskey] before the single malt is ready. Seems to be very popular stuff. They are always busy with visitors and have a small cafe too…
the very best of luck kit 😀Posted 2 years ago
are you in touch with Alan Wolstenholme, chairman of the craft distillers assoc? If so remember me to him! If not, he might be useful for advice or putting you in touch.
As said above, whisky has a long payback period, gin is IMHO close to saturated (opinion, I have no pedigree in the area beyond fascination- and jealousy, a bit) – but Rum’s up and coming??Posted 2 years ago
Focus on one thing and one thing alone. I know a lot of ex-photographers, I cant recommend that as a line of business.
Not something I ever wanted to do, and I won’t be pursuing it much longer!
The gin/whisky business model has become a popular way of generating revenue while waiting for whisky to mature. I want to explore a different way of doing it, hoping indeed as scotroutes suggests to use local botanics. I have to think hard about whether to have a shop/cafe as part of the business. We are on a quiet country road without much passing trade, and in an area where small local businesses do struggle.Posted 2 years agomaccruiskeenSubscriber
The gin/whisky business model has become a popular way of generating revenue while waiting for whisky to mature
Gin seems to be very much in vogue but maybe to stand out from the crowd maybe look at Jenever too. Although until Article 50 is triggered you probably would have to think of something else to call it. I really like it and now that people are becoming Gin buffs the nice thing about Jenever is its good to drink on its own like a whisky – it doesn’t need a mixer.
It certainly used to be the case (I’m going back 15 years here) that D&G council were big on supporting and publicising local food (and drink) production. So aside from planning and licensing see what promotion and business support might be available.Posted 2 years agoNZColMember
Tap into ScotEnt for help. I’ve been involved recently in a couple of distillery projects from a financing perspective and have also invested in a couple. Definitely think it through and consider short term, production to cask min 3 years if you are going malt route, blends, gin, beer and other stuff in the meantime. Don’t oder a Porsche yet ! Best of luck, good on you.Posted 2 years agoAye_SparticusMember
Best of luck Kit sounds a great idea I wish you well, you’ve inspired me to get back into making home brew it’s been a few years but I loved every minute of it even roped the kids in the younger two helped with the mixing,bottle washing and label printing and I was chief taster…everyone one was happy admittedly I was probably the happiest …Posted 2 years ago
D&G council were big on supporting and publicising local food (and drink) production. So aside from planning and licensing see what promotion and business support might be available.
They still are. A website recently launched to promote food and drink in the region: The Dumfries & Galloway Food Trail However, there’s not much financial support for setting up the business. According to Business Gateway anyway. There are certainly places opening up round here, including whisky, gin, beer and cider so I’m hoping that this will slot in there too and make it a region to visit if you want fine craft booze.Posted 2 years agojamesmioMember
Hey up – first things first, best of luck with the venture, sounds a hoot.
Secondly, if you’re ever on the lookout for anything logo/branding/web-related, we:
– Are about 10 minutes from you (Annan)
– Did your Dad’s web stuff a couple of years ago
– Have a fondness and keen interest for pretty much anything that comes out of a distillery
– Know most of the useful contacts at Business Gateway & Scottish Enterprise
– Have a co-director by the name of Kit
Seriously, though, shout if we can be of any help, it’d be a cracking project to be involved with.
James MPosted 2 years ago
He used to run the alginate plant at Girvan, I worked at HQ nr London but was on secondment to the plant for a period for various projects. Truly a lovely guy, he was at a distiller before his foray into chemicals and then went back.
His ‘performances’ at the various haggis suppers he used to put on whenever we had visiting dignitaries from overseas were fab. As was his clear love of and support for the scotch whisky industry. I always think of his answer to the question about how to drink it…… which was that it was entirely up to you. With ice, neat, with a splash of spring water, ginger ale, coke, lemonade – he didn’t care what you put with it. As long as that was how you liked it, and as long as it was scotch and not one of the inferior ‘other’ types 😉Posted 2 years agoian-rSubscriber
I went to the City of London distillery last weekend for a gin tasting. I was amazed that the stills were in a room about the size of a single garage. For a brand that has a bit of presence in the market it was very interesting as I was expecting huge amounts of kit but just two stills.Posted 2 years ago
The tasting room had nearly 300 different gins and we were told nearly all of them started up within the last eight years and were trying hard to differentiate with all sorts of botanicals.
Some of the newer companies seemed to be doing very low volume but still making in-roads into the market
Not really much in the way of assistance but I was fascinated by how simple the process was to make the gin. Best of luck. Looking forward to Singleginworld.
I’ve messaged Alan through LI and linked this thread so give him a call, he really is a top bloke.
I’ve also been to the Silent Poolplace – one think surprised me, that they don’t distil the spirit itself, they take in raw spirit in bulk, mix in their blends of flavours / botanicals and then (re)distil that.
Not moaning – the result is bloody great 😉Posted 2 years ago
Thanks theotherjonv, I’ll drop him a line soon!
I believe most small gin distilleries are buying in alcohol in bulk and rectifying with their own botanicals. Kit and time is minimal, so yes, they can be done in a cupboard/shed pretty easily. Distilling from raw materials requires a fair bit of extra investment in fermentation and multiple distillations.Posted 2 years ago69er_GavMember
Sounds like a really exciting project Kit.
I work in the off-trade in Edinburgh and sell loads of craft spirits so give me a shout if you want to see whats selling really well locally. We also have loads of samples open so you’re welcome to swing by and try some of the competition.
I’d say the main selling points for any of our craft spirits are presentation and locality of the distillery, obviously providing it tastes good. Silent Poo(l) is a prime example, it isn’t local but it’s a tasty gin in a fantastic bottle.
Anyway, best of luck and let me know if I can help from a retail point of view.Posted 2 years agodevashMember
Fair play OP. I’m in a similar situation (coming to the end of my Phd, ironically finding it harder to land work than before I started) so will probably be using that tenacity to start my own business in the coming year.
I landed a part time job with a major UK wine retailer to tide me over and I can tell you for sure, the gin “bubble” won’t be popping any time soon.Posted 2 years agoscruffywelderMember
Hey Kit,Posted 2 years ago
Really cool to see another local food/drink enterprise on the cards! I really hope it comes off for you.
If it’s OK with you I’ll pass your details on to my mum – she’s a small scale food producer, just a couple of miles up the road from you (By Heck! jams, jellies, chutneys & marmalades) and also heavily involved in the local farmers market scene. (Be warned though – she talks. Constantly.) The Dumfries market at Tarff Valley Farmers is on tomorrow, might be worth doing a spot of mingling/market research. I’d put you in touch with the guy who makes cider up Langholm way but I can’t remember his name (Chris something or other). ISTR he bought the rights to the Langholm Distillery name a few years back with the intention of making something but I don’t think he ever had time to develop the idea.
Bit of an off-the-wall idea but have you considered something like a vodka made from milk/whey? I believe there’s a successful distillery somewhere in NZ doing it (started as an offshoot of a commercial creamery). It might be possible to do a double act with Arla Foods/Lockerbie Cheese Company (also on your doorstep).
Best of luck,
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