Local motion is in full swing

Interest in provenance of products higher than ever, firms say.

A bartender is adding a lime to a gin and tonic mix in a glass.

STAYING ‘local’ for over a year as a result of the pandemic may have had plenty of people climbing the walls but it also led to many getting better acquainted with the area in which they live – and the producers within it.

And that is said to have helped fuel a renewed interest in eating and drinking small-batch, local products – which is good news for craft beer and spirits producers.

In fact, brewers and distillers told SLTN demand for craft beers and spirits continues to go from strength to strength.

“Consumer appetite for crafted products has never been higher,” said Craig Rankin, distillery manager at Crafty Distillery in Newton Stewart, which produces Hills & Harbour Gin.

“Recent times have seen a real push for buying from small producers in support, mixed with the fact that people have been mostly stuck at home for the last year.

“This has really pushed consumers to explore and enjoy craft products more.”

That was echoed by Isle of Skye Distillers, which was set up by brothers Thomas and Alistair Wilson and launched Misty Isle Gin in 2017.

Thomas said consumers are increasingly interested in craft products and the story behind them – and that operators who tap into that demand stand to benefit.

“Today people want to know where the spirit they are drinking has originated from – who has made it and where do the ingredients originate from?” he said.

“It is much more meaningful today to buy quality and understand the story behind that specific spirit.

“Provenance is everything to us here at Isle of Skye Distillers. We take pride in sourcing various local botanicals and appreciating what is on our doorstep.

“The quality of a liquid is also essential to think about – it is vital at the end of the day that customers are enjoying a quality spirit that they would happily consume again.

“We also think that it is of importance to look at the distillery and company ethos – does the company have a positive impact on their local area or community? What good are you helping to contribute to when purchasing spirits from certain craft distillers?”

That companies are making a difference in the wider world was also flagged as being increasingly important by Indy Anand, director of rum importer and distributor Skylark Spirits, whose portfolio includes Saint Benevolence Rum Clairin – a sugarcane spirit produced on Haiti which funds charitable efforts through Living Hope Haiti and Innovating Health International; and Montanya – a B-Corp certified sustainable American craft rum produced in the Rocky Mountains.

Anand said ethical brands are “gaining further momentum – and for good reason”.
“Customers want to spend money where they know the companies are making a difference,” he said.

“They want to support companies that share their values and it will be up to operators to facilitate this and communicate these messages to consumers.

“We can only stress how important it will be for licensees to be a part of this trend – find those products and use them in interesting, complementary serves and help educate your consumers about them.”

Of course the story and provenance of producers and their brands will only count for so much if the quality of the serve isn’t up to scratch.

Dale McQueen of McQueen Gin, which is based at the Trossachs Distillery in Callander, said quality of serve is “vital”.

“People initially drink with their eyes and if a drink looks visually spectacular it will only add to the taste and experience of that particular drink,” he said.

The importance of delivering the ‘perfect serve’ was underlined by Stuart Cook, joint managing director of Harviestoun Brewery, who stressed the benefits of using the correct glassware.

“Every brewery should have their own glassware as if you are going to charge a bit more for a far superior product, it is critical that it is served in the right vessel,” he said.

“Consumers shop with their eyes first, so presentation to get liquid on lips is key. Once they have tried the product – they won’t go back!”

Crawford Sinclair, commercial director at Innis & Gunn, echoed the importance of maintaining high standards when it comes to the serve, saying craft products can offer higher cash margin for operators.

“Branded glassware reinforces premium credentials and helps ensure consumers are happy to pay a premium price,” he said.

“Innis & Gunn would always recommend using a clean, branded glass as presenting beer in a strong way has a value beyond that of the price of the pint in hand.

“With consumers regularly going straight to their social channels to ‘tag’ or ‘check-in’ from venues, posting images of a great looking drink alongside, they could be encouraging future custom from their own network to yours.”