How Whisky Distilleries do Research and Development

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For businesses just starting out, the research and development phase can be key to getting it right. And for whisky distilleries, it can be extra difficult.

Long Term vs Short Term

The thing about spirits, especially ones that need to be matured, is that it takes a long time. For whisky to legally be called whisky, it has to be matured for over 3 years, otherwise it’s called new make spirit or a spirit drink. So what happens when a brand is first developed. How does a whisky distillery carry out research and development if they don’t have a product to research or develop?

Even at three years old, most whiskies aren’t ready to be bottled. Some distilleries do bottle both three year old and new make spirit, but it can hard to really explore the character of a whisky at such a young age. With the recent increase in popularity that the spirit has seen, more and more competitors have entered the market, but not all of them have stock that is the right age to bottle.

So what is a new distillery to do, when they need to make an income but don’t have a ready product? For many of them, the answer lies in another type of spirit; gin.

The Whisky and Gin Revolution

It shouldn’t really be a surprise that both the whisky and gin markets saw a massive increase in popularity at the same time. Beforehand, they were often perceived in the same way, which is that they are for older drinkers and not considered cool enough for younger audiences.

This has changed recently, and both spirits have been able to make a break away from the dusty images they once held. And they have been able to help each in doing so.

For many whisky distilleries, as they wait for their whisky to age, or even before they begin to make it, they will make spirits that don’t need to be aged instead. Gin, vodka and liqueurs are easily made and give new distilleries a revenue stream they can make on their kitchen table.

Good examples of this model include Balmenach, which began making the very successful Caorunn Gin before they introduced their single Malt and Kinsbarn in Fife, who moved production of their Darnley’s Gin from London to Fife only recently. Brewdog, well established at making beer, have also started distilling and released the Lone Wolf gin well before their whisky was ready.

Bigger name distilleries are also starting to get into the gin game, seeing it as another way to bring in revenue and to diversify their product range. Bruichladdich, which is well known for their peated malt, have recently brought out The Botanist gin. Grain distillery Benromach have also started producing gin with Red Door.

If seems that investing in both gin and whisky has become the latest model for keeping distilleries active as well as giving those just starting out a revenue boost.

What do you think of whisky distilleries beginning in the gin market? Start the conversation in the comments!

Tags: gin revolutionResearch and DevelopmentWhiskywhisky distilleries


My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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