We never set out to be market traders, although Greg's love of Only Fools & Horses knows no bounds, but it is one of the things that has propelled our brand and established us as whisky producers in the North West in our own right.
When Greg bottled his first cask of whisky, Kirsty was not involved in the company at all, he did it in part because he thought ‘why the hell not’ and in part as Kirsty had asked ‘why don’t you have your own whisky?’ at his book launch so the cogs got whirring and the balls got rolling pretty much the next day.
But when that pallet of 299 bottles of Ardmore 8 Year Old arrived on our driveway, it is fair to say he had no idea what to do with it having never seen a pallet of whisky before and never having had to break one down and store the boxes either… about thirty minutes later he was also aching like hell having carried bottles of whisky that in total weighed 1.4 tonne from pallet to QC (to check they were all ok) and onto storage. He was a mess.
Then a great thing happened, just a few weeks later Kirsty joined the company as one of the founding directors and made sense of it all, booking us onto makers markets and artisan markets in the North West around Manchester initially (and a couple years later national food and drink shows too).
That first market – wowzers
To set the scene; it was -2•c, snowing and we were stood outside The Lowry theatre in Salford freezing like you would not believe and had no idea what we were doing – no trolley / trundle, way too many boxes of bottles to sell (there’s ambition then there’s ‘bloody hell do I have to carry these back over the bridge to the car park later?’, the banner for some reason had other people’s bottles on it including Glenfiddich and others as we figured if no one wanted our smoky whisky we could sell other bottles we had (wrong) and we were WAY too generous with our samples, starting each conversation with “would you like to try a free whisky?”.
We learned, and learned fast, especially as Greg was used to his consulting day rate as income, so selling in £50 increments (inc VAT) on a per bottle basis was setting him up for a bit of a fall in the early days until we worked it all out and worked on the look, feel, format and staging of our market stall, which took time and continues to evolve…
After five years we still love doing the markets
Nowadays we have priority markets we are at most months, we put more time into longer, multi-day shows around the UK each year and bringing amazing quality and tasting whisky to the awesome customers we get to meet and who oftentimes become friends along the way too.
The thing that we love about the markets is that we get to meet so many people who are wanting to learn about whisky, or have never been taken through different flavour profiles of whisky or even are sometimes nervous to even try whisky as it can be quite a daunting spirit to get on board with.
Our entire approach is to demystify, tell product and distillery stories in engaging ways and answer any and every question as best we can – there are no bad questions and we passionately believe that (and trust us, we have had some random ones along the way).
Even if people don’t buy from us we always want them to have had a positive whisky experience whilst with us.
There are people we get from time to time who want to take time out of their days to try and show they know more about whisky than us or who try to trip us up with tricky questions are always shocked with Greg’s next-level whisky geekery and how how he will just keep answering questions and keep talking about whisky until someone says stop…
Those folks we are often less keen on, but still entertain them as by the end of it they can (or should) see why it is that we do what we do and that we may talk simply about flavour and maturation initially, but if you want to go to the nth degree, we will take you all the way.
Obviously sales are the reason we turn up to the markets in all sorts of weather, especially in the North West – Christ it can be grim, but one of the unexpected positive byproducts of market life is the community of traders and the friends you make, especially at the bigger shows as they are a lot more intense and you are all going through the exact same thing for the full duration of the three or four day event, the highs, the lows, the wins, the misses. Some you will know for years and never know their name, because everyone knows each other by what they do so Greg is ‘Whisky Man’, for obvious reasons, Matt at the Great British Cheese stand was ‘Cheesy Bastard’ for about two years before Greg heard someone say his name (had gone on too long for him to ask again…), and Paul at Black Storm Brewery is known at ‘Beer Man’, again for obvious reasons.
These people get you through some tough times if events are quiet and also drinking buddies between sessions or just people to unwind with during events when you get a break – each and every one of us works incredibly hard to make the best of every event we do and when you are part of that community, there is something brilliant about having the support and the chat from those around you too.
So, all in all we love markets, and hope you enjoy seeing us and sampling our newest releases too, make sure you come and say hi next time you see us – even if you do not buy, we sincerely hope you like what we have been producing.