Evolving a traditional product with personalisation
Will Edwards – founder of Archie Rose distillery, told an audience of Telstra Wholesale customers how he created a successful business with test-and-learn techniques, and by taking a new twist on a centuries-old product. Here’s his story.
Four years ago, I launched the Archie Rose distillery in Sydney. Since then we have won global awards for our spirits and been part of an amazing boom in Australian distilling. How did we succeed in a business where the core products have been largely unchanged in hundreds of years? Simply put, we evolved them in our own way.
I have always had a passion for making things, and I became interested in the creative process of distilling spirits at a (relatively) early age. But it was not until I took a trip to New York and saw how urban distilleries were flourishing in the city that I decided to launch a distilling business in Australia.
I wasn’t actively trying to disrupt the distilling industry. It has been operating successfully for hundreds of years. Whisky distilleries in Scotland produce thousands of barrels a year, while global giants such as Diageo dominate the industry.
However, I wanted to create something different, something that I wanted to drink, using the wealth of Australian ingredients we have on our doorstep.
Test and Learn
Like every other distiller, we started the traditional way with a tried and tested process. Then we started questioning every stage of the process. We took inspiration from other crafts such as brewing, and we experimented. We used roasted malt and we distilled all of our gin botanicals individually.
Our painstaking manual process enabled us to test and develop new flavours. It also enabled us to do small batches with very specific flavour profiles. It makes for a unique customer experience: guests can come to our distillery in the city and mix their own gins or order them online with granular control over the spirit’s flavour.
Tailored spirits were part of our original vision. Not simply to make money - they are the opposite of bulk shipments - but because that’s what we as consumers want from a service. Of course, we respond to customer demand and we keep an eye on trends, but we also do things no one has asked for, because we think they are interesting. And that’s where some of our most creative ideas and innovative products come from.
We are pragmatic to know we can’t stay still if we want to continue being successful.
Tradition at scale
We are a completely different company to when I set it up four years ago. We are much larger for one thing. We have built new facilities to increase our production capabilities and we learned from the lessons of the original distillery. Now we use technology to help us meet demand for tailored spirits and we are experimenting with augmented and virtual reality to provide more immersive experiences. We still engage very deeply with all our customers. It might cost us in some case sales, but long-term it means we can control our reputation by guaranteeing a high service standard.
The first phase of our business - launching and realising our original vision - is complete. The second phase has to be driven by our staff. Our old ways of managing and operating the business have had to change. I had to adjust my management style because my own methods weren’t compatible with the scale to which we aspired.
Now we empower our teams to take much more responsibility. I’m confident in our company’s future because they passionate, skilled and, most importantly, understand the Archie Rose culture.
After all, we succeeded by evolving a traditional product. Now it’s time to evolve our company.