The First Year of Trade

Our first bottle went onto the back bar on the 15th of November 2015, from there we had a fantastic uptake from the trade and private sales as well. Our first batch was sold out in under 48 hours. this obviously got us very excited and we set about making another batch as soon as possible.

We tromped through the first 10 batches and then ran into trouble with procuring a shipment of bottles, this forced our hand to switch our closures to screw caps in the same bottle because if we wanted to continue with the cork closures we had initially decided on the bottles would have been 5 months away. The fun things that pop up along the way that threaten to destroy your business. Having gin and no bottles is a extremely frustrating position to be in. Also wouldn't be the last time we found ourselves in this same position. 

Starting a business on a shoestring budget can be stressful as you could imagine. Our friends in the hospitality industry were great supporters of what we were doing so when we ran into trouble sourcing components of the product and were off the market for short stints they were all very understanding. The concept of having to pay all of the tax up front so we could remove the stock from bonded store and then having to wait to be paid on invoices of 30 days made cash flow a bit of a problem. We managed to organise our way through all of that whilst building a stronger and stronger following. We are forever grateful for this support and understanding because it helped us get to where we are today.

We have always strived to be completely transparent and we believe that has helped us hugely along the way. If you tell people what is actually happening then they seem to be a lot more understanding. Building strong ties with customers through giving the best service possible was of utmost importance to us from the start. Coming from hospitality backgrounds we understood that making ordering as simple and easy as possible was going to lead to repeat trade. Both of us have worked full time in other businesses the entire time we have run Imperial Measures Distilling and continue to do so to this day as we have always wanted to feed any profits back into the business. Growth is key in this industry especially because we don't have the capital to splurge on big marketing campaigns. People talk about running small businesses or start ups and the fact that you are on call 24/7, they aren't wrong. As long as you love what you're doing its really not that bad though. There's always a G&T at the end of it anyway, well in this business anyway. 

   

14 Months Of Planning

From the time we decided to throw our hats in the ring officially to the time we eventually had our first bottles on shelves was about 14 months. This included moving away to gain practical experience, designing our packaging, building our business plan and model, scraping together all the funds we could and designing our flavour profile for our signature gin. As a new company we knew that these initial stages of development were going to be critical to our success.

We were lucky enough to have recognised a growth in the gin category and also an increased interest in locally produced products. This paired with the growth of small batch local distillation that was starting to gain more and more momentum globally helped us take the leap of faith and throw everything we had into getting a company started. We were in no way financially capable of fronting the sort of money necessary to build a distillery from scratch. This left us with two options. We could either wait and save money to buy a still and rent a place to put it or we could approach Applewood Distillery and ask to organise a contract distillation arrangement. If we waited to save enough money we would have missed the crucial timing that was upon us. 

At this stage Kangaroo Island Spirits were on the market and had been for an extended period of time. Adelaide Hills Distillery were just about to launch and Applewood was hot on their heels. We were poised to be part of this first wave of South Australian Gins to hit the market. We had heard whispers of others catching on to what was happening as well. We knew Settlers Spirits were not far from releasing and that there would be more to come. 

As soon as we had organised a means of production we had to move fast, time was of the essence as they say. We decided on bottles and corks and ordered them as soon as possible. We had refined the recipe over time so we knew what we needed. Extensive research went in to where to source the best botanicals from. The original label design was created whilst teaching ourselves how to use the program to design it. We eventually had everything together and so we booked in our first run, made up our first batch of botanicals and eagerly arrived at the distillery to do our first run. Everything went well, the gin tasted good. Finally we were away. 

 

- David Danby

Foundation Story

It began as many things do with discussions over knock off drinks. A long shift, new staff, the booze provided the opportunity to dig a little deeper.  As staff at one of Adelaide’s superior wine and cocktail bars, we shared a weight of responsibility for hosting Adelaide’s winest and finest. It was and still is a great place to work.

With a reputation as being one of the supreme wine and cocktail bars in a state with an unparalleled level of wine production and appreciation, the expectations and standards were high and we bonded over the awesome array of quality products we were able to dispense and sample. David, Ty and myself formed a post work cadre that discussed all aspects of the world and beyond as hospo types have done and will continue to do at 'Knock Offs' for evermore.

A love and appreciation of fine booze was always a focal point, particularly the common interest in spirits, distillation and gin production.  We would share our knowledge and discuss at length the production processes, whilst sampling any and many of the latest addition to the growing world’s list of new and old gins. And of course, knocking up and knocking back gin cocktails both the old and the new.

It became clear this was more than just a boozy lark. We soon found our free time was consumed comparing different stills from across the world, analysing production processes and researching costs of manufacture and cultivation of botanicals.

Our lives outside the bar as a Wine Rep, Student of Agriculture and Apprentice Distiller intersected and we were soon discussing what it would realistically involve to develop our own gin. First and foremost access to a still was the primary concern. All of this was taking place at what appeared to be the birth of a Gin Revolution, and we applauded its every goose step. 

It was just too coincidental to ignore...

The final impetus was Danby’s take up of a position as distiller’s assistant to a well-known South Australian gin producer. At the same time, Ty was approaching the critical final year of his degree and I was just about to embark on a quest to sell South Aussie wine to regional SE Oz in a caravan for 6 months. We knew that if we were to harness the dream of making a gin, then we needed to seriously commit to the idea. It appeared to be now or never.

I still remember where I was when Ty called me. Too hot for the caravan, I had pitched a tent in camping grounds in Ulladulla on the far South coast of NSW. It was the end of the week so I had several bottles of half-finished wine samples at my disposal but it was miles too hot for red wine. I'd grabbed a couple of beers from the local and was charging up phone and laptop in the communal kitchen when the phone rang. Reception was sketchy.

"Hey Ty! How’s it all going? 

"Jonesy! All good - we need to talk. Danby is coming back and we are going make it happen! He thinks he may have access to a still. Where are you and when are you back?

"I'm in Ulladulla and I'll be back in about 6 weeks... where is he getting a still from?

"Not sure about the details yet. I just wanted to check that you are still keen?

"Hell yeah I am! Sling me some details when you can! I'm going give Danby a call now. Cheers knackers!

It was at about 10.30pm that I managed to get in touch with Danby. By that stage it had cooled sufficiently to drink red wine. Which was just as well as there was no more beers or riesling left...

With an extension cord running 20 metres from the neighbouring powered site to my 'mobile' phone, Danby and I gassed for several hours over intermittent reception that regularly dropped in and out. By the end of the call I'm not sure what I had agreed to, but one thing was clear - when I got back to Adelaide, we were going to make gin. 

Chris Jones