Independent British distillery the East London Liquor Company has shown something of a thirst for progress. Winner in the Business Growth category at The Wharf Innovation In Business Awards 2016, the company takes its cues from the products it creates.
Transparency is key and it’s a philosophy that’s that seen it achieve some impressive results despite only having two years of trading under its belt.
Having worked in the trade, the company’s founder and managing director Alex Wolpert emerged from behind the bar with a vision to create a brand of gin based entirely "on openness and passion" .
“I really thought there was this huge gap in the market for really good, affordable gin,” he said. “So I wondered if I could make a good liquid. There is an over-premiumisation of gin, and I was sure we could bust this myth, that affordability is linked to quality.”
Alex and his team set about producing a dry, aromatic Martini-focused gin. This was soon followed by an oily, herbaceous expression designed for the Negroni.
He said: “The starting point was always the flavour. It wasn’t clever branding. Develop a pretty bottle and you’ll sell one if you’re lucky; develop a great liquid and they’ll want to keep coming back.
“We were very methodical, in terms of carefully going through different iterations. Whoever drinks it may decide they don’t like the flavour due to personal taste, but they would never doubt the quality of the liquid.”
The company spent six months perfecting its gins before taking them to distributors.
“We were very open with potential sellers and to be fair and modest with our pricing,” said Alex. “We were offering a good price for an excellent product.
“We didn’t have a sales team, so we were literally pounding the pavements and slowly but surely we started to persuade people that we were a local gin.
“It was only last year that we hired our first sales people. One solely on the local – working on a three postcode market – and three others. Sales have also grown organically.”
The freedom of direction arises from the fact the company works without input from venture capitalists.
Alex said his business partners had enough business with their other ventures to enable him to get on with what he did best.
“I think that by having the process, effectively, on the label, that consumers and bartenders alike feel they are getting the whole picture from us,” he said.
The distillery took the decision early on to boost this end of the business by offering trade and consumer tours in a bid to make the brand as accessible as possible. Its Bow premises also have a bar, shop and restaurant on-site. The aim is to project an atmosphere of welcome rather than protect brand secrets.
“I was doing a tour last year when one of the customers asked if they could take a photo of the recipe we were using,” said Alex.
“I told her: ‘Of course’. I took it as a massive compliment.”
But to really appreciate the momentum a business is gathering, you have to witness it on the street. Alex recalls a stint over the festive period manning a till as shoppers saw the obvious benefits of a bottle of good gin as a gift.
He said: “I did a shift at our Borough Market shop over Christmas and it was quite an experience to see this product that we came up with in such demand.
“We sold 150 bottles that day, and we created it. It just shows, I think, that this transparency is appealing to people. They get it.”
Off the back of such success Alex’s gin will, by the end of 2017, be on sale in 15 countries including Australia, Japan, Singapore, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and India.
“It’s a great testament to the story that our local approach is transferable to the macro scale,” he said. “With all the globalization in the world, to upscale that ethos and get our product into Vienna, or Melbourne, is wonderful.”
Alex has also diversified his offering to include vodka, rum and, ready for 2019, whisky.
As for the award, Alex said it was a massive honour to win.
He said: “Growth sometimes has an aggressive connotation. But the organic slow steady growth, due to market demand not a marketing spend, has gotten us where we are today.”
And his company is proof firms can grow from the bottom up and go global in a short period of time.
Follow The Wharf on Twitter @the_wharf .
Keep up to date with all our articles on Facebook .