Yesterday I took my partner to the Eden Mill distillery for a gin tour (and tasting) for her birthday.
I suspect you’ll have noticed, but gin is on the up. Gone are days when your local bar would stock one house brand (two if it was “fancy”). Nowadays, gin takes pride of place on the shelf and bars compete over who has the most extensive range.
I have to say, the Eden Mill tour was fantastic. I liked the product before (it tasted good). Now, I’m a fan.
The Eden Mill “Love” gin has been a firm favourite in our household for a few years now (fun fact: it was supposed to be a limited edition for Valentine’s Day, but became so popular they had to keep producing it). Our love of Love was the reason I booked the tour. I had tried some of their other gins in the past, but to be honest found them too strong – the Oak gin absorbs some of its flavour from used whisky barrels so has quite a strong fiery taste which I wasn’t keen on (yes, a Scotsman that doesn’t like whisky. I don’t toss the caber either!). As for the Hop gin, even our tour guide called it their ‘Marmite’ product.
At the end of the tour I bought four bottles of gin – none of which were Love! Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Jeez, that sales guy was good.” And yet Chris, the guy that hosted our tour, never once tried to sell anything. In fact, he even bypassed the shop. A good product clearly sells itself…
You see what I had failed to understand is each gin is designed for specific mixers and its taste evolves depending on what is added to it. This is what enhances (or destroys) each gin’s unique flavour. The key to enjoying the gin is understanding the other elements you add (or don’t add) and the quantity needed to arrive at the perfect balance to suit your taste.
For example, the Oak I mentioned earlier (you know, the whisky-flavoured one I absolutely don’t like and will never like?). Add a slice of orange and it was very, very different – almost palatable for my delicate un-Scotsman-like taste buds… Then, add a small amount of ginger ale and wow! I now have a new favourite!
As for the Love gin, I have always had it with regular tonic water, ice and maybe some lime… Replace that with pink lemonade and a raspberry – it was like a whole new gin and absolutely delicious (although I appreciate it’d take a man very comfortable in his own skin to order a pink Love gin in his local watering hole…).
So what am I getting at here (other than giving you a play-by-play of the afternoon I spent getting hammered sampling gin – yes, I’m a lightweight)?
I have no affiliation to Eden Mill (although a bottle of Love to complete our collection would be “lovingly” received) but the tasting process got me thinking… Business is like a good gin.
Yes, you read that right, I’m saying your business is a gin. No, I’m not still drunk. Let me explain…
To exist as a gin, the spirit must be flavoured predominantly with juniper berries. Every gin in the world must start with this ingredient, otherwise it cannot be called gin. Think of juniper berries as your business fundamentals – the absolute basic elements you need to call yourself a business, for example: a name, a product or service and a revenue stream.
Next up, and once you have your basic gin spirit, it’s time to get creative – develop the unique gin flavour that differentiates your gin from another brand. Eden Mill’s Oak gin made with whisky barrels or the Love gin with enhanced flavours from exotic fruits would be examples of this kind of creativity. It makes their gin(s) taste different to any other gin. Again, looking at a business, this is where you start to differentiate yourself from your competitors. You might do this by offering an exclusive service, promoting a lower price, an emphasis on attention to detail, location, brand values and relationships… The list is virtually endless.
THE FINAL FLOURISH
Then, and as I have just recently learned, the process for providing the world with high quality gin doesn’t stop when the bottle is sealed and labelled. Brands like Eden Mill understand the key factor for their success isn’t in the care they take over the distillation process (although clearly very important), but in the moment a customer tastes their product. The mixers and garnishes added to the gin can make or break the product. It can be the difference between Eden Mill gaining a new customer or putting someone off their product for life. It’s a fine balance and the reason Eden Mill is working so hard to educate bar staff, retailers and customers to ensure the right ingredients are added to their final product.
In business, it’s relatively easy to know that you need a set of accounts, you need a brand name, you need a product. However, just like Eden Mill’s gin, if your brand values and quality of service aren’t met at the point of delivery then all your hard work has been for nothing.
The extra flourishes, supporting materials and garnishes you apply to your business could just make or break your customer’s experience. Most of us set out with the best of intentions, but how often are we disappointed to hear our customer’s experience didn’t match our hopes – or worse, how often has a customer left unsatisfied and we’ve never had any feedback whatsoever?
Understanding exactly how your product is performing (and is being received) out in the market is crucial to business success. Engage with your customers and enhance your business with the right accessories to suit their needs – help them understand what you are offering. Finally, and crucially, know exactly how to ensure their satisfaction – identifying what they like and doing more of it, and identifying what they don’t and fixing it.
I think we could all take a juniper leaf out of Eden Mill’s book and pay attention to the details at the end of the customer journey. Sometimes a little ginger ale can go a long way.