Top 10 crowd-funded spirits projectsBy Amy Hopkins
As traditional routes to investment are squeezed, a number of innovative spirits start-ups have found success through crowd-funding websites.
Over the past few years, independent spirits innovators have sought to bring their product to market through a new internet phenomenon – crowd-funding.
Sites such as Kickstarter, Crowd Cude and Pozible allow entrepreneurs to pitch their products and offer so-called “armchair dragons” the opportunity to earn rewards by investing.
Different levels of investment are offered, with corresponding rewards – from discounts and freebies to an equity stake in the business.
The drinks industry has truly thrived through such initiatives, with everything from cocktail robots to smoked bacon Bourbon securing the necessary funds.
Click through the following pages to discover our pick of some of the most innovative and successful crowd-funded spirits projects launched in recent years.
Zero Gravity Cocktail Project
Raised so-far: US$2,374
Not many people are likely to have lost a great amount of sleep over astronauts’ inabilities to sip a Martini with dignity in space, but one start up project certainly has. Launched by San Francisco-based Cosmic Lifestyle Corporation (CLC), a group which designs domestic products for space, the Zero Gravity Cocktail Project is described as a “fluid dynamics and lifestyle experience design experiment”. The project is still listed on Kickstarter and has so-far raised US$2,374 out of its US$30,000 goal.
Yellow Rose Distilling
Last July, Houston’s first legal whiskey distillery, Yellow Rose Distilling, launched a campaign on Kickstarter to build a “bigger and better” distillery and tasting room, having “outgrown” its existing facilities. The company successfully secured its goal of US$25,000 funding and said it planned to extend its ladder of products and also release a number of limited editions.
Smoked Bacon Bourbon
Australia’s Experimental Spirits Co., the team behind famed bars Eau de Vie and The Roosevelt, made its foray into the world of bacon-flavoured whiskey with the help of crowd-funding website Pozible. The group imports Bourbon whiskey from the states and washes the liquid with 100% Australian smoked bacon. The whiskey the undergoes a “laborious” filtration process before it is hand bottled and wax sealed. The funds pledged by 213 supporters were used to buy whiskey stocks and invest in filtration equipment.
Distilled by Doulas Laing & Co., SIA Scotch is described as a “fresh and modern blend” – containing liquid from Speyside, the Highlands and Islay. The brand was created by San Francisco-based Scotch enthusiast and licensed bartender Carin Luna-Ostaseski, who wanted to create a whisky that appealed to a contemporary palate. Luna-Ostaseski used the funds to complete production of the first SIA batch, buying the spirit and glass, and then importing this into the US.
Milk & Honey
After raising more than US$75,000 on Indiegogo, Milk & Honey became the first single malt whisky distillery in Israel. The company secured the funds at the end of 2013, and has become one of the most well-known crowd-funding success stories in the drinks world since. Making kosher “Speyside/Highland style” whisky, Milk & Honey used the second round funds to buy barley and corn, and also invest in oak casks, since it had already secured its location, equipment and master distiller.
UK-based mail order cocktail company Shaken launched its first crowd funding bid through Seedrs earlier this month in a bid to raise £120,000. The company sends subscribers premium spirits and ingredients to create five drinks – two classic cocktails, two contemporary cocktails and an extra shot of the neat spirit to enjoy neat. Subscriptions start at £24 for one month with gift packs also available in three-month, six-month and 12-month sign-ups. Backer together receive a 10% stake in the business.
Robot bartender Monsieur launched in early 2014 following a successful crowd-funding bid by its creator. Described as similar to a “cocktail vending machine”, Monsieur uses an app to calculate the ideal cocktail for drinkers depending on their preferences. Users are able to order drinks remotely so that they are ready for them when they get home, and do not even need to leave the house to replenish ingredients – Monsieur has the ability to text a local store with an ingredients list. The prototype received an additional boost almost 10 months later when seed investors pledged £2m.
A true success story of Kickstarter, Whisky Elements is a company that provides a innovative device that claims to turn young whisky into “top shelf stuff” in just 24 hours, and received more than five times its goal funding on Kickstarter, in just two weeks. Available in five varieties – oak, vanilla, maple, smokey and peaty – the Whiskey Elements sticks are designed to “improve the quality” of whisky once placed inside a bottle. So-far 5,005 backers pledged US$195,982 to help bring this project to life.
London Distillery Company
Listed on Crowd Cube, the Battersea-based London Distillery Company brought single malt whisky production back to the UK capital after 100 years after receiving funds of £250,000. Based in a former Victorian dairy cold room, the craft distillery released its inaugural product, Dodd’s Gin, in 2013. Named in tribute to 18th century entrepreneur and founder of The Intended London Distillery Company Ralph Dodd, the gin is distilled using organic botanicals including juniper, angelica, lime peel, bay laurel, cardamom, red raspberry leaf and London honey. It was revealed later that year the company would move into whisky production using Warminster Maltings from Wiltshire.
Kamm & Sons
In return for 24% equity, British aperitif Kamm & Sons raised an outstanding £600,000 on Crowd Cude. Having successfully secured funds to launch the product in 2011, the company endeavoured on a second round funding bid in 2012 to export it product to Europe, Asia and America. Kamm & Sons is an aperitif containing 45 botanicals and took five years to develop using a closely guarded family recipe.