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BrewDog Distilling MD: ‘Whisky is ripe for disruption’

BrewDog’s spirits arm is planning to release a new brand of vodka and gin later this year, and is moving closer to launching its “disruptive” whisky.

2019 is set to be a big year for BrewDog Distilling

The Scottish brewer moved into spirits in 2015 with the launch of its Lone Wolf range, produced at a distillery built inside its Ellon brewhouse, where every stage of production is carried out.

BrewDog’s Lone Wolf spirits operation has been renamed BrewDog Distilling under new managing director David Gates, who joined the firm from Diageo at the end of last year.

Speaking to The Spirits Business, Gates said the change would allow BrewDog’s spirits portfolio to capitalise on the “brand equity” of its famous beers.

“When BrewDog was founded, it had a first-mover advantage in craft beer, which in the UK was a relatively underdeveloped marketplace,” he said.

“The craft spirits market is congested now, and you might argue we are late to the party. From a spirits perspective, to not leverage that brand equity feels like a missed opportunity.”

David Gates joined BrewDog Distilling at the end of last year

BrewDog’s distillery is also named Lone Wolf, which Gates claimed might change to create a “more synergistic” relationship with BrewDog beer. The Lone Wolf brand will be renamed, and will be joined by a number of other brands under the BrewDog Distilling umbrella.

This year BrewDog Distilling is set to launch an entirely new brand of vodka and gin, move into rum, and embark on a series of “collaborative” projects. The team is also working to launch its first Ellon-distilled whisky, following the 2016 debut of Uncle Duke’s, made using sourced liquid.

According to Gates, whisky is the spirits category that is “most ripe for disruption” and will therefore be BrewDog Distilling’s main focus. The firm is aiming to “make Scotland fall back in love with its national spirit”.

Gates added: “There’s so much old fashioned snobbery that’s attached to Scotch whisky – actually bringing some of the BrewDog punk attitude is exactly what’s needed.

“When you look at Scotch in the 1950s and 1960s, it was actually a really ballsy category, and it had a point of view; it wasn’t all this black tie status nonsense. We need to get a bit more grit.

“The BrewDog business is gritty, it’s down to earth, it’s democratic. Scotch at its worst can be pompous, aloof – it can be quite unapproachable and snobby.”

To read David Gates’s full interview, see the February issue of The Spirits Business, out now.

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