Many of today’s most exciting spirits brands have something in common – they don’t have a distillery and they probably never will. For years, there was a stigma attached to brands that didn’t make their own spirits from scratch, but today, that stigma is starting to vanish. At the end of the day, if a spirit tastes good and has a good story, isn’t that enough to build a brand? Plus, the history of bourbon demonstrates that this practice actually isn’t rare at all.
So what are some best practices when building a spirits brand without a distillery? To find out, we spoke to Simon Burch, CEO of Green River Spirits Company, an organization specializing in the production of award-winning spirits and providing world class logistics support for customers. Simon has more than 20 years of experience in the spirits industry, an MBA from Harvard business school, and multiple leadership positions at Pernod Ricard, Diageo and Moët Hennessy. He is now taking this expertise to Green River to help partners build their brands with quality spirits and know-how.
What does Green River Spirits Company do?
A. Simply put, we are an all-in-one brand home. From behind-the-scenes logistics to supply chain to brand creation and more, we can do it all. This allows brand owners to focus on growing their business. Whether it’s an entrepreneur looking for a place to build brands that compete with category leaders, a private brand owner looking for a place to grow, or an exporter looking to invest in the highest quality spirits, Green River is a place they can call home.
We have an amazing asset with our historic Green River distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky. I sought out the original founder of Green River’s great grandson to bring the brand back at its original home, and we invested more than 60 million dollars to bring the distillery back to life and modernize it. We have a team that makes incredible bourbon and knows how to build great brands.
How can a brand succeed without a distillery? What are the benefits to taking this approach?
A. We’ve come a long way from a world where brands need a distillery of their own. It’s no secret starting a distillery is expensive, and it takes years to age certain spirits. This gives our partners the freedom to build their brand how they see fit without being weighed down with the commitments of running a distillery.
What should a brand owner look for when choosing a supplier to partner with?
A. Some things you need to look for are:
- Amazing liquid: First and foremost, it needs to taste good. At Green River, we have an incredible master distiller, Jacob Call. Distilling has been in his family for eight generations, all the way back to the earliest days of bourbon. Jacob oversees all aspects of the distillery’s whiskey production and warehousing at our Green River distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky. We also have a state-of-the-art spirits production facility and innovation center in Charleston, South Carolina.
- Authenticity and place to call home: For brand owners and retailers, you want a good story and a team who can help you build your brand from day one. Quite a few people can offer great tasting liquid, but we can offer it from a historic distillery. Our Green River distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky was founded in 1885, and is DSP-KY-10, one of Kentucky’s original permitted distilleries. Many of history’s most beloved whiskey brands were born there. In the storied history of American whiskey, it is considered hallowed ground. Our customers are able to tap into that legacy and be part of a home that’s building today’s most loved brands. We have an incredible team of branding experts – leaders from some of the best spirits companies in the world.
- Spirits Expertise: We have assembled an incredible team committed to working with our partners to establish and grow their brands. From experts in distilling, bottling, liquid development, procurement, branding, and more, we have leaders here at Green River from some of the best spirits companies in the world..
Our business model is focused on supporting our partners and helping brand owners be successful. It’s not a side job for us. We build a specific team to provide the unique support needed for the unique goals of each brand. The teams are assembled to be the perfect solution to the type and breadth of services each partner is looking for. Brand owners should look for this level of customization and tailor-made support.
What do consumers think of sourced spirits?
A. Things have changed and drinkers are open to the idea of amazing brands without distilleries, and there is no longer as big of a stigma attached to it. As long as drinkers love what they’re drinking, it’s less important that the brand specifically has its own distillery and more important that it has an authentic story and isn’t trying to hide anything.
Are you launching your own brands too?
A. We will be releasing a limited batch of Bottled-in-Bond Green River Whiskey. We're launching this to showcase our distillery and the great bourbon we make, but launching our own brands isn't our focus. Our core priority will always be to work with our partners to deliver our best spirits, develop brands, and provide impeccable support. We provide a home and launchpad for brand owners to realize their ambitions.