Insights from producing a gin book · 1: Freeloaders
As you might have seen already I am currently getting things ready to publish the second edition of Gin & Notes, a high-quality notebook for your everyday notetaking, doodles, wishlist, latest musical score idea, and many more things.
Looking for potential partners
In order to get in touch with distilleries I have googled a lot. From North to South I have looked up distilleries, some of them known, some new discoveries. As the fine folks at the Gin Foundry have just published there are many distilleries in Germany, and pretty much every one has at least one gin in the making I guess.
So I picked a few where I had the feeling they would be a good fit, had some legacy or create great products which I had the chance to try before. But since I do not like sending SPAM to them, I called them up first, asking whether they would be okay with me emailing them the details about the book and networking project. This has two reasons: a) technically I would be spamming if not permitted to send a PDF and b) I wanted to get a feel for what they were thinking and maybe expecting.
The rise of the ginfluencer without sustainability
One of the biggest problems it turns out, and I am not the slightest bit surprised since many distillers and product makers have told me this before, is the fact that there are so many phoneys out there. People with 100 Instagram followers asking for free bottles in exchange for a crappy photo and 3 hashtags. Sometimes no text at all mind you. These requests come in daily, sometimes more than once per day, never less than weekly.
So every time I called them and told them who I am I felt the cringing on the other end of the line. Gin blogger? Oh no, not another one! We talked about this. Some were so sick of it and some just switched to an exhausted tone in their voice. I felt with them. As someone who has never asked anyone for a free bottle, bought 150 different gins, probably 220 bottles in total (i.e. for restocking and as presents), and received 14 free samples, I am always amazed by the audacity some people bring to the table. "Hey, I have a few friends and we sit together on a regular basis. I would love to introduce them to your gin. Can you send me a free bottle? I could(!) post an image to instagram. I have 120 followers" is what the distilleries get. This is not a funny made up sentence. It is a real example and it's not the only one.
Why am I writting this? As someone with a sincere interest in the production, the real story behind the products, the failures and successes that lead to the final product, the people behind the products, I have a really hard time. People have a shield up within a microsecond when I explain who I am and drop the words gin blog or (g)instagram. Understandably so. Luckily in many cases I could communicate well enough to have them lower their shields for a moment and giving me a chance to present my ideas. But it would not need to be that hard if it were not for all those bottle scammers out there.
Small batch, Manufaktur, micro distillery
Now one thing many people do not understand is that some terms actually have implications. Small batch is actually small. Some distilleries are really working in extremely limited volumes.
An example calculation
Take the Fuxbau Gin for instance: They operate on a 20 liters still. Now think about that. First of all not all of the 20 litres can be used for physical reasons, then you have to cut heads and tails, meaning the first and last part of the alcohol being distilled, because it is not suitable for consumption due to taste and other factors. Now let's assume for the sake of simplicity that 10 litres can be used in the end. at the end of the process the have 20 bottles of 0.5 liters or 50 bottles of 0.2 litres. Those need to be bottled and labeled, obviously not with large machines. It is manual labour. It takes time, it costs to buy the ingredients, the alcohol, have labels printed, one needs bottles. Oh, and don't forget our friends from the customs office: They charge a lot of tax on the alcohol. So do the math: 50 bottles sold at 18 Euros = 900 Euros - alcohol tax - 50 bottles - 50 labels - energy costs - agricultural alcohol - botanicals - time spent collecting botanicals - rent for the distillery room(s) - inspection fees - replacement parts - costs for a website and server - time for accounting - time for packing and taking things to the post office - income tax - time and water for cleaning … heck, these people are not doing this because they want to be millionaires in 2 years. They do it because they are passionate about a product. And now they are being asked to send out a few bottles of this batch for free? And pay the postage? It is almost ignorant and shameless to ask these companies for a free sample. If you want to try things and write about them, maybe, just maybe, you could you ask for a discount. But think about it: Do you really need to? This leads us to the next question:
Why write/blog/post about a gin?
Personally I can answer this quite easily: When I started to write about gin and take photos it was for the primary goal to document my findings and capture what I had tried, tasted and succeeded with (or not). When looking around there are many blogs which get started and left alone after a few posts within weeks. Their intentions must be something else, something that is not intrinsical, otherwise they would keep going longer I guess. Now this blog looks like one of those blogs admittedly. Only few posts and young. But may I remind you that it is up and running since 2015 in German language and I have just switched over to a fresh, new, GDPR compliant, English language version. So I hope to prove that this blog is a reliable source, again.
Writing about gin and putting myself out there with all my not-knowing has helped me tremendously. I have never hidden the fact about me being just interested, not an expert. I ask questions and personally I do not care about medals and other reviews at first. Trying something and being honest about the impressions and the taste is key to me. It does not mean that I might come back after a while and review my judgement though. I do develop my taste and understanding and that is good. Whoever follows along can see the process.
But how can one really get something from a mediocre photo and some hashtags like #gin #nice #cocktail #lovely #juniper #tonic #tasting and the recent addition #advertising? Right, I could not get anything from that. And so do many others fail so get a benefit from it. However this is what I am facing and dealing with when getting in touch. First people promise the world and then there is next to nothing. I would feel betrayed as well being the person sending out a bottle.
Leading with good content and approachability
But let's not spend too much time on the state of things. It is way more important to focus on doing something productive. And that is what I am planning and doing with this website, my Instagram feed, the Gin & Notes' feed and my upcoming project LiquorLabs.tv as well.
The great thing is that people, readers, viewer, producers see what gets created and open up, join discussions and contribute. That is what this is all about for me. GinGinGin is a discovery as it says in my logo, on the site and everywhere else. The books are the same and so is anything else wrapped around the universe I am slowly bringing to life.
So, if you are in for a great time and many discoveries to come, maybe even beyond gin, I am super happy to have you as my wingman, my harshest critic, my idea generator, my partner in crime. Let me know what you think and feel free to ask questions! I'd be happy to answer as much as I can and if I cannot do so, I'll try to find out.
More about the Gin & Notes notebooks
If you want to know more about the notebooks check out the Gin & Notes page. If you are a gin producer or distributor feel free to get in touch as well, I am looking for partners for the upcoming editions.