Never in a million years, let alone two, would I have imagined that I would be working in the spirits industry. A couple of years ago yesterday, I was saying to myself, over a dram: “What would I do differently? What would I do if I was at the helm?” Press the fast-forward button two years and day – here we are.
From a modest beginning as a private event, through to getting my AGCO license and enlisting partnerships from amazing distilleries from literally all over the world, the journey so far has been nothing short of memorable. It has been and continues to be a learning, growing, sometimes hair greying but always rewarding experience.
So, as we covidly approached the end of 2020, a year in itself which is metaphorically burnished into my mind’s eye, I still managed to see something different for 2021 – change.
This isn’t a small alteration or a little tinkering here and there. It’s bigger than that.
The first change will start with something that literally reflects who we are and what we do: our name.
We first started this venture with a passion for finding and sharing whiskies from every corner of the globe with people, like you, who also love to explore what George Bernard Shaw called “this liquid sunshine”. While we naturally gravitated to our distillery partners’ whisky expressions, it wasn’t lost on us that they offered more than your evening’s dram.
As Will (My colleague, not Shakespeare.) has often underscored to our new Distillery Partners: “We’re whisky focused, not whisky exclusive”. That insight led us to realize that there are more types spirits we should introduce for our customers to discover, explore and share. It is with that new vision that I introduce you to the new us: Specialty Spirits.
While the launch won’t be immediate, we’ll be phasing in our bigger, more inclusive and encompassing bar shelf as well as rolling out other changes along the way.
Our Free Tier or Member Status will be renamed to “Specialty Spirits: Quarterly Member”. This is a nod to our roots, Whisky Quarterly. Once a quarter, this Membership will allow you to participate in a group buy from one of our selections which we will curate for you. The option to buy or pass from the curated list is entirely up to you.
For Founder’s/Standard Members
To these individuals, we want to say a big, BIG thank you for 2020. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to launch Specialty Spirits at all. So again, thank you so much for your support and belief in what we’re building. Your membership will be changed to “Specialty Spirits: All-Access Member”. In addition to the open-ended selection, you will also receive quarterly picks. As before, you will continue to have the “all-access” option to order from any of our Distillery Partners at any time.
This is where we want to roll out the biggest changes. We’ll start by developing more ways to deepen our existing relationship. We’ll do this through our collaboration with influencers, reimagining customer experiences with virtual events, and taping into our network of distillers. The more your new customers discover about you, the more they’ll want to explore who you are.
Are their materials such as barrels or ingredients that may be of interest to one another? Are there marketing hurdles that are in your way? We can help. Do we have a product of yours coming to Ontario? Let’s get you out front on a Zoom call with our Members!
Like the time you take to enjoy your spirit of choice, that’s how we’ll be rolling out Specialty Spirits. Our website will be the start. Then, we’ll reach out to our current customers with emails detailing the changes. After that, we’ll launch co-ordinated messaging across all our social media channels.
Another change that everyone is anticipating – online order triggers. Admittedly, it hasn’t been the quickest of processes, but we’re taking our time to get it right both for you, our Members, and us.
Lastly, we’ll also be introducing additional merchandise that isn’t strong-armed from the LCBO. So, keep an eye out for accessories, garnishes and SWAG. Yes, SWAG. Imagine: feet up on the deck and decked out in a Specialty Spirits tee, with your choice poured in your Specialty Spirits glass. That’s a perfect mix for a good evening.
We can’t thank you enough, each of you, for your support in 2020. It was a terrifying situation to launch our Membership amidst the first wave of COVID-19 in Ontario. We continually strive to deliver something different, exciting and focused around an amazing community of spirits creators and spirits enjoyers.
To finish, let me borrow a phrase from Will (Shakespeare, not my colleague.), “That’s what’s in our name.”
Cheers to each of you in 2021. Let’s continue together to build something unique for Ontario.