What does winning a medal in the Canadian Artisan Spirit Competition do for your distillery? Here are some lessons from recent winners to inspire your entries this year.
When you’re a start-up distillery toiling over your first batches, the thought of winning a national competition and running out of product might seem like a distant dream. But it’s one that can come true.
The distiller of Ethos Gin (2019 Canadian Artisan Spirit of the Year,) Josh McLafferty of Monashee Spirits in Revelstoke, B.C., is a believer. “The award has brought in a lot of recognition from across the country and the U.S.. We have seen a huge increase in our sales of Ethos Gin and our other products ... it has been a struggle keeping up with all the demand.” Not only retail sales, but bars and restaurants creating Ethos-based cocktails, have added accounts and exposure to the brand.
McLafferty recalls spending a year and a half, and creating more than 30 test batches of gin, before arriving at his ideal triticale-based botanical spirit. “At the end of the day, we are just a little distillery and cocktail bar trying to do really cool stuff,” he says—winning a big award was never his goal. “My mantra about awards is: If I don’t win anything, we’ll keep doing what we love. If I win every award, we just keep doing what we love to do,” says McLafferty. “It about the passion, not the awards. But they do help!”
Capital K Distillery in Winnipeg, the first in the province of Manitoba, has found that “winning [CASC] awards has really given us credibility,” says Lindsay Gillanders, who handles marketing and communications for the distillery and calls the awards “a really big deal for us.” Medal-winning Tall Grass Gin and Tall Grass Dill Pickle Vodka are “now far and away our best-selling products,” she says. The marketing message comes naturally: “Have you tried Winnipeg’s first craft gin? It's won big at a national spirits competition!”
She says the so-called earned media exposure (free coverage they received as a result of the win) has increased brand recognition and local market share. “We have a really small marketing budget and the opportunity to get on TV and in print, chatting about the products, has been great,” says Gillanders, who notes a social-media bump whenever they mention the medalling spirits. “Engagement goes through the roof and we get people tagging each other to try the local award-winning product.”
Enter the 2020 CASC here.