Going from an idea to a global gin brand in eight years

Eight years ago, in October 2013 Stu Gregor, Matt Jones and Cameron Mackenzie had the idea to start a gin brand and three months later the first bottles of Four Pillars gin rolled off the still.

Since then the brand has gone on to see tremendous success and becoming Australia’s number one craft spirit, and even being named as the Australian Liquor Industry Awards’ Brand of the Year in 2019.

Speaking at The Bloody Big Drinks Summit, Stu said the trio came together from disparate backgrounds, with Cameron as a former Olympic runner, himself with drinks industry knowledge and Matt as a former government economist at the Treasury in the UK.

But Stu said, Matt experience with strategy and critical thinking was crucial to the success of the brand.

“My first nugget of advice,” Stu said, “is, that it’s not enough to have the technical skills of how to make the stuff, or even the bullshit skills of being able to talk about the stuff, what you need to be able to do is plan, and build and commercialise and you need to understand the strategic importance of building a business and a brand simultaneously.

“Go and find the people who are best suited to help you where you are weakest. This business would not have existed without Matt, it would not have existed without Cameron and it may not have existed to where it is today without me, but you’re a stronger band together in many ways.”

Stu then went on to talk about the process of starting to build the business and the ‘fact-finding’ trip to the US, where he endured “the worst thing that I have ever tasted”.

He said: “We went on and we needed to build a business, we need to build a framework, which is where Matt came in, to get people’s attention and make it known that we were serious.”

Matt added: “This is the big part of the foundational things that happened in 2013. Stu and Cameron came back from the US and said ‘we’ve got a Carl still’ and we knew these were perfect but it would take around a year for us to land one, but that gave us the gift of time.

“The way that we used time then was really important, because frankly once the gin launched into the market in 2013 we haven’t really had any time since, it’s been a runaway train.”

Matt explained that the trio knew the first process in particular of making gin is expensive and not particularly profitable, so they built a plan to get through that stage and went out to find small-scale investor who would back them.

He also said that another influence of the trip to the US was realising that distillers in the US were not making London Dry Gin, they weren’t making British gin in the US, they were making American gin and when they put that with their own love for Australia, and Australian produce, helped them to realise they needed to make an Australian gin – and look where we are now.

It’s an incredible and a fascinating journey, and one of the many brilliant presentations that make up The Bloody Big Drinks Summit. Head to The Bloody Big Drinks Summit website now, buy your all-access pass and enjoy over 70 presentations on subjects right across this wonderful industry.

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