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What makes one Distillery stand out from Another?
Note: The following is clearly a question of personal taste, but it is based on research conducted by students in Tourism Management who are focusing specifically on Spirits Tourism (and more particularly Spirit Tourism).
What is Spirit Tourism?
The definition of Spirit Tourism (in this discussion) refers to the visit of Spirit-related attractions which can be museums, distilleries or spirit events.
In general, if the main purpose of your trip or visit has anything to do with alcoholic spirits or liqueurs (whether it is taking a distillery trail or only indulging in some kind of spirited pub crawl), you can be labelled as a “spirit tourist”, as long as the place where you are taking this tour, visit or tasting is outside of your usual residency area.
What is a Distillery Tour?
Distillery tours in particular, are a wonderful combination of several types of tourism: industrial tourism, cultural tourism and of course, gastronomic (or culinary) tourism.
Many distilleries have been opening state-of-the-art visitor centers and offering a wide array of experiences to an ever-growing crowd visitors. And as spirit tourist number have seen stellar growth within the last decade, both locally and internationally, the question each Distillery owner should ask him or herself, is how can MY distillery stand out from the others in terms of the visitor experience?
Are there different types of Distillery Tours?
The first factor that seems to matter is the range of tours. Visitors like being offered a choice of different experiences (according to their spirit knowledge, time and budget). There is not much added value for a spirit enthusiast, home distiller or fellow Craft Distiller to take another “Back-to-Basics” tour to be explained the production process from Raw Material to Bottle, over and over again.
Some people may argue here that the process may be different from one distillery to another, but to really appreciate those nuances, visitors would need a deeper insight or be able to ask specific or rather technical questions if needed. Distillers or distillery operators could then be in the best position to conduct those tours instead of regular guides.
What is Distillery Sensory Interaction?
A second factor that seems to increase visitor satisfaction, and add value to their experience would be sensory interaction:
- being offered to handle the raw materials
- smelling and tasting distillate
- observing the distilling process through the sight glasses
- not to mention tasting the end product (which is pretty obvious)
Do Distilleries tell Stories?
Stories are another important part of a successful distillery tour. Storytelling makes everything more magical, from distillery or product legends to real anecdotes surrounding the distilleries’ history or its product development.
What other Factors make for a good Distillery Tour?
As craftsmanship is a significant part of spirit making, tourists also prefer to visit working distilleries opposed to static displays or museums.
Something else that would make the difference for most tourists is the food offer. Most visitors prefer to have something to eat before or after indulging in a spirit tasting. This may also be a determining factor with mixed groups or couples where not everyone has the same passion for the Spirit process.
Most visitors would probably have an interest in other applications involving spirits, and spirited cooking is definitely a good field to experiment in - whether it is pairing specific ingredients with different spirits or offering spirit enhanced sweets, baked goods, preserves or related products. These could be sold over the counter, in a dining area, or through a dedicated shop.
Last but not least, coherence is the key to a successful visitor experience. You do not need an award-winning 3D-technology display in a small craft family-sized distillery, nor are visitors expecting a full range of tours in a newly-opened micro-distillery. But they do want to see a thoroughly thought out presentation, a cohesion between the different facets of the visitor experience, and some continuity between the different areas, activities and individuals.
Many other aspects can play a role as well, including staff (recruitment and training), shop and tasting room (presentation, décor, range of products), opening hours, booking process, facilities, etc.
It is important to remember that your Distillery and Tasting Room will be as important as your products and packaging when it comes to securing new customers and consumers, and you need to give as much thought to it as you do to every aspect of the product development process.
So be creative, be logical, and most importantly … Keep on Distilling!