Thompson Bros Crowdfunding Story
In the beginning
March 2016 seems like a long time ago. A distant, scary time when we were launching our first crowdfunding campaign. Many questions still hung in the air. How would it all work? Could it work? What sort of distillate would we end up producing?
However, whilst those early months of 2016 seem a long way off, the distance travelled and all that’s occurred in between feels as though it has passed in the swig of a pint. In the beginning, it was Phil trying to pull many elusive strings – financial and technical – together.
Simon lost down a vortex of yeast strains and obscure theories about maturation and distillation. Cupboards brimmed with jars of opaque, fermenting matter. Casks were tentatively ordered. Ideas, theories, plans, ambitions and possibilities were all coalescing.
Entering that daunting half-life adolescence between theory and reality; between planning and practice. Money was on the table. In other words: starting a distillery is no mean feat.
Out of that successful initial crowdfund we were able to complete the renovation of the Firestation. Our production kit was ordered and installed. Barring a few setbacks our first spirit ran in December 2016.
Let There Be Gin
The plan was always to make gin and whisky. However, for a small, fledgeling independent distillery the separation of those two products was not always easy, or straightforward. We endeavoured to find the right gin recipes and to find time amongst it all to lay down new make for maturation and to fill your crowdfunder casks. It would be fair to say it was a steep learning curve. As time went on we refined our gin recipe. None of us had fully appreciated quite how different and intense a gin-based on 100% pot still malt distillate would be. Eventually, we settled on the final ratio for our core gin, a careful marriage of 90% organic grain distillate with 10% of our slow-fermented, heritage barley spirit. It’s a recipe that seems to have caught the palates of enough people that it’s now in 11 international markets and steadily growing in popularity.
All of that wouldn’t have been possible without our crowdfunders. Those of you who took a chance on us and our ideas about single malt whisky and ‘craft’ – in the plainest and most authentic definition of the word – Scottish distilling. Those of you who put money on the table and backed us because you, like us, wanted to enjoy spirits that are as good as they can and should be.
But, what of the whisky side of things? Gin is unequivocally important. Gin is the left hand that feed’s whisky’s right. We love our gin and we are proud of it, but we are whisky geeks at heart and the prime directive of Dornoch Distillery is to meet the challenge of making old style, distillate-forward, characterful single malt Scotch whisky. From the start, we focused on each individual stage of process and ingredient to hone a style of malt whisky which should stand apart from many contemporary, commercial examples. Floor malted, organic Plumage Archer barley; our own in-house brewing yeasts; week long ferments in wooden washbacks; leisurely gas-fired distillation; and ex-American oak and ex-Montilla sherry cask maturation. Time will tell but early results are exciting.
Like all of the original crowdfunders who bought casks, we are all the right kinds of thrilled and nervous at watching these wee pods of spirit grow up. The trouble is though, we are small. So small that balancing the right levels of production and consistency of quality can be tough. This is why we are announcing a second round of crowdfunding and a new location for Dornoch Distillery.
On The Move
Plans are afoot to move 200 meters up the road to an old slaters yard in Dornoch. A larger site that will give us room to house our existing production equipment and to put in more fermenters and a better mash tun. This will alleviate production choke points and allow us to ferment and distil more often and more consistently while still retaining our ruthless and dogged attention to quality, detail, ingredients and process. It will mean a little more breathing space to pursue more ambitious experiments. It means more ability to separate and streamline the production of gin and whisky. More gin for consolidation and growth in our various markets which means more employment here in Dornoch and more whisky production – more whisky in other words.
While production and quality are always our primary focus in everything we do, there are other tertiary benefits to this expansion. It will mean official guided tours, a dedicated shop and tasting room, expanded office space for key staff, the creation of new jobs in retail, tour guiding and, eventually, production. All this adds value to Dornoch Distillery as a company, benefits the local community and, ultimately, benefits you, our consumers and customers, by helping us make the best distillates possible.
Once this latest round of crowdfunding is concluded we will aim to begin construction work on the new site in November 2018.
We’ve worked hard to get to this point. We’ve gone from an embryonic concept to real products and maturing distillate within the space of two years. We’ve assembled a brilliant and highly skilled team with people like Jacob, a natural born distiller, and Vhairi working tirelessly to ensure a smooth running business. There’s also our volunteer distiller Euan who is now doing the Distilling and Brewing course at Heriot Watt. We’ve achieved a lot, but we couldn’t have done it without all of our original crowdfunders.
We Invite You To Join Our Journey
We hope many new crowdfunders will pledge their support and visit us. Chat with us on social media or join us for a dram. Come and say hello here in Dornoch or at a festival around the world. This expansion is the next step in cementing our company and the work we’re doing, we hope that you’ll want to be a part of it as we go along this winding whisky road…