A Yorkshire glass bottle manufacturer has created a new industry collective to support the growing number of craft makers springing up across the country.
Leeds-based Allied Glass has launched the Distillers Forum, a new forum to share insights about design, retail and building successful brands in the emerging sector for artisan gin and whisky products.
Figures from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association show the number of UK distilleries has more than doubled over the last five years to 315 as a result of the speciality gin boom.
Yorkshire is home to a large number of growing spirit companies, many of whom are represented in the new industry body, including Locksley Distilling of Sheffield, Masons of Yorkshire of Bedale, Folklore Society Gin of Leeds, The Spirit of Yorkshire of Filey and Yorkshire Dales Distillery of Richmond.
Michael Hogley, head of design and decoration at Allied Glass, said: “Traditionally we have grown with the whisky brands of Scotland.
“Now we are growing with the next generation of craft distillers.
“We have invested significantly in technology and talent to be able to collaborate with new brands and their design agencies.
“It is hard for craft distillers to stand out in bars and supermarket shelves when they use general trade bottles as they only have a label and cap to play with.
“We specialise in the use of design, colour and texture to create beautiful bespoke bottles that help to establish distinctive brand identities.
“We are being more flexible and creative in our manufacturing processes and are doing smaller runs to help craft distillers access luxury packaging.
“This is a very exciting time for our industry with so many new market entrants, which is why we decided to launch the Distillers Forum.”
John Cherry, managing director and distiller, of Locksley Distilling Company in Sheffield, said joining the group was a “massive step” for the firm.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “There are very few people in the same boat as you. The educational direction you get from something like this is invaluable.
“Nobody really appreciates how much effort goes into bottles. It is a very long-winded process.And the fact that we are working with a UK company is important too.
“Brexit has forced a lot of people’s hands because if you order from a foreign company than the lead in time is already being impacted upon.”
Mr Cherry’s firm, founded in 2013, has gone from strength to strength, mainly selling to small independent retailers.
Putting into practive what he learned in more than a decade working in the drinks trade in both France and the United States, Mr Cherry said that the thirst for artisan drinks in the UK was growing massively and that the sector was still around 5-10 years behind that seen in the USA.
He now has a fulltime staff of five people and has recently expanded his site at Portland Works in Sheffield, with new products due to be launched later in the year.
The company’s signiture gin, Sir Robin of Locksley, is already enjoying a national profile with Mr Cherry and his team doing virtually all of thw ork, from distilling and bottling to graphics work in house.
Locksley Distilling Company got involved with the iniative due to Allied becoming the producer of its bottles.
“It is very easy to create a beautiful bottle but much harder to have a beautiful liquid in there,” Mr Cherry said.
“People want something they can trace and be sure of.”
Among those attending the forum’s launch at the hip heritage venue Lambert’s Yard was Haven Distillery, producer of the premium small-batch Sly Gin and winner of the 2017 Allied Glass Golden Ticket Competition.
Herefordshire-based Haven, founded by former software engineer Duncan Fox and his wife, won the chance to work with Allied Glass’ designers from initial concept stage to the manufacture of bespoke glass bottles with zero project costs.
The spirits buying manager of a large supermarket group added: “Craft is a massive priority for us. Customer demand for craft spirits is growing exponentially.”