Start-Up Stories – Gorilla Spirits
In this chapter of Start-Up Stories, we spoke to Johnny Hunter, the Sales Director of Gorilla Spirits. He gave a key insight into innovation in Spirits, company culture and more…
What is Gorilla Spirits?
Gorilla Spirits Co. is an ethical small-batch distiller of high quality spirits and liqueurs.
The spirits market is full of new and innovative brands at the minute, what makes you guys different?
We place social responsibility at the heart of our business. We create delicious booze too of course but we’re more than that; we believe in making a positive contribution to the world and to society which is why we use our brand to highlight the plight of the Mountain Gorilla and donate £1 from every bottle sold to The Gorilla Organization to help protect them. We also work hard to make our business as sustainable as we can, and we make a significant contribution to the community.
“At the end of the day it’s the consumer who has the final say in whether this is important or not and so far the reaction to our brand, our values and our products has been incredibly positive.”
Where do you see the spirits market going in the next couple of years?
Gin still has some way to go, the category is still in growth. Rum is also a growth category to watch. Premium brands and those, like us, which play a wider role in society, are very much driving the market.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Each day varies. We’re a small team here at Gorilla Spirits, if I’m at the distillery there’s usually some new innovation that Andy (Founder & Chief Gorilla) has been working on to taste and discuss. Aside from managing our on-trade and off-trade UK Sales, I also look after the team and spend a lot of time coaching in trade, visiting bars and spreading the Gorilla Spirits love 🙂
You guys have a range of awesome spirits, what are they? Which is your personal favourite?
There are now 6 brands in the Gorilla Spirits portfolio. Silverback Mountain Strength Gin is the brand that launched the business and is a very approachable citrus-forward London Dry.
Then we have Our Silverback Old Tom Gin (definitely one of my favourites) which the trade has really taken to their hearts.
Blackback Vodka is a gold medal winner – it’s creamy and has a good rounded sweetness to it too.
Maraba is our coffee Liqueur and is also becoming a favourite in the trade. We use the best quality Red Bourbon Arabica beans from Rwanda (where much of our gorilla conservation happens), which are roasted and ground for us by our friends at Moonroast coffee. It makes the best espresso martini that you’ll taste – guaranteed!
Then this year we launched Silverback Raspberry which has been a huge success for us. We add Scottish raspberries to the gin after distillation to create a fruit gin that’s still a proper gin, not a gin liqueur.
Last but by no means least is our brand new Spiced Rum, Karisimbi. This is swiftly becoming one of my favourites too. The base rum is a multi-island blend from The Dominican Republic, Barbados & Jamaica. We’ve then spiced it with blood orange, cinnamon, ginger and vanilla. The rum is vibrant, juicy and spicy, I haven’t tasted another spiced rum like it.
What’s the company culture like at Gorilla Spirits?
“Innovative and fun. We’re all very close and work hard together. We also have great fun pushing the boundaries.”
A great example of this was our Friday Drinks series, a humorous weekly slot of our finest cocktails showcased by our amazing brand ambassador Spike.
If you could have one celebrity advocate for the brand, who would it be?
Brian Blessed! He’s strong & powerful like the gorilla and you know he’d tell you a good few stories over a Silverback Gin or two.
Where can people find your wonderful spirits?
Well, we’ve just released an app. Just search for Gorilla Spirits on the app stores and you’ll find a list of discerning establishments. We’re also keen to build it as an industry app so are happy to load bars, pubs & retailers. You’ll also find us online at Master of Malt and other online retailers, Majestic, some Waitrose stores and a lot of very cool bars and pubs. We’re growing quickly so you should come across us easily!
What does the future hold for Gorilla Spirits?
Innovation is alive and kicking at Gorilla Spirits. This year we opened a 10 station gin school at our distillery in Hampshire. We’ve welcomed a non-stop stream of trade and consumers alike, all have distilled a bottle of gin from scratch and chosen their own botanicals, bottled, named and labelled it. There’s nothing like a well-earned G&T of your own making while sitting at our beautiful copper bar. We’ve also started barrel ageing – can’t give much detail yet though… We’re always looking to the future and ways that will develop our portfolio. Our future ambition is to be The Gorilla Organization’s biggest supporter – saving gorillas one drink at a time!