12 Days of Bizmas: Pickering's Gin

12 Days of Bizmas: Pickering's Gin

It’s no surprise to learn that distilleries see a surge in demand around the festive period, but last year Pickering’s Gin saw its alcohol-filled Christmas decorations sell out in a matter of minutes. Founder Marcus Pickering tells us how he spreads #Baublemania.

What does your business do?

Summerhall Distillery was founded in 2013 by Marcus Pickering and Matthew Gammell. Their ethos? If you can’t find what you want, make it yourself. It is this mantra which led the duo to build Edinburgh’s first exclusive gin distillery for over 150 years. The distillery is located in the heart of Edinburgh, in a building that once served as a Veterinary School. It is here, in the former animal kennels that Pickering’s Gins are: distilled, bottled, labelled, waxed and shipped.

How does Christmas affect your business?

Christmas is, of course, always an incredibly important trading period for a spirits manufacturer. This year even more so as we have unveiled ambitious commercial plans to quadruple our annual turnover, fuelled in part by a massive increase in the production of our gin-filled Christmas decorations. 

We completely sold out last year in 82 seconds, shifting 30,000 of the Christmas tree decorations as they became a must have for 2016. The baubles recently scooped us inaugural Scottish Gin Awards “Innovation of the Year” prize, proving that ingenuity is key in the crowded UK Gin market. So really for brand recognition and sales, our gin-filled Christmas bauble project is massively important.

How do you cope with the extra demand that Christmas brings?

We’ve been gearing up for Christmas 2017 since December last year, and have taken steps to ensure that we are as ready as we can be. We have invested heavily in staff and our technology here at Summerhall by hiring an additional six full time and 19 part-time staff as well as bringing in a custom designed machine to fill the baubles.

How do you market/advertise your business over Christmas?

We found that a Christmas bauble full of gin is such a fun idea that people really want to share it on social media and with their friends- which has been such an asset to us. We enlisted a really great film company called Altar Motive Films to make us a great tongue-in-cheek film called the “Great Bauble Harvest” which was really widely shared across Facebook and Instagram.

The craft gin market is so crowded so having such an innovative product up our sleeve has been great, and approaching it with humour and an air of silliness has gone down really well and helps to spread the #Baublemania far and wide. We’ve found that our stockists have really creatively merchandised them across the country as well, which is really getting the consumer excited to put up their tree and come up with some really creative uses for them.

What has been the biggest achievement in your business so far?

Our small distillery has really come a long was in three years and there’s been so many highlights. However, a big moment for me was when we launched a range of bespoke gins for the Cunard Cruise Liners- the 3 Queens Gin. My great uncle, Captain George Gibbons, was captain of the Queen Mary and served with Cunard most of his career. Seeing a product of our distillery on board the Queen Mary 2 was a really proud moment with the family connection.

Where do you see your business in five years’ time?

We intend to be a truly global brand. We currently export to 15 countries, most recently China and the USA. We’ve got our sights on these huge international markets in a big way.

What’s your favourite thing about the holiday season?

Christmas is all about family, and I love spending evenings in front of the fire with my three girls.

How does your business celebrate Christmas?

We take our gang up north. We do a big Christmas roast and, of course, plenty of Pickering’s. Usually walked off the next day by a long jaunt in the sleet….