Glasgow Distillery Co

Glasgow Distillery Co ties up Tennents deal

Exporting pays off for the Glasgow Distillery Co

In just two years the Glasgow Distillery Co has seen its spirits reach each corner of the globe. Co-founder Liam Hughes tells BQ how they made it happen…

This 'Around the World in 80 Trades' feature coincides with the annual HSBC Scottish Export Awards in association with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, which is being held on 22 March in Glasgow. For information on the event, to nominate or to buy tickets, click here.


Glasgow Distillery Co, which distils gin, vodka and whisky, has penetrated scores of overseas markets since it started trading back in 2014.

Co-founded by Liam Hughes and his business partners Mike Hayward and Ian McDougall, the trio launched the business after a visit to London inspired them to set up a distillery of their own.

The decision proved a shrewd one and despite the recent gin boom, which has seen more distilleries than ever before set up in the UK, the company has continued to go from strength-to-strength.

Not only has the company broken into scores of overseas markets but it has also landed a lucrative deal with German retailer Aldi to supply stores across the UK and has also teamed up with Tenants to offer a collaborative dual tour, combining the magic of MAKAR gin distillation and the brewing of Tennent’s Lager.

Speaking about the company’s export success, Hughes told BQ: “We began exporting in 2015, just a year after we launched, and we now export to most of the EU and Scandinavia, countries in Eastern Europe, the US, Asia and Australia.

“For us, exporting has been central to our plans since we started planning the launch of the business on day one. We exported within the first six months of production commencing at the distillery.”

However, the alcohol industry isn’t the easiest of sectors to start up an export-focused business in, as Hughes and co quickly realised. “Exporting isn’t easy especially with alcohol,” he added, “for us, ensuring all of the labelling is correct and the paperwork is correct is the biggest challenge as nearly every market has something slightly different.

“Luckily, were able to tap into support from SDI who have been very supportive and have helped us in many ways, especially in terms of market support.”

Despite these challenges, the company has now established itself as a real export success story for the Scottish spirits industry and Hughes believes the high-quality tag which is associated with the Scottish food and drink sector has certainly helped them on their way.

He said: “There is a high demand for premium Scottish products which have strong provenance and we have both, so the door is open for new business. For us, export is a critical part of our business and will always remain a relatively high percentage of our sales. 

“Our key task over the next five years is to consolidate in the markets we are in and to grow our business within those markets, if we do that correctly then I would expect new markets to open for us.

“India and China also present huge opportunities for us but they bring their own unique challenges, so we need to carefully consider our ability to open them up and then to deliver, should demand follow.”

Hughes’ top tips for budding exporters: “Visit the market, understand it and ensure your distributors get your business and your products and your aspirations and they are aligned!”