The early use of starchy grains to make distilled spirits can be traced back to the Middle Ages. With such a mature market, it may seem unlikely that there is anything new to create. How does one invent a new version of something that has existed for thousands of years?
In fact, after many years of innovation stagnation, almost every traditional category of spirit has been changing and improving rapidly in the past 10-15 years. Across all demographics, consumers are demanding higher quality products with new and more interesting flavour profiles.
Cue the rise of the innovation.
15 years ago, when we first started discussing the idea for a new spirit, my business partner and I saw an opportunity to create a new product. As the market has developed and evolved in that time (with more and more product innovation and higher quality products in every traditional category), our beliefs and convictions were reinforced.
The question became: How do we create something that is truly unique? In this two-part article, I will explore how we sought to answer that question and provide a few thoughts on bringing a unique spirit to market…
1. Feel Inspired
For several years, I spent 3-4 months a year in Venice doing research for a book. It’s a magical city that compels its visitors to delve into the depths of the imagination and conjure up images of scenes from the city’s past. As I spent time there and was, occasionally, invited to parties in some of Venice’s grand old palaces, it was only natural to imagine and visualise the lavish masked of the city’s past. I began to ask myself: What spirit would wealthy 18th century Venetian merchants have served at their lavish masked balls? Our new spirit was born from that question.
If you’re looking for inspiration, turn to what you know and love. A product that is born out of your identity and passions is the best way to ensure what you create is truly individual and unique. Perhaps it won’t inform your choices in the same manner as ours did, but being inspired by one’s passions will provide a starting point for a spirit and brand that is unequivocally yours.
2. Focus on Flavour
If you are developing a product and trying to create something that doesn’t exist in the market, it is imperative to experiment, test, taste and solicit relevant independent feedback (over and over again). To bring your vision to life on the palate, it is also important to push the boundaries and try every conceivable (and inconceivable) combination of ingredients and flavours imaginable. Initially, we spent a year working with a Swiss producer to create sample batches using various combinations of ingredients. Once we found the right distillation partner in Italy, we then spent a further 3 years working together to ensure that we had the highest quality, natural ingredients in the right combination to create a flavour profile that was unique, but also incredibly smooth and complex.
If you’re creating a spirit for the luxury end of the market, it is obviously essential to use the highest quality ingredients and the appropriate extraction method for each ingredient to get the right flavour characteristics. In today’s highly competitive market, it is also important for new spirits to be truly different from anything else available and to have an interesting finish with multiple layers which take the consumer on a bit of a sensory journey.
3. Establish the best possible production
We spent 18 months doing due diligence and identifying a suitable distillation partner in Italy. My business partner and I each went to Italy on different occasions and met with 15-20 different distilleries.
From our first meeting with the Pisoni family of Distilleria Pisoni, they were incredibly passionate about our project. We had discussions with another Italian distillery, but I had Elio Pisoni’s business card in my pocket for many weeks and it kept jumping out, seemingly all by itself. I felt as though it was trying to send me a message. We began to take our discussions with the Pisoni’s more seriously and ultimately they have been the absolute perfect partner in every way for Cadello.
Distilleria Pisoni is a 150 year-old family-owned distillery that employed its vast experience and knowledge to work with us for three years to perfect the recipe and to create a production process that is truly unique. Their contributions were invaluable to the creation of our new spirit.
Whether you intend to produce in-house or partner with a third-party distiller, it goes without saying that having people with the right experience, expertise and passion will ultimately make the difference between producing a good product or a great product.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matt Dunn is co-founder of Cadello, a new, category-defining spirit produced by a 150year-old family-owned distillery in Italy. A unique flavour combining eight ingredients, Cadello is perfect served neat or in cocktails.