A day in the life of...Gregor Maclean, Huffman's.
Published: 10th June 2019
Our exclusive ‘A day in the life of’ editorial feature series provides a short and snappy insight into a day in the life of someone who works in the Scottish Gin sector. This might be a distiller, shop owner or bar owner, but all play a role in the story of Scottish Gin.
In this feature we spend the day with Gregor Maclean. Gregor, along with his business partner Ramone Robertson, established Huffman’s, a distributor of premium spirits with a strong focus on Scottish craft drinks, in the summer of 2016. Working from their home town of Dundee over the last three years, through hard work and providing a high level of customer service, the friends have built a great reputation with the on and off trades and played a role in supporting small craft gin producers. In 2018, Gregor and Ramone also launched their own gin – Crag & Tail Scottish Gin. We found out what Gregor got up to one recent Monday.
Wake up shower, make a takeaway coffee and get my lunch together. Get in the van and make the trip to Dundee. If I leave at 6.20am I’ll miss the bulk of Glasgow traffic!
Arrive at the office in Dundee. Ramone and Iona are already there. We get the laptops out and all do different jobs. Iona has the fun task of chasing up payments and updating any payments received over the weekend. I try to catch up on emails across the multiple inboxes, mainly Huffman’s but Crag & Tail and craftbottleshop.co.uk too. Ramone organises all the orders that have come in over the weekend and sends them across to Scott, our storeman and delivery driver. Scott is based about 10 minutes away where we keep all of our stock. Ramone’s also putting together a marketing email to tell some potential customers a bit more about our business and encourage them to open an account.
Cup of tea time and Andrew, our accountancy work experience guy, comes in to update all the accounting stuff. The morning mainly consists of looking at stock levels, ordering and doing any other task the day-to-day running of the business requires. In nearly 3 years we have grown from 7 products including Eden Mill, Rock Rose and Strathearn, to over 550 products with around 200 gins, whiskies, rums, vodka and any other drink related products. Our first order was 2 bottles and now we are working with orders of anything from 6 to 500 bottles of mixed products so it takes more time, resource and process to keep on top of! We used to sit and write everything down by hand. The list was maybe 2 suppliers long so it wasn’t difficult. We now buy from over 100 companies so the admin and record-keeping side of the business needs to be on point.
We quite often have a supplier meeting on a Monday or Tuesday as it’s the only real days myself and Ramone are likely to both be in Dundee. This morning we have Greg from Firkin coming in to talk all things gin and probably a bit of Whisky! We are contacted quite regularly about new products, especially gins, coming to market that want to be listed with us. I would love to take on everyone but it’s not that easy. If the product looks good, tastes good, the price is right and we can work well with the producer, then we will list it and attempt to push it out to our customers. However, if something doesn’t sell the reality is there is another product that will. It’s not an easy market!
Lunch time. We used to go out every day but that quickly took up too much time and too much money! Everyone has their packed lunches at our desks. The work chat continues. We’re discussing which brands to take on and some new processes. The topic of today’s conversation is introducing direct debit payments, fun stuff!
We head along to our storage and catch up with Scott to see everything has gone ok in the morning. There is usually multiple deliveries that have come in from suppliers all over the UK. Today we have a pallet from Orkney that we’ll be checking and putting away. Orkney Rhubarb Old Tom is one of our best selling gins and we sell it as far south as Cornwall and everywhere else in between. The bulk of our stock is gin, however, we do have a space dedicated to all things whisky, rum and vodka. We get involved in making up orders to either be delivered in our vans or get shipped out by couriers all over the UK. We also label and box any bottles of Crag & Tail that need to be done. In September of 2018, we launched our own gin as part of the range. The intention was to make it fully exclusive to ourselves and therefore allow us to get our foot in the door with new customers, run our own promotions and effectively build the Huffman’s name. The majority of our other gins available have grown in sales since the launch of Crag & Tail, which is great because that was our aim.
I pack up my van with deliveries, which can be done on the way home. Scott does most deliveries and pick-ups now, which is a huge weight off our shoulders but we still get involved in doing the rounds. Pick-ups today include Lind & Lime and Electric Spirit Co. (they’re quite close!) and a few Edinburgh deliveries including The Gin Company and 56North… two of Edinburgh’s best gin joints, I’m sure you agree.
Now I have a meeting with a potential new customer. This is an interesting part to the job and has a huge amount of variation. I often get asked who our customers are. My reply is usually “anywhere you go that sells good drinks and different gin.” This includes gin bars, farm shops, delis, bottle shops and trains (yes trains: The Royal Scotsman and the Gin Express based in Yorkshire!)
I get back home around 6pm and that’s semi clock-off time. Ramone, Iona or myself will do some social media stuff at night but apart from that, the day’s finished until I get up in the morning and although this is a typical start to the week, the rest of the week will be very different because I’m taking a delivery for a new shop in Skye and visiting the guys at Misty Isle. Then I’m going down to London to meet some new customers and I plan on dropping into some new bars in Glasgow. The job varies a lot and although it’s very hard work, it’s also very good fun.