The Wonderful World of Scottish Gin

Ally Hardy, Craft56°.

Published: 19th July 2018

There is no doubting the world of Scottish Gin is truly wonderful and there are some fantastic individuals and organisations playing their part in telling it’s story. Our latest editorial series ‘The Wonderful World of Scottish Gin’ shines a light on some of these individuals and organisations who share our passion for all things Scottish Gin.

Our first in the series is Ally Hardy, owner and founder of Craft56°, a leading online retailer of Scottish Gin, Scottish Spirits and Scottish Craft Beer. Ally was one of the first people we spoke with when we were setting up The Gin Cooperative after being introduced to him by Colin McLean of McLean’s Gin. Along with Ally’s love of Scottish Gin and spirits, Ally also runs his own Gin Club through his website that combines the very best Scottish Gins, tonics and goodies.

What is Craft56°?

Craft56° is dedicated to promoting and selling Scottish craft drinks and gifts. We operate under a ‘Drink Scotland’ banner and champion the best of Scottish craft drinks including gin, rum, vodka, liqueurs, tequila and beer.

We are predominantly an online bottleshop but we also run a Scottish craft gin club as well as a series of gin festivals and tasting events, which we are looking to build upon in the future. 

Our ever-expanding range of gins is currently sitting at around 50 gins from 30 different brands. We work directly with the brands and try to develop a plan for growth on a case by case basis. This may include representing brands at events, handling online sales, stocking on the website or featuring in our monthly gin club.

Our monthly gin club is a true celebration of Scottish craft. In addition to the bottle of small batch Scottish gin, our members also receive bespoke handmade chocolates that are infused with the gin and a gin image designed by a Glasgow artist with tasting notes. 

Who’s behind Craft56°?

Craft56° was started by myself (Ally) and Gary, a friend I met at university. I have a degree in Business & Management while Gary studied Aeronautical Engineering.

Having studied extremely different subjects and having minds that work in very different ways led to many interesting conversations over many cups of coffee, pints of beer and G&Ts to come up with the Craft56° brand and business plan. However, I believe we complement each other well and we got there in the end!

It is myself who runs Craft56° day to day while Gary works on other projects.

Why did you set up the business?

I always had ambitions of owning my own business and having worked for a variety of small, family-run businesses since graduating from university, I saw what could be achieved when running a business in which you have a true passion for the product.

During a holiday with friends to New York in September 2016, we were enjoying a few beers in a neighbourhood bar and bottleshop (as you do!) and got talking to the owner about Scotland and Scottish products. Of the 700 beers that he stocked in the shop his favourite was from Harviestoun Brewery in Clackmannanshire. This conversation made me think more about what I drink and it struck me that all my go-to beers and gins were also from Scotland. 

When I returned home I looked online and, despite the booming craft drink scene in Scotland, there was no website that was dedicated to promoting Scottish drinks. With my experience in e-commerce, combined with my passion for Scotland, and what we produce here, I decided to start Craft56° to create a platform to help grow sales and awareness of the amazing independent brands we have.  

What are your ambitions for Craft56°?

I would like to establish Craft56° as the go-to shop for all Scottish craft drinks and drink-related gifts such as gin gift sets and gin glasses. 

As mentioned, Craft56° was inspired by a bar and bottleshop in New York and this was my original vision for the company. However, we decided to establish the brand online initially, but I still have goals to have premises in at least one location in Scotland. This would allow customers to ‘try before you buy’ as we appreciate part of the beauty of many of the products are the local botanicals used and the unique flavours these bring to the gin. 

We would also be able to introduce local food to the venues as well as expanding the events side of the business, particularly tasting nights and establishing a series of ‘Meet the Maker’ events. 

What are the benefits to shopping with Craft56°?

We are very aware of the importance of provenance to customers and we share the concerns of many in the industry on the issue of provenance. When you shop with Craft56° you can guarantee that you are buying products that are made in Scotland by independent brands.

The majority of products we stock are not readily available in supermarkets or on your local high street. Our main goal is to make traditionally hard to source items accessible to an audience that our brands may not be able to reach on their own – they have gin to make and their own businesses to run!

At Craft56° we also care about our customers and I believe our level of service is what sets us apart from other online shops. We are able to ship orders up to 12pm Monday – Friday and also offer next day delivery in the UK, which means you always have time to sort last minute gifts and make sure you have your favourite gin for the weekend!

We are proud that our current satisfaction rating on Trustpilot, the independent online review platform, is 9.3/10.

What’s your favourite tipple?

That’s a good question and largely depends on the occasion.

If I’m out with friends for a couple of drinks then you’ll likely find me with a pint of IPA in my hand – Williams Bros Joker IPA being a personal favourite.

However, if I’m out for dinner or the night has gone beyond my beer-drinking capacity then I’ll definitely be working my way through the gins on the gantry!

What do you think is the ‘next big thing’ in the world of Gin?

The world of Scottish Gin is in a great place at the moment but I don’t know I can predict what the ‘next big thing’ will be.

However, I am excited about the emergence of more and more Scottish tonics and soft drinks brands.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard someone tell me they don’t like gin, when in fact it’s the tonic they don’t like. Therefore, customers having more choice on the tonics and mixers available can only be a good thing for the industry and the fact so many of them are made in Scotland is great!

Any special mentions or shout outs for people who have helped you on your Craft56° journey?

Friends and family have been extremely supportive and have always been there to bounce ideas off, help at events and the thing they seem to enjoy best – sampling the products! 

I also must thank Olivia, our social media assistant. Olivia has been working for us while completing her degree and holding down a part-time job too. Thankfully she managed to balance everything and graduate with a first-class honours degree last month!

I have also found the nature of the industry very refreshing and developing relationships with suppliers has been a really positive experience. I have met and spoken to a huge number of people and there seems to be a genuine feeling of support for each other in the industry with everyone working to the cause of promoting Scotland, Scottish drinks and specifically Scottish gin. 

What’s your most and least favourite thing about working at Craft56°?

The number of Scottish gins on the market is both my most and least favourite thing! It is absolutely amazing there are so many quality Scottish gins out there, each one with its own unique story behind it. However, it’s impossible to keep up with them and the website will never be up to date at this rate!

What’s next for Craft56°?

We are always looking to continue to grow our range of products on the site and one day I might even be able to catch up with the number of products on the market!

In the past month we have enabled shipping to a selection of European countries and, in the near future, we would like to expand this to include all European countries. We are also in talks with courier companies to allow us to reach customers all across the globe.

You can learn more about Craft56° here.

You can learn more about the Craft56° Gin Club here.

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