We all know that behind every successful man there is a woman and Anno is no exception to the rule. Their secret weapon is two very special, beautiful, copper German ‘girls’, called “Faith” and her larger sister “Patience”. Together these two ladies have worked tirelessly to assist their menfolk Norman and Andrew to realise their dreams with their wizardry and alchemy.
Faith is the innovative one, a small little witch who works away in her kitchen mixing, blending new ingredients until she has found the perfect mixtures to produce gins with character and personality. She then hands over to Patience her glossy and stunningly attractive big sister.
“Patience”, when she is doing her bidding, sings as she works. Ships, aeroplanes and stills are all traditionally deemed to be female and Patience is Anno Distillers production still. She was so-named as it took three highly qualified scientists 18 months (bureaucracy gone mad – who could be better qualified?) to obtain the necessary licences to become the first distillers in the county of Kent. Their classic gin has personality; the botanicals form a complexity producing the sophisticated layered taste which is complemented by a bespoke bottle that demonstrates its quiet individuality; both will bring a smile to your face.
In addition to the classic Anno gin, they now have cranberry, sloe and for a real kick a 60% spirit in their range. As an enthusiastic gin drinker who likes to experience new flavours, far too often it is obvious that many distillers do not have enough faith to keep experimenting to produce that magic blend of botanicals. Anno’s sloe gin has to be regarded as the best commercially available, it is far more than just infusing the fruit. The sloes are soaked in gin for twelve months by which time a secondary almond taste has developed, to restore the pure sloe flavour, a very precise ratio of fresh sloes are added. It would be a shame not to mention that a champagne cocktail made with their cranberry gin is a real treat.
The approach of scientists in general is laudably tenacious but they tend to concentrate on technical aspects rather than carrying on to suit drinkers’ preferences. Here, they have achieved the best of both worlds; to quote Dr Norman Lewis, one of the founders, “we went from drugs to alcohol.” I would just prefix ‘pharmaceutical’ to the word drugs. They have also had the courage to go with the judgement of their tastes by taking the alcohol content up to 43%, despite being taxed even more heavily than most competitors, as they are confident that they can match the best in the market.
The UK gin market has seen some sixty new brands appear in a single year that would initially appear to be a disaster. However, like Smiths Crisps when Golden Wonder entered the market, the former increased its volumes marginally whilst overall the market expanded with Golden Wonder’s promotional endeavours. The craft gins have opened people’s eyes and sales are more than buoyant with a steep grown curve, because people are looking beyond the mixer of the traditional tonic brand which masks the botanicals.
The major distillers were too clever by half reducing the strengths to a limp 37.5% proof gin; at that level the gin does not have the necessary strength to bring the botanicals to life – they are really only good for contributing the alcohol to cocktails. The only rescue is to add a dash of Thorncroft’s elderflower cordial which adds a very acceptable flavour. Anno have produced a 29% spirit vodka with elderflower within the mix of botanicals, the floral tastes come through with a lively freshness.
Crowd funding now features ever more frequently across a wide range of prospective businesses. It is generally high risk to invest when backing an undeveloped proposal as it is difficult to assess the wide range of risks at the outset. Any business project is only as good as the proposers; I have seen some really good ideas and businesses fail for that very reason.
Anno Distillers has turned to crowd funding but at a stage where they have developed very solid foundations. Anno have developed an award winning range of high quality gins and they have got out into the market by attending many events to give tasting opportunities. This has provided confidence to distributors to stock their brand. Whilst I have not explored their figures, they are a small, well-qualified and well-organised team that has kept their overheads to a minimum with an appropriately modest industrial estate unit.
They recognise that that they need more marketing expertise at the next stage to build the brand. By crowd funding they are bringing in the best ambassadors in their investors. Perhaps they are being too successful in their objective to raise £750,000 for 25% of the company equity as one investor has subscribed £80,000 which will inevitably limit the number of investor/ambassadors. Surely a not too limited edition of a ‘Founders’ gin has to be on the cards.
There are numerous niche markets that are open to be explored to under pin potential growth, for instance with weddings and other celebrations it is now fashionable to offer the guests ‘favours’; miniature bottles of gin with bespoke labels would be spot on.
Whilst prospective investors should certainly take professional advice before writing the cheque, I can recommend taking a long time to mull over the decision with the benefit of a few Anno gins.
Meanwhile we shall be drinking champagne cocktails on Christmas morning with Anno’s delicious festively seasoned and spiced Cranberry Gin with orange, cassia and cloves. In Norman’s own words “It is truly Christmas in a bottle”.