Crowdfunding seems to become more and more popular day by day, so why not use it to fund a whisky distillery. Sall Whisky in Denmark aim to do just that. They are the first whisky distillery, at least in the Nordics, to try this approach, as far as I know. Now, you might argue that a lot of Nordic distilleries apply crowdfunding already, just under a different name – they sell private casks. Selling casks certainly does have a lot of the same end results as crowdfunding:
- you engage with and motivate your followers/fans
- you create ambassadors working for you in the field (for free)
- you generate cash flow at an early stage where you have not yet started selling any of your whisky.
Selling (a lot of) private casks can create subsequent challenges though:
- selling too many private casks will result in you having little maturing spirit for yourself
- there is a lot of administration with selling private casks, especially when you start bottling after the first three years
- you run the risk of saturating the market with ‘your’ whisky without you controlling the story or distribution
Seeing as I find the idea of crowdfunding a whisky distillery intrigueing I decided to investigate further, and had a chat with Snævar Albertsson, the guy in charge of management and communication at Sall Whisky. Here is what I learned:
The distillery is founded by seven guys; who are you and do you have any whisky related background?
We are a mixed lot for sure. First off we have Lars Egelund, who is a farmer with a Master of Science in Agriculture. He grows the old and organic grains we intend to make our whisky from (hulless /naked barley, rye, wheat / ølands wheat), on his 100 hectares farm.
Thomas Holm is in charge of cask quality and sales at Sall Whisky. He studied engineering in Edinburgh, where he really got to know the world of whisky. Thomas is a walking, talking whisky encyclopedia. He will be instrumental in defining the type of whisky we will create here. He has already started working on deals with various Danish wine and spirits shops.
Then we have Thomas Rye, a civil engineer in technical geology, now finishing his PhD on the geological aspects of Danish ground water. The ground water we intent to use at Sall Whisky is important to our end product, and Thomas will play a key part here. Being an engineer he will also be heavily involved in setting up our production line.
Next up is Kåre Gyldeløve, a cand. mag. in Archaeology, and the one that pitched the initial idea for Sall Whisky with Martin. Kåre is a dedicated craft brewer / home brewer, and as such ideally set to be our Mash Specialist. He will work closely with Mathias on this.
Mathias Broch then is also a cand. mag. in Archaeology. He is our yeast Specialist. Over the past few years he has been brewing beer with Kåre, and the two of them will now work on our mashing and fermentation.
Yet another Archaeologist on the team is Martin Sejr. He will oversee our Floor Malting and Craft. He has worked with and studied various craft traditions through time, including floor malting.
Finally we have Snævar Albertsson, with a Master’s degree in Culture and Aesthetics with a profile in journalism. Snævar is tyhe project manager and in charge of communications.
What kind of stills will you be using? I understand you have a small test still already running, what type is that?
We have from day one known that we wanted to work with pot stills rather than column stills. We will initially setup a 1000 litre wash still and a 600 litre spirit still. They will be of the alembic type, and built by Hoga. We have a good and close dialogue with Hoga and they are responsive to our wishes and requirements. We already know that their stills can produce great quality spirits; several other Nordic distilleries use stills from Hoga. Our test still is also from Hoga and has a capacity of 100 litres of wash.
Will you be selling private casks, and if yes what will you be selling?
Yes, we will sell private casks. They will be filled with peated or unpeated spirit made using our organic barley. These are 30 litre and 50 litre American oak ex-bourbon casks. A full 30 litre cask will cost around USD 3225. You can also buy a share of a cask, where the price will depend on how big a share you buy. 1/8 of a 50 litre cask will be USD 725.
What style of whisky will you produce at Sall Whisky?
We are quite ambitious in that we want to create interesting and appealing whisky based on a series of traditional Nordic grain types. The fact that we grow our own grains, and that we have a grain specialist on the team, enables us to grow and experiment on a whole different level than most other distilleries. First and foremost we will focus on peated and unpeated whisky made from barley. A traditional start, if you will. We are developing a mash tun that will also handle Ølands wheat (‘Ølandshvete’) that Lars is growing. This team love to experiment and think outside the box. We want to prove that we can make great whisky the traditional way, and then build on this by experimenting with other types of grain and special casks.
My final question has to be – why crowdfunding?
That is a great question. I am a musician myself, and have successfully used crowdfunding previously. My and my team mates experience is that if you give people something they can identify with and take active part in they want to participate and support you. We have received a lot of positive feedback already on our focus on organic and local production, as well as our ‘from seed to bottle’ idea. They want to support us and join us on this journey, and we want to share this adventure with people.
Make sure to check out the crowdfunding project for Sall Whisky over at Indiegogo.