When our client and distillery owner, Chris established Creag Dhu we knew immediately that we wanted to talk to him about his new venture. In our inaugural We Love What You Do, we sit down with him to find out what inspired him to this exciting new project.
Chris and his wife, Mignonne live in the ridiculously beautiful Cairngorms. Here, they created Daffy’s Gin and now Creag Dhu Whisky. We’ve been lucky enough to know them for a few years now, and every time we come away from a trip we always feel more inspired and energised.
We visited them at the beginning of March where we worked with Chris on a brand campaign for Creag Dhu. A project that had been 10 years in the making. Below is a little bit of a window into Chris’s world.
We’ve been lucky enough to spend some time watching what you do, but tell us more about Creag Dhu, and why it’s so special.
Likewise, it didn’t exactly feel like work! We had such fun during the shoot.
Most of the amazing flavour in single malt whisky comes from the casks in which the distilled ‘new make spirit’ is matured. Throughout the ageing process the ‘not at all easy to drink’ spirit transforms into a delicious single malt whisky. What is special about Creag Dhu is the huge amount of focus that goes into cask quality, the charring, and toasting process. This process gives our whisky its big, delicious flavours. Also, making it very smooth to drink.
Another exciting side to our whisky is that every bottle is issued with its very own carbon offset certificate. Ours is the only whisky that does this. The certification comes about through the peatland restoration work that we carry out around Creag Dhu.
I don’t think we’ve ever seen you stop. What does a normal day look like to you?
Usually early to rise, circa 5am. This is the valuable time where my wife Mignonne (the lady on the Daffy’s Gin bottle) and I can catch up uninterrupted over a good coffee or two. We often sit and chat about everything and anything, usually for a good few hours. Next, a shower where I do all my best thinking followed by a 60 second commute to work. Luckily, our house and distillery office are both on site! Usually I have full day of calls, emails, zooms and planning, intermixed with the fun part of distilling and broken up with a delicious 45 minute lunch. As I am very hands-on, for me, the distilling is the the most fascinating part of what I do. We also make Daffy’s Gin and are constantly coming up with new foraged and seasonal one-offs for our best customers, which I love!
You have such a passion for what you do. Where does that come from?
From seeing the other side of the fence. My first paid job was licking envelopes for £3 an hour for a family friend in the Arts Council. A pretty good base level to be able to appreciate the joy of doing what you love every day!
The world of making whisky and spirits is very special in my eyes. The people we work with all get into the business because of their passion for it, for food, drink and enjoying time with others. Unlike envelope licking…
Obviously we create videos, and were lucky enough to work with you on the recent brand video production. In your experience, how important is strong creative when launching a new brand/product?
Our market, like most others, is very competitive. To stand out, creative marketing campaigns are essential to get noticed by people you want to discover you. Following that, you need them to take an interest in building a connection with what you do. For me, that is all underpinned by strong creative content.
What role do you think strong content plays in building brand awareness?
In the drinks world you often see great products with un-engaging or poorly put together content. This approach ultimately leads to them failing as brands. Creating a great product is only the starting point. Beyond that you need strong content to tell your story and build brand awareness. In our case, we have an incredible liquid, great packaging, we use only the best casks in the world and we restore the peatlands and provide carbon offset certificates with every bottle. However, all of that is only going to convince people to try our whisky if we can reach them with well communicated strong content.
What do you think is the most important objective content should play when launching a new brand?
Telling a sincere and clear story that explains what is special and unique about the brand. Shallow marketing for the sake of it will never be as powerful or engaging as great true stories told well.
Where have you experienced the strongest reception to your brand?
From our master distiller friends and peers, and passionate whisky fans who appreciate the quality of the whisky we have released. The reception to the quality of the liquid has been incredible and given us the credibility to gain the great early listings that we have done such as Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Coop and many fine independent stores.
What advice would you share with someone looking to start a brand of their own? Not just in the drinks market.
It’s a lot of work, so make sure that it’s work that you love doing. My grandfather once told me, all you have to do is do it better than the next guy and it will be a great success.
What are your dreams for Creag Dhu?
To share our amazing whisky with as many people as we can. Every bottle we sell continues to restore the peatlands and saves 10kg of carbon emissions.
Also, not just to share Creag Dhu with whisky lovers, but also with new fans who don’t usually enjoy whisky. Those that have nervously tried Creag Dhu found it to be truly delicious, super smooth and a fascinating eye opener into the exciting and romantic world in which we work.
Finally, I’d say to have huge amounts of fun distilling in the wild Highlands of Scotland. Here’s to the hills!