A Blog Post in Which I fly to the Wrong City & Talk Forklifts

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Women & Whisk(e)y in Edinburgh, which is different to Glasgow just so you know. 

Now that our first release is out there, these days when I’m not in Ireland on site I am on the move telling our story and opening markets. One of the hangovers I have from my corporate days is that I slavishly follow my calendar especially in terms of appointments and meetings. I go wherever my calendar tells me to go and I DO NOT DEVIATE, which bothers my husband no end. If something is not in my diary, it does not happen, when it comes to planning my day I don’t do spontaneous. I do this because it is the only way to get Sh?t done. It is also the joy of being an entrepreneur, I don’t have to sit in useless meetings like I used to in corporate-land. Every moment of my day is productive because it schedule it that way. However if I happen to input an appointment incorrectly (which very rarely happens) it becomes an issue. As I deplaned in Glasgow on Friday morning, I joyfully tweeted that I was looking forward to sharing The Gael with the fine people of said city. I was in town for a few meetings and a lovely event organised by Justine from @KaskWhisky. It was dubbed whisky & women and in aid of a great Scottish Women’s charity Keymoves which supports vulnerable women in need, the event was part of the Audacious Women’s Festival.

The tweet went out and I immediately received a worried message from Justine informing me that in fact the people of Glasgow would have to wait as the event was on that night in Edinburgh, which as it happens is NOT Glasgow. Quite the Axl Rose on the 10th leg of the Get in the Ring Tour moment for me, Anyway it was not the end of the world, Edinburgh is a short train ride away and after completing my Glasgow meetings off I went to Hill Street, just off The Royal Mile, I’m so glad I did.

I sat on a panel with two other lovely whiskey people. Heather Nelson from Toulvaddie distillery & Lorna Hemy head distiller at Atom Brands the guys behind That Boutiquey Whiskey Co.  Heather hit the headlines when she announced her plans to build a distillery, she got a lot of attention due to the fact that she is the first woman in Scotland ever to officially do so. Heather like me is sanguine about that angle and is more concerned like I am with making good gender-neutral whisk(e)y.

I found a bit of a kindred spirit in Heather as you imagine I would. We bonded over Dump Trucks and diggers/forklift chat. What people don’t maybe realise still about my business is that is very hands on and I’m hands on. There is lifting, carrying, wrapping, and occasionally there is the odd piece of large machinery. I’m currently forklift window shopping, because I decided I need to be able to load my own pallets. Once the blending room is up and running, there will be a lot more production activity on site and the physicality of what we do and what I do will increase.

Heather spent much of last month wearing waterproofs sitting in the cab of a dump truck clearing an access road. Her distillery currently finishing construction is on an old World War 2 Landing Strip, up near Glenmorangie. She is not doing it all herself, but she does some of it, because she wants to have her hands in every part of the distillery build. We share that sentiment for us what we do is very personal and we want our fingerprints on the physical structures that we are building to make our vision come true. This might be a particularly feminine approach to building. Big machines for us are not about testosterone gratification, rather they are about creation, also maybe a little bit about the fact they are great fun.

I’ve been involved in a few ambitious builds over the years, not least of all our House on site which was a labour of love, but basically managed remotely. When we built the rackhouse and converted the cowshed into the “Gobal HQ” , I turned my hand to designing and detailing and they turned out great, in that they function really well and look good. The next project for me is the Blending Room. I’ve decided on this one to manage everything about this build. From buying the cement to bringing in the electrician, this one is going to be by my hand.There are a few reasons for this, first of all, I now have the confidence to do it, having been involved in building other stuff and second of all this blending room needs to deliver.

I’m betting the farm (quite literally)  on being a Bonder/Blender. I’m going to be spending a lot of time in that room disgorging casks, custom and precision blending and the place needs to be incredibly high functioning to allow that the level of precision I’m going after. Anytime I’ve ever built anything I’ve been obsessive about the form and functionality of a space and about how people move around in it. Often as the build goes up that changes over time and in the case of the blending room I know that will happen.

A good chunk of my energy in Summer 2018 will be taken up in a large part with that build. The planning permission came through and now I just need to figure out all the financing which is HARD GRAFT.  I will say I find hilarious all the Ads in Ireland about “Backing Brave” etc that you see all over the place and the f marketing stuff about supporting SME’s and lending within 24 hours the banks advertise on the TV. Access to finance remains elusive from banks for early stage SME’s like mine. This is the most precarious time for any product business, most of our first batch of whiskey is sold and we have a healthy forward orders but our pipeline is not yet up and running.  It’s a high Cotton kind of situation, its finite but we have to work through it. Luckily, like Heather in her waterproofs, I am resourceful as all get-out. I’m close to a solution and close to pushing the button on putting a deposit down on those stainless steel tanks. I’m also looking into to Forklft driving courses…In the meantime though Heather has promised me a go on her digger up in Toulvaddie. I think I’ll be taking her up on that.

 

 

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