I love this story. It’s sort of like a Fairy Tale but it incorporates so many different elements that all combined together to create a product, a brand and a following. What makes this particular story so fascinating is that it all happened within two years and virtually started from the ground up.
I am a gin drinker. Forest Gin happens to be my favourite and I love to share it with my family and friends. It’s also what I would consider my local gin as it is produced near the Derbyshire Peak District. To call this anything but a labor of love would be missing the point.
Karl and Lindsay Bond are the creators of Forest Gin. They use ingredients found in Macclesfield Forest, which is steps away from their home. They were following very different career paths until their side hustle (gin making) forced them to revaluate what they were doing.
Image above: Karl, Lindsay & Hattie Bond
The gin making part of their lives was not much more than a hobby. In fact, Karl claims that while he was perfecting the craft (in other words, working through some rather horrible tasting batches) friends and family encouraged him.
Then one day, out picking berries with their daughter the idea lightning bolt struck. Karl started added fresh ingredients to his gin recipe and, as they say, the rest was history. I’ll tell you more about the special ingredients that give Forest Gin the amazing taste it has in a moment.
I talk about branding a lot because it is part of what I do as a freelance graphic designer. I’ve explained often that branding goes far beyond a logo or word mark. Forest Gin has one of the most amazing branding elements that set it apart from all other gins in the world.
The unique touch comes from a porcelain bottle. The eight-sided “rounded octagon” will not absorb any moisture, flavour, odour or stains. The beautiful bottle is manufactured by Wade Ceramics. The company, which has been in business since 1810, is also local to the Bonds which add to the unique branding.
Image above: Forest Gin Bottle
Paper Cut Weasel Design By Artist Suzy Taylor
Then there’s the matter of the artwork on the bottle. In fact, this adds to the branding as each bottle carries a unique paper cut design created by artist Suzy Taylor. When she was commissioned to create the label design her directions were to “create something organic, rustic, wild and very non-corporate.”
Over the course of communication back and forth, an all-over bottle print was chosen. The subject would revolve around the ingredients found in the gin. The Bonds also requested that an animal be incorporated into the design. Taylor did some research and quickly discovered that the weasel was native to the Macclesfield Forest.
The actual cut out work is very intricate and is made with a single sheet of paper. Taylor created something so unique that it has added to the collector value of each bottle. The original artwork that set the wheels in motion has been framed and is in the possession of Forest Gin.
Should you get the chance to tour the actual distillery, you can still take something home with you if gin is not your taste. Coasters that feature the weasel design are available to purchase as souvenirs. Plus, the weasel design appears on blankets you can purchase as well.
Another huge part of the branding equation is the actual ingredients that are mixed together to create the final product. This is especially so in the food services industry with so many different food products being produced with only the dynamic ones standing out from the crowd.
In the world of gin, I can only say that Forest Gin really hit it on the head with their undisputed unique combination of fresh ingredients. Plus, some rather unusual ingredients that give the product a very distinctive taste as well as a niche that will not likely be imitated any time soon.
I’m talking about the fresh forest features that find their way into each and every uniquely designed bottle. The full ingredient list is a trade secret, but my taste buds have helped me to identify a number of the ingredients and some are posted on their website.
Essentially there are about 16 botanicals involved in the process. They include angelica, coriander, juniper and licorice. Then there’s the items foraged from the forest. It’s true. The Bonds actually spend time in Macclesfield Forest collecting ingredients. They include ten different items ranging from bilberries and blackberries to raspberries.
But there’s more. The unique ‘forest taste’ of Forest Gin results from actual parts of the forest. This includes bark, ferns, moss, pine and wild flowers. The water used comes from a local spring and all adds up to create a gin that does not taste like any other gin on the planet.
As if all of what I have explained here hasn’t fully explained the uniqueness of this truly local brand, there is more. With a focus on keeping the production of Forest Gin far and away from the world of mass assemble line production, each batch is relatively small. There are only 4 batches produced each week which yields 160 bottles per batch – 320 bottles a week.
It is a far cry from a gin factory, a point that Karl is pleased to make whenever the numbers come up. If you do the math, there will be no more than just over 17,280 bottles produced in an average year. That’s not a lot when you think about it but for some reason, the small batch production just adds to the overall charm of the product.
The Things You Can Learn From Forest Gin
Not everyone is going to be able to flip their hobby into a full-time career, but it is possible. In today’s economy, it is becoming more commonplace. So, pushing that fact aside, any entrepreneur knows that in order to be successful you have to have a unique product. The Bonds were blessed with this from the start but may not have pursued it if they were not encouraged to do so.
They added to their unique product with a recipe that truly tastes of the forest they live close to. To emphasis the uniqueness of the product, it is created in small batches and sold in porcelain bottles. The bottles have an added unique touch with their hand-cut artwork labelling.
I’m attracted to this story for several reasons.
Yes, part of it is because I like gin. However, there are many lessons that can be pulled from the Bonds success story that can be applied to just about any and all marketing and branding efforts. They really did strike gold with their product and it has become iconic. The bottles are collector items. Imagine your product becoming a collector’s item in just two years of production!
Forest Gin proves that when you can see the forest through the trees, it brings great rewards.