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By Clare Goggin Sivits On February 21, 2022

Build a Distillery Tour that Markets Your Spirits for You

Every time a customer walks into your distillery looking for a tour, it’s an opportunity to sell more spirits. Anyone who wants to learn more about your business is already primed to buy a bottle or two but they may also be a conduit to spread the word about your brand. By crafting a really effective distillery tour, you can promote products and the brand not only to those present but also to a wider audience.

A copper tank stands in a distillery where spirits are crafted.

If you’re looking to boost your tour experience, there are a few tried and true methods that will dazzle new customers and possibly even improve sales. Read on for a few of our tips.

Write a Script

Every tour of your distillery should follow a similar flow and include the same elements. To ensure that each one, no matter who may be giving it, hits the right notes, write up a script. It’s a sure-fire way to get every tour guide, whether it’s the distiller or the tasting room manager, on the same page — literally.

Develop the script so that it has a beginning, middle and an end. Think of it as telling the distillery’s story. Start with an introduction to both your brand and the art of distilling in general for those guests who may not be familiar with the process. Then take them through how spirits are made — specifically at your distillery — from start to finish. And end with something memorable, like a rare tasting. 

If written well, your tour script will be something your guests will take with them and repeat to their friends or family. It may come with a recommendation that they should try your spirits or even get to the distillery for a tour of their own.

Educate As You Go

Establish your authority on the topic of spirits by incorporating educational but engaging bits into the tour. For instance, perhaps you could explain how a still works or describe a process your distillery uses, like triple distillation, and how it differs from typical distillation. The goal is to present information to your audience that they may not have known before but will find interesting enough to remember.

If you successfully educate a guest with new information that they find really interesting, they’ll share that with their network. “Did you know how they make triple-distilled whiskey?” they may ask someone at a party. Perhaps they’ve even brought that whiskey with them to the party to share. 

Show Off a Little

Your distillery has something special. It’s something your distillers get excited about and it sets you apart from all other spirits producers. You know it well. But your visitors may have never heard of it. So make sure you make a big deal about it in your tour and show off a little.

If that something special is an ingredient, make that a featured part of the tour. Have samples of the ingredient ready to pass around so guests can hold it and smell it. Maybe it’s something you can even have available for them to taste next to samples of the spirits. Explain how it impacts the spirits you’re making and how you sourced it. If there’s a personal story about how the master distiller came upon this ingredient, include it in your tour. This should be a fun discovery for guests who will again remember it and share it with others later.

Add Instagram Opps

In order to effectively reach a larger audience through a tour, you want guests to post about their tour experience on Instagram or other social media platforms. These days, there’s a good chance they’ll do it anyway but why take chances? Set up prompts throughout the course of the tour inviting guests to take photos and post it to Instagram. These prompts should include your distillery’s Instagram handle, a hashtag, and a clear call to action. 

Prompts should feature photogenic elements of your distillery. Perhaps you set up a frame in front of your still or a wall of spirits bottles. The call to action might simply say, “post your pic on Instagram” — it doesn’t have to be too fancy. If someone already has Instagram on their phone, they were probably already considering it. They just needed someone to remind them to take their phone out. 

Weave Tastings into the Tour

Guests are seeing, hearing, smelling and feeling your distillery. Make sure they’re tasting your spirits too. By weaving tastings into the entire tour, you’re keeping your guests, who probably really like spirits, invested in the experience. 

The best way to incorporate those tastings is to cart out samples at key points of the tour. When you’re discussing distillation, share a sample of a spirit that really exemplifies that unique distillation process. As you walk guests through ingredients, share spirits that feature the aromas or flavors of those ingredients. The right combination of tasting and talking will really activate all five senses. And make memories that guests will again be ready to call up at the next cocktail party they attend.

Worth noting: some state laws may limit spirits consumption within a distillery. Know where and when you can allow guests to drink throughout the tour. If needed, perhaps you can lay out the tour so that you return to the tasting room at key points to serve samples.

Invite Them to the Club

Now that you’ve got their attention, ask your visitors to join an exclusive group of VIP customers that will keep them coming back. A well-designed club will give guests an incentive to return, like complimentary cocktails or all-access tours. Perhaps they may even get one-on-one sessions with a distributor.

“A club is a lot of work, but we feel it is a way to connect to your committed fans,” says Kim Karrick, owner & distiller from Scratch Distillery. “By doing this, our club members are often the ones who become our evangelist and help our business grow organically.”

To attract guests who may not live within driving distance of the distillery (and are perhaps visiting on vacation), there should be something for them too. Maybe they can get discounts on merchandise through the website if they sign up. 

Having guests who’ve received a memorable tour of your facility and signed up for a club, you’ll build a loyal fan base that seeks out your spirits. As that base grows, their network grows and you reach more and more potential customers with each tour.

Clare Goggin Sivits

As a marketer with a strong writing background, Clare Goggin Sivits has worked in the beer, spirits, and wine industries for nearly a decade. She oversaw digital marketing for a small wine startup as well as a craft brewery and distillery with a nationwide footprint. A Florida ex-pat, Clare now lives in Portland, Oregon, and continues to write about craft beverage marketing and the industry as a whole.

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