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Know Your Distillers: Alfie Amayo

Alfie Amayo, Head Distiller at Seekers Independent Spirits guides emerging distilleries, blending his extensive experience with passion for gin. He shares quality and sustainability, foreseeing trends in low-to-no alcohol and RTD beverages.

Alfie Amayo, Head Distiller at Seekers Independent Spirits and also a consultant, had quite a start to his distilling career. With a career spanning Europe and Southeast Asia, Alfie's skill goes beyond only distilling spirits; he specializes in leading emerging distillery businesses through their early stages, incorporating her broad experience into every strategic choice.

Alfie's interest in distilling was sparked by his enthusiasm for the diverse range of tastes and botanicals that characterize each distinctive expression, as well as the endless inventiveness of the gin industry. He has spent her entire career upholding the highest standards of quality because he knows that a distiller's true essence is their unwavering devotion to their art.

As a distiller, Alfie is aware of how crucial honesty and sincerity are to fostering relationships with customers. Using social media as a potent tool, he creates a devoted following by sharing the fascinating journey of distillation and asking lovers to join in on the narrative.

Alfie's current area of expertise extends beyond distillation; he is particularly interested in understanding architectural spaces and making the most efficient use of distillery layouts. Come along as we explore Alfie's intriguing journey, her observations on the always changing spirits market, and her predictions for the future trends that will influence the domestic craft distilling scene. Check down to view the entire interview with Alfie Amayo.

Tell us a little about your background and journey into distilling.

As of September 2023, I have transitioned into consultancy, thus my daily routine has undergone a significant change. Currently, I am engaged in advising a new brand venture situated in Asia. I love guiding distillery brands through their formative stages. Drawing from my extensive experience in the industry, I have developed a strong appreciation for the critical early phases of establishing a new distillery and its space. This involves strategic decisions regarding equipment placement, material sourcing, and storage of finished goods, among other considerations. A pivotal aspect of this process entails envisioning the operational space and striving to optimize production efficiency. Needless to say, an empty warehouse looks large until you start to pack it full of equipment, bottles, cardboard boxes and so much more!

What inspired you to become a distiller?

I find immense inspiration in the creativity of the gin industry. I firmly believe that when someone claims they don't enjoy gin, it's often a matter of not having encountered the right one. While the gin category has indeed seen a proliferation of new products and become saturated, I remain eager to explore each new bottle that graces the shelves. Having had the privilege to work in both Europe and Southeast Asia, and having traveled the globe, I've discovered that just as each country boasts its culinary traditions, so too does it offer a unique style of gin infused with local botanicals. It is this deep-seated love and appreciation for the gin category that ultimately propelled me to pursue a career as a distiller. As my understanding of distillation techniques and flavor profiles has evolved over the years, so too has my interest expanded to encompass other spirits.

What are some of the most important skills for a distiller?

Answering this question poses a challenge. With the burgeoning growth of craft distilleries, most distillers find themselves wearing multiple hats, such as brand ambassadors, events managers, and leaders. I, too, have juggled various roles in my own experience. However, ultimately, the primary focus of a distiller should revolve around the quality of the product they produce. While branding and marketing undoubtedly contribute to a product's visibility on the shelf, it is the quality of the liquid itself that drives repeat purchases and word-of-mouth recommendations. Thus, I would argue that the most crucial skill for a distiller is an unwavering commitment to quality. This commitment manifests through continuous learning, attending seminars, and engaging in experimentation and innovation. Never compromising on flavor, even in the face of a batch gone awry, is paramount. A distiller should take pride in their craft and stand behind the products they create. Reflecting on my time as a bartender in London, my mentor Nathan used to say, "If a cocktail isn't good enough for your mother, it shouldn't be served." I believe there's a valuable lesson in that sentiment for distillers as well. Despite pressures from shareholders, upper management, or financial constraints, maintaining a dedication to craftsmanship should remain steadfast.

How do you think a distiller can help drive marketing and sales personally?

In today's digital age, leveraging social media is paramount for distillers seeking to bolster their marketing and sales efforts. One of the most effective strategies is to authentically document the day-to-day operations of the distillery. This approach offers a compelling narrative that resonates with audiences, providing them with an insider's view into the captivating world of distillation.

At first glance, the role of a distiller may seem like serious business, but upon closer inspection, it's evident that our daily tasks are imbued with excitement and creativity. From early morning tasting sessions to the process of bottling and labeling, every step of the journey offers an opportunity to captivate and engage our audience.

By sharing these behind-the-scenes moments on social media platforms, distillers can forge deeper connections with consumers, fostering a sense of authenticity and transparency that is highly valued in today's market. This approach not only humanizes the brand but also serves as a powerful marketing tool, allowing enthusiasts to become part of the story and forging a loyal community of followers who are eager to support and champion the brand.

At its core, distillers should use social media to showcase the passion, dedication, and craftsmanship that underpin their work. Distillers can cultivate a dynamic online presence that not only drives sales but also elevates the brand's reputation and influence in the industry.

Define a good distiller.

I truly believe that a good distiller is characterized by an unwavering passion for their craft.

What is the hardest part of a distiller's job?

The most challenging aspect of a distiller's job is often contingent upon various factors, including the scale of their operation and the extent of their responsibilities. Achieving consistency in flavor, aroma, and quality across batches poses a significant challenge. Distillation is a multifaceted process influenced by a multitude of variables such as ingredient quality, equipment performance, and sometimes even environmental conditions. Ensuring that each batch upholds the same impeccable standards demands meticulous attention to detail and rigorous quality control protocols.

Following closely behind the demand for consistency is the pressure to innovate. In today's saturated market, distillers often face internal and external pressures to introduce novel products or techniques to remain competitive and enhance profitability. However, the pursuit of innovation must be balanced with respect for tradition and the overarching goal of maintaining consistency. An illustrative example can be found in the gin industry, where an increasing number of brands are reducing the prominence of juniper in their formulations.

Nevertheless, for distillers who are passionate and dedicated, these challenges also represent opportunities for personal and professional growth. By embracing these challenges, distillers can expand their knowledge, refine their skills, and ultimately craft exceptional spirits that captivate and inspire consumers.

What are the current challenges the spirits industry is facing according to you?

Market saturation remains a persistent challenge in the spirits industry, particularly for craft brands, as numerous brands compete for consumer attention and market share. Distillers encounter difficulties in distinguishing their products, fostering brand loyalty, and carving out a niche in a crowded marketplace.

What skill or topic you are learning currently and why?

In addition to staying informed about market trends and experimenting with new products, I've developed a keen interest in understanding architectural spaces. Currently, I'm actively studying the principles of architectural design, particularly as they relate to distillery spaces. I'm delving into tools like AutoCAD to enhance my understanding and ability to collaborate with architects in optimizing distillery layouts for efficient production processes. I aim to contribute directly to the creation of distillery spaces that are not only functional but also maximize productivity and workflow efficiency.

What is your idea of a good life?

To be honest, I'm still on the journey to discovering that answer. However, I envision it as a day where I wake up with excitement and go to bed feeling fulfilled.

Which is your go-to drink and what is the perfect setting you enjoy it in?

Given that my wife hails from New Orleans, and being an enthusiast of gin, my ultimate beverage of choice has to be the classic French 75. The perfect setting for this has to be savoring this delight in a New Orleans bar, accompanied by the soulful melodies of live jazz.


Your favorite 2-3 distilling or spirits books?

"The Flavour Thesaurus" by Niki Segnet isn't specifically a distillation manual, but it's an excellent resource for delving into the intricacies of flavor, particularly relevant in today's era of innovation.

For a highly informative and enjoyable read, "The Drunken Botanist" by Amy Stewart is great.

And while not a book, Odin, owner of the I STILL, has a blog, which is a treasure trove of insightful posts on distillation techniques and innovations. His blog consistently offers fresh and innovative ideas for enthusiasts and professionals alike.

What do you look for in a supplier when sourcing bulk spirits / NGS if you do?

When it comes to NGS procurement, many suppliers boast consistent products. However, my experience in Southeast Asia underscored the significance of forging partnerships with reputable and dependable suppliers to ensure a steady supply and punctual deliveries. Prioritize suppliers with proven reliability. Additionally, compliance with regulatory standards and certifications is paramount when sourcing NGS. Do your due diligence to ascertain your supplier's adherence to regulations and that have the necessary certifications.

What steps do you take to become more sustainable?

In my experience as a distiller, I've identified water waste in the condenser as one of the most significant energy drains. To mitigate this, distillers should consider implementing a closed water system. This system involves channeling spent water from the condenser into a reservoir tank, where it's cooled and then recirculated back into the condenser. While the idea may seem complex, in reality, it's quite simple to set up and offers substantial energy savings for the distillery in a remarkably efficient manner.

What trends do you anticipate in the beverage industry in the coming months? Or Where do you see the domestic craft distilling scene going? What's next for the industry?

Like many individuals, I've observed a notable rise in the availability of low-to-no alcohol products in the market. This trend reflects shifting consumer preferences towards healthier lifestyle choices and moderation in alcohol consumption. Distillers should recognize the importance of adapting to this evolving landscape by expanding their expertise and production capabilities to meet the growing demand for these products. Additionally, there is a growing anticipation for an increased focus on RTD beverages, as consumers seek convenient and on-the-go options that deliver quality and flavor in a ready-to-consume format.

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