When Ian McCulloch, former commercial director at ITV, retired, he was looking for a project. Inspiration came in the form of setting up his own distillery in the beautiful Surrey Hills. Ian met co-founder James Sherbourne (most appropriately) in a local pub, The Onslow Arms and there the idea for Silent Pool Gin was born.
Inspired by Scottish whisky distilleries – moody skies and natural water sources – James and Ian were keen to find a base a little closer to home. A group of dilapidated farm buildings on the banks of the Silent Pool in Albury, Surrey, provided the perfect spot. The estate is owned by the Duke of Northumberland, who was more than happy to see the farm brought back to life for Silent Pool Gin.
In-keeping with the original vision for a sustainable business, a vintage wood-fired steam boiler was restored to power the hand-built copper still, created for Silent Pool Distillers by the Arnold Holstein Company in the Lake Constance area of Germany. The distillery was completed with the arrival of the bespoke stainless-steel tanking, sourced from the Vipara Valley in Slovenia, designed to hold both the spirit and the crystal-clear water used to make it
Gin for a new generation of gin lovers
When Silent Pool was set up in 2014, Ian and James had a different audience in mind. The industry has traditionally been dominated by old-school, more masculine brands. The team was looking for something more feminine, and more accessible, away from the image of boardrooms and clubs. The company’s target audience is well-wheeled women, 30 years plus, who enjoy quality, ethically produced products.
Silent Pool prides itself on putting sustainability at the heart of the production process. From the two stills – one is heated by a steam boiler made in 1870 and the second is fired by hydrogenated vegetable oil – to the ethically-sourced botanicals and bottles which only consist of glass and tin, every care is taken to ensure an environmentally conscious product.
New channels for a new era
Until 2020, Silent Pool’s distribution was heavily reliant on traditional retail, with a host of well-known retail outlets such as Waitrose. However, as many of the company’s routes to markets – including Duty Free, pubs and restaurants – closed down in March 2020, the business needed to find new ways of addressing short-term revenue.
Silent Pool began by focusing on its direct-to-consumer (D2C) channel, through which sales volume has grown by 5x in 2020 alone. The company began selling bundles of products, to recreate the pub experience at home, including glasses, bar runners and candle holders. This has been a key part of the strategy over recent months. From the Easter cook bundle, to the summer BBQ package, there are Silent Pool experiences for every season.
A rapid switch to producing hand sanitiser non-commercially, also provided a useful source of web traffic during a period where Silent Pool’s physical shop was closed to the public. As reported in thedrinksreport.com, Silent Pool Distillers began producing its own hand sanitiser at the start of the crisis, and supplied to those most in need in the local community, including key workers and NHS staff. Initially the plan was to give away 50 bottles a day, but Silent Pool gradually increased production and has now given away more than 20,000 bottles to organisations in need, such as charities, hospitals and the police service.
The hand sanitiser was also made available to purchase through the distillery website, encouraging people to interact with the brand.
The right e-commerce platform
Silent Pool began working with BigCommerce in late 2018, as it was looking for an Open SaaS platform, which offered a broader ecosystem of apps and tools that plug in and allow the site to work as the business grows. Having been shortlisted against Magento and Shopify, BigCommerce came out as the best option for the company.
Darren Macaskill, head of brand and marketing at Silent Pool, said: “A huge benefit of the system for us is that we’ve been able to cope with a significant growth in traffic and sales during lockdown. We’ve been able to develop our offering in a number of ways, including adding new products and bundle packages, without needing a major tech investment or incurring downtime on the site.
“One of our main reasons for choosing BigCommerce was the range of tools we could easily plug-in to our site. From booking for our tours, to Google Shopping and store locator, we have everything we need working seamlessly together.”
2021 and beyond
2021 is set to be an exciting one for the business, as it looks to expand beyond our shores. In the New Year, Silent Pool is looking to offer its products in a number of additional international markets, including the US, Japan, Germany, Italy and parts of APAC. It is also keen to develop its offering for trade customers, allowing them to also buy via the website. Most importantly, it’s set to expand its line of products further, with the introduction of vodka and even CBD gin. Where Surrey-distilled gin is concerned, the future it seems is bright.