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What NOT To Say To A Distiller

With many Aussie craft distilleries operating in markets, running stalls at expos and opening cellar doors to the public, meeting a distiller is becoming easier. So here are 5 things distillers hate you saying to them and 5 things they’ll love you for.

Distillers are a unique breed of humans. On the one hand, they’re scientists; analytical, pragmatic and lovers of The Process. But on the other, they’re creatives: they’re all about the craft. They work from the heart, which they wear on their sleeve with every bottle.

With this in mind, it’s sometimes a bit of a minefield knowing what’s appropriate to say to them and what’s not.

We asked Ally Ayres, owner-distiller at Karu Distillery in the Blue Mountains NSW, what the kind of things people say to her that irk the most–and also some of the things that’ll get her on-side immediately.

And as we know, a happy distiller is a generous distiller!

5 Things Not To Say To A Distiller

1. Don’t be an asshole

"Some gins have botanicals.”

"Well you see..."

"I want the botanical one! I just want the botanical one. Oh, forget it.”

This happens a fair bit. I was going to explain what botanicals are—in reference to gin—so I could recommend the best one for you and now I am unsure what you’re now asking me or how you got so mad.

2. Don’t compare your illegal bootlegging hobby to the pro you’re talking to

"I make gin at home—can you recommend a good flavour combination for me to use? I want to get ideas for mine.”

I did my own R&D, which was the fun part of getting to where we are with our products. Despite the fact that I am unsure if what you are doing is legal or not, I am never going to give you advice other than 'be careful, and please have a nice day.'

Plus I find it rude to ask for people's intellectual property, but that's just me.

3. Don’t interrupt a distiller’s spiel—and probably don’t bring up a competitor

“Welcome to my distillery. My name’s…”

"There is another distillery that does this thing that [insert inaccurate anecdote here that goes on forever].”

Great chat. Whilst it's great to share experiences, I'd have liked the opportunity to share with you mine, seeing as you did come to me.

4. Don’t try and haggle

"What discount are you going to give me?”

Pardon? Where do you work and what discount can you give me?

5. Don’t be nosy—or if you are, be reasonable

"I want to come up to look at your setup and your stills. I just want to come to see how you operate, come on.”

Occasionally we will open to the public and give very comprehensive tours of our distillery, so sign up for our newsletter to know when they are.

Our distillery is a 7-day-a-week functioning business that shares the space with other employees. Unexpected or unplanned visits on site can prove to be very distracting to the workflow of a production day for staff.

So if we say no, it's not because we are being cagey, it's because we are working hard.

5 Things Distillers LOVE Hearing

On a more positive note, there are plenty of things to talk to your distiller about that will make them smile like the sun. Try some of these next time you meet a distiller:

1. If you know something about the brand, show it

Do say: “We love hearing you saying "We've followed your journey.”

This is day-making stuff. It puts you in a good mood, fuels your enthusiasm and the visitor’s likely to get a next-level experience out of the distiller or owner.

2. Be constructive when you share your ideas

Do say: "My favourite way to drink this is…"

Sharing how you like our spirits, for me, is ultimate. We will probably agree with you, share our own personal tips, or go away and try the way you've done it.

3. Ask for a professional opinion

Do say: "What other Australian producers’ spirits do you recommend?”

I love this one. What you tell me about what you like about our spirits gives me a good insight into what you would be looking for.

Having tried hundreds and hundreds of Australian spirits, I can recommend a shopping list for you to try. I can even most likely share a fun story I have experienced with their distiller too.

4. A compliment goes a long way

Do say: "Yours is one of our favourites.”

It's always nice to be liked! We work very hard on what we do and if what we do is one of your favourites, tell us. We are in our own heads a lot of the time and would have no idea otherwise.

5. Good manners go even further

Do say: "Thank you.

Sounds cliche, but when people thank you for your time, for explaining, for answering a question, or even just after we have poured you a sample. You are an angel and one of our favourites if you say thank you!


So there you have it. Pretty easy to get on a distiller’s good side really—and pertinent to the last point, thank you, Ally for these excellent and entertaining insights.

I guess the way to go is to be respectful, polite and to pay attention.

Not hard—especially when it’s all about the most amazing industry: the world of Australian craft spirits!


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