Drink your brand
Some interesting lessons from the pot still of creativity
Ten years of hobby distilling has taught me that to make a harsh, barely drinkable liquor is still a rough, messy process which takes a lot of work. Over the years, my skills have improved and the ethanol snacks I was able to produce started to move from “no way in hell” to “this is actually okay” in most of my friend’s palates, or at least that's what they told me.
There are more than a few interesting similarities between executing business ideas and booze-making that I’ve discovered while watching C2H5OH drip from a copper pipe for hours on end.
Good ingredients get good results
Mash it up
The first step is making a “mash” which is just as glamorous as it sounds. It involves throwing everything into a huge pot and warming it. Before you start you have to know what you’re making, what the goal is and what ingredients you're going to use. Find a goal first because it would make no sense to start making a Gin with the ingredients for whiskey. Sometimes brand conversations get off track and when the group sets out to make a gin, everyone slips into throwing whiskey ingredients “into the pot”. This is the “no idea is a bad idea, step in the process” but all suggestions need to be inline with the goal.
Intentional ingredients get the best results.
Keep moving ideas around
Fermentation takes heat and time and it stinks. Ideas need to be heated, pressed, challenged and bubbled. Occasionally, things even need to be stirred. Letting ideas sit, only to move them around and let them sit again is a natural part of the process but whatever you do don’t let anything go cold. Once everything cools down it dies (literally for the yeast). Keep moving ideas around but like a good mash, this process should have a strict timeline otherwise it cools down and comes to nothing.
Keep things clean and watch where you’re going
Nurturing the process
Like a good sourdough starter or a single-grain whisky fermenting, or your brand ideas, the process needs to be nurtured along with a strategy. If you just stick it in the basement or keep opening the tub and adding things (including bad bacteria), your creation could end up being overworked, wheat-tasting distilled water. Having a plan, checking the metrics and watching how your little concept grows is vital to the process.
The pressure is good for you
Vaporise the good stuff
Spark the fire and gas, it's time to heat up the ideas. As the smelly, goopy mash starts to warm up, the best parts (alcohol) get vapourised. The good stuff literally rises to the top, while the yucky stuff stays in the bottom of the still. It takes heat and pressure to make the process move along, so this phase is where the timelines and stressful stuff happens. This part is good for you and good for your ideas. The good news is it should also be short lived.
Good ideas don’t have predetermined outcomes and should be a blend of things
Collection and cuts
As the vapor cools it condenses back into a liquid. Every 100 ml of alcohol will have different tastes, smells and characteristics. This is where you separate, mix and create the exact tastes of what you’re looking for. Inevitably, the end result is going to be a blend of the best cuts. Sampling, measuring and testing what you make is vital to constructing your best blend of ideas. It helps to have the right tools, someone with some good taste and a test victim to try it out on. This is also the perfect point in the process to run an A/B test.
Check Back consistently
Rest and review
Time changes everything including booze. Checking back in on an idea as it matures is always a good idea, especially after it's been implemented. Building a business takes patience just making a fine whiskey like whisky or growing Agave is a duration pastime, so have patience because good things will happen over time.