I'm Darran Edmond, owner and distiller at ILLICIT Spirits
- What does your business do?
We are an urban craft distillery, producing small-batch spirits using traditional methods.
We’re based in a railway arch in Tradeston, underneath the tracks heading south out of Glasgow Central. When we found the space, we thought it fitted perfectly with the name and the brand, taking inspiration from the heritage of illicit distilling by being hidden away close to the city centre.
I had been working for various other small distilleries as a distiller, and also had the chance to be involved in recipe and product development. This showed me that the barrier to entry is actually quite low, and that with a fairly small space and small capacity equipment you could still produce on a commercial scale.
I started off studying chemistry, but sort of fell out of love with the subject after graduation. After trying a few other things I ended up taking a seasonal job as a tour guide in a whisky distillery, and I could see straight away that this was not only an exciting industry to work in, but also one where I could put my chemistry knowledge to use on something I had a real passion for. This eventually led to me returning to study and gaining an MSc. in brewing and distilling from Heriot Watt.
- What is your top tip for others starting out?
I think when it comes to business people often get caught up in the planning stage, and never feel ready to take the leap and actually start making things happen. Business plans are always going to be based on sales projections which are, at best, educated guesses, and you won’t know how your product or service is going to be received until it is out there in the world. It’s important to be adaptable and take opportunities when they arise, even if this means moving in an unforeseen direction. As Mike Tyson said: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”.
- How long has your business been running?
Although planning started in the summer of 2017, we sold our first bottle in April 2018.
- Has anyone helped you get started and how?
With distilling, because of the licences and HMRC permits involved, it’s not really the kind of business you can grow organically from your kitchen table. You have to go all-in, and get set up straight away with a premises and suitable equipment. Transmit Startups were on hand from the beginning to help me secure the loan necessary to acquire the above, and guide me through the business planning stage to give me the best possible start.
- What was your first deal?
The Good Spirits Company in Glasgow were our first big stockist. They’ve been great supporters of what we do ever since, and often include our products in their tasting events. Also, although it wasn’t quite my first deal (and it’s maybe not the most prestigious), I remember feeling quite proud to get our gin stocked in the little local pub in my hometown of Port Seton, where I’ve been drinking since I was 18(ish).
- What was your biggest mistake/or what would you do differently?
I couldn’t really pick one out in particular, although I’ve made a few, as any start-up does. But as I said above, they’ve all been learning experiences and have taught me more than staring at a business plan would, which is why I think it’s so important to be proactive.
- Where do you plan your business to be in five years’ time?
Although we are focussed on gin at the moment, as someone with a distilling background I’d always intended for the company to move into other spirit categories. We already have rum ageing in casks, but I’d love to start importing mezcal for instance, or go back to my roots and start producing whisky.