Last week our Director Karen and Sales Manager Jen travelled to the Midwest in search of inspiration and to research the American bourbon market. Like Scotch, it is booming and the rate of new distillery openings is astounding.
Angels' Share was one of 10 Scottish businesses taking part in a trade visit organised jointly by Scottish Development International and Scottish Enterprise. Their first stop was the magnificent city of Chicago, with its wonderful lakeside location - Lake Michigan is bigger than Scotland. Karen and Jen walked the Magnificent Mile, a strip of high-end boutiques. Chains such as Burberry and Bvalgari dominate the stretch of shiny buildings.
Chicago is also known for the Cloud Gate Sculpture, or the "Bean", a magical art installation that shows your reflection, whereever you stand.
Karen and Jen dined on pancakes the first morning, then headed along to the Navy Pier for some tourist attractions. The temperature was moderate for the time of year, but snow was expected and Lake Michigan was heavily laden with fog. They then joined the other delegates to visit the British Consulate and meet with Chicago officials and business leaders for a morning of orientation on business in the US.
Whilst there, they visited the only Scottish pub in Chicago, The Duke of Perth. Their host Jack was such a character and made them feel so welcome with some drams and good old Scottish cuisine. Jack moved from Dundee in 1979 and never looked back. The pub is frequented by people in the trade and Jack makes sure everyone is treated like one of his long lost friends.
Karen and Jen also met with global Scots Jim Bell and Gus Noble, both founders of The St Andrews Society, a meeting which gave them a huge insight into the ex-pat community in Chicago and how it socialises.
Next was a evening hosted by Old Pulteney at The Fountainhead bar, full of whisky and beers... the food was outstanding and the company immense. Karen met customers who had ordered Angels' Share products previously online, as well as fans of Scotland, not to mention some ex-pat industry ambassadors who escaped Elgin for Chicago. Distillery Manager Malcolm Waring was there pouring some exclusive bottles, as well as the cream of the Inver House Distillers' portfolio. Malcolm was surprised to see two Scottish lassies turning up for his tasting - I think he thought he had acquired some groupies. Josh Hatton of Single Cask Nation was also surprised to see Karen there, as the last time they met was in Scotland, three years ago, back when the new studio was just an idea. Another highlight was visiting the biggest liquor store in Illinois, Binny's Liquor Store. Director Brett showed the girls around the vast numbers of whisky brands and also their huge tasting room and bar, where customers can try whisky before they buy. Some rare and old goodies were in that there tasting room.
For the second part of the week, Karen and Jen flew to Louisville in Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Derby. It's a massive horse-racing state and also the home of bourbon - almost 95% of all US bourbon is distilled in Kentucky. The trip involved visits to bourbon giants Evan Williams Experience, Brown-Forman (the brand behind Old Forrester and Woodford Reserve, and sponsors of the Kentucky Derby at Churchhill Downs) and finally Angel's Envy, the most recent visitor experience in Louisville. It certainly packed a punch. Finally we met with Taste of Kentucky, a giftware chain who absolutely loved our Angels' Share products.
Whilst in Louisville, the laidback all-American town, the business group were treated to an exclusive cocktail-making experience and 4-course dinner in the home of Jim Beam, the Urban Stillhouse. The Kentucky Distillers Association presented to the SDI Delegates the importance of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the economic growth it is bringing to towns like Louisville and Bardstown.
As America is celebrating Thanksgiving next week, our glass products are perfect gift ideas for your bourbon-loving spouse or parent, brother or sister. All in all the group and the trip was a resounding success and many partnerships have been forged for the foreseeable future between Angels' Share Glass and the US.