- Batch Distillery was originally based in Winchester, but when they asked the local council for support, they were classed as too small, its director Phil Whitwell explained to Burnley.co.uk;
- His nephew and head distiller Oliver said he’d be interested in bringing it to his hometown of Burnley, and he began operating out of the basement of his terrace house;
- It has since grown to be based at Habergham Mill on Coal Clough Lane after receiving “fantastic support” from Burnley Council;
- It’s also seen its Innovations Club membership increase throughout 2020, as people looked to recreate their favourite drinks at home.
When Phil Whitwell, director at Batch Distillery, asked his then local council in Winchester for support in growing the business, he was surprised by their response.
Speaking to Burnley.co.uk, he told us that the business was deemed as too small and would therefore not receive any support.
“I told my nephew Oliver about what had happened, and he said he’d be interested in establishing the business in his hometown of Burnley, where he has lived most of his life. So, we moved operations into the basement of his terrace house in late 2014/early 2015 and he became our Head Distiller,” Mr Whitwell explained.
However, the company still needed support to expand and this time, it was a different story.
Welcomed to Burnley with open arms
“We approached Burnley Council and we had the complete opposite response. They were incredibly supportive and told us all the things they could do for us, rather than asking us what we could provide for them. Even recently with the COVID support available, it was effort free.
“I remember Oliver telling me that whilst Burnley might not be viewed as the richest of towns, we would receive incredible support from the people here and it’s true. We have fantastic home support and now is the right time for us to grow more widely.”
One way Batch Distillery plans to do this is through its Innovations Club. This is a membership club, with around 300 people on board, who receive handcrafted spirits as part of a subscription and feed back to the business. It’s a testing ground to decide which products to push to market, whether through its website or via its partners such as Booths.
Mr Whitwell explained: “In January last year, we had already decided to focus more on the club, as there was potential there for us to directly sell to our loyal base. We used Burnley-based Door4 to launch a digital marketing campaign, which kicked off in March. In fact, our last meeting with them was the Friday before the first national lockdown in 2020.”
Prior to 2020, 75 per cent of Batch Distillery’s sales was via wholesale and export and 25 per cent through web sales and events. By the end of 2020, this entirely flipped – three-quarters of sales was via its new website, which Door4 created, and 25% was through wholesalers.
A Burnley success story
It’s a great success story of how a local company has flipped its focus and taken last year as an opportunity to try new things. Both Batch Distillery and Door4 are Burnley Bondholders, a private sector led, private/public partnership dedicated to raising the prosperity and profile of the borough; an innovative and successful scheme which has been growing for ten years and is made up of over 200 members.
Of course, last year was difficult for many of our town’s businesses, with Batch Distillery seeing the knock-on effect of no events and the closing of the hospitality sector. Mr Whitwell is honest that whilst the distillery “didn’t make much money”, it made enough to survive, and that determined spirit has carried forward into 2021.
Batch Distillery wants to grow the Innovators Club to 500 members in 2021, having seen an increase from 200 to 300 last year. In fact, 500 is the magic number.
“The number 500 is our goal as we still want to keep the club innovative and send our members more unusual products to try, rather than a huge club which would then have to receive more generic products. Half of our members live within five miles of the distillery, which is incredible. We hope to grow the club with both local members but also from further afield,” he explained.
And such is their passion about the town, that their junior distiller, Ryan, rose through the ranks, after joining the business as an apprentice from THEMIS at Burnley College.
It’s great to see a local business remaining resilient during these times and working with homegrown talent and we wish them all of the best for 2021 and beyond.