Nascent Bourbon brand Never Say Die has set its sights on UK on-premise expansion, having signed its first major distribution deal in the country.
The deal, signed with Enotria & Coe, will give the transatlantic brand access to restaurants, bars and hotels in the UK, having previously only been available through specialist e-commerce and physical retailers including The Whisky Exchange and World of Whisky.
Speaking to Just Drinks on Wednesday (14 June), Never Say Die co-founder Martha Dalton said the priority would now be to establish the brand – which was founded in 2017 and launched its first expression last autumn – in the UK market.
“At the moment, the UK market for Bourbon, it’s a good market. But compared to the American market, it’s tiny,” Dalton said. “What we’re hoping to do is to disrupt the market and also to grow it by bringing American whiskey to new consumers.”
Never Say Die differs from other American whiskey brands in that the liquid, sourced from the Campari-owned Wilderness Trail distillery in Kentucky, is transported in casks to the UK to be finished and bottled at the White Peak distillery in Derbyshire.
Dalton said the process – which involves Never Say Die’s Bourbon spending approximately five and a half years in Kentucky, six weeks in transit and a year in Derbyshire before bottling – was “pretty dumb in terms of the financing side of things” but insisted it gave the product a unique selling point.
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“It means the liquid is in three different climatic conditions; the hot weather in Kentucky, the salty air of being on the ocean and the cooler climate up in Derbyshire,” she said. “We just thought that that would be really interesting and something that no one had done before.”
Never Say Die was one of the founding members of the Bourbon Alliance, which successfully campaigned for the removal of UK tariffs on American whiskey last year.
Dalton described the 25% import hike as “a complete nightmare” but added it wouldn’t have prevented Never Say Die from launching. The company sent its first barrels to the UK the day after tariffs were dropped on 1 June 2022.
The brand has recently launched a blended, lower abv small-batch Bourbon, which it plans to send bottles of back to the US. It is not sold in any other international markets, but will enter Germany – coinciding with the launch of a Rye expression – this autumn.
Dalton said she also saw potential in other channels and markets including global gravel retail, the Middle East and India in the future.
“We don’t have a huge amount of liquid but we’ve got way too much liquid just for the UK,” she said. “But if we’re talking about global markets our levels of production are quite low. So we need to be reasonably selective because we wouldn’t want to enter a market and then not be able to service demand.”