GAHANNA, Ohio (COLUMBUS BUSINESS FIRST)–New investment, new high-profile customers, and a new look have Noble Cut Distillery thinking big.
The Gahanna microdistillery, which opened in 2018, is ready to drop the micro part of that descriptor.
“We want to follow the same road map as Watershed and Middle West,” founder Tony Guilfoy said. “They created the ecosystem that allows us to grow beyond being a microdistillery.”
To that end, Guilfoy brought in new investors in the past year, led by Shawn O’Reilly, a business veteran who also is now the CEO of the distillery.
“I was impressed with Tony and with the product line,” O’Reilly said. “It’s an honest product and it looked primed to grow.”
How much growth?
“We want to be a national brand,” O’Reilly said.
The first step beyond Ohio has been down to Nashville. Miranda Lambert’s Casa Rosa, the Nashville bar and restaurant named for the country music singer, now features Noble Cut on its drink menu. The Noble Cut Automatic cocktail uses the distillery’s orangecello.
O’Reilly said the distillery working to get other Noble Cut drinks into the Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan-branded bars as well, drawing on relationships from O’Reilly’s business connections. (The Lambert, FGL, Aldean and Bryan bars are all owned by Marion-based TC Restaurant Group.)
“Being in the bars in Nashville is going to drive more customers to stores,” he said. “One feeds the other.”
Guilfoy noted that landing key accounts in Nashville is part of what made Fireball Whiskey so big more than a decade ago.
That’s the territorial play. Noble Cut also is making changes on the product front.
“It’s not all about bourbon,” Guilfoy said. “We want to make things that bartenders and restaurant owners are going to use to make drinks.”
Though that brown liquor dominates the market broadly, Noble Cut is looking for opportunities beyond that traditional spirit. It’s been focused on its lineup of ‘cellos — including Limoncello and Orangcelllo — and flavored whiskeys like dark cherry and salted caramel.
Guilfoy said they’ve identified an opportunity to market to more female consumers, which already is about 70% of their sales.
The distillery is releasing both a premium vodka and a well vodka that’ll be sold at wholesale to bars and restaurants only. Those have been two years in development.
Guilfoy said the premium vodka is made from wheat and distilled 10 times with Kentucky spring water. The goal was a spirit with some taste from the grain, not the typical odorless and colorless vodka.
The well version, called VOHIO, is more of a traditional mixing vodka. It too is targeting an under-explored market as a locally made, lower-cost spirit.
Noble Cut went through a rebranding as well with new labels and a new website. The ability to sell online to the few dozen states that allow those transactions also will be a way to boost sales and exposure.
“This is more elegant,” Guilfoy said. “It’s a premium look without saying premium.”
O’Reilly said they were going for something that is going to look nice when displayed behind a bar and they think they’ve achieved that.
“We were a younger brand finding our way,” Guilfoy said. “This is like we’re going to college now.”
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