COVID-19 has not dampened the spirits at Pinckney Bend Distillery.
Chief Operating Officer Tara Steffens said revenue is up 15 percent this year compared with last year at the New Haven-based business.
Launched in November 2011 with a gin sold to retailers, Pinckney today makes 14 products, gins, aged whiskeys, vodka, unaged whiskey and a nonalcoholic mixer, that are sent to distributors in Missouri, Illinois, Kansas, Colorado and Nebraska.
The distillery’s revenue surpassed the $1 million mark in 2017. Steffens said revenue has been growing 12 percent to 15 percent a year, with 2020 revenue expected to be up 40 percent from the total posted in 2017. This year’s top seller is American Gin. “We were founded on gin and are proud to be Missouri’s first gin house,” Steffens said.
Pinckney’s sales growth comes as the alcohol industry saw sales spike during the early days of the pandemic, with U.S. alcohol sales jumping 55 percent in the week ending March 21, before stay-at-home orders went into effect, according to market research firm Nielsen. Online sales of alcohol were up as much as 243 percent that week, Nielsen reported. After that peak, alcohol sales continued to grow but at a slower pace, with sales up about 27 percent in the first three months of the pandemic, according to CNN.
The pandemic is not affecting the distillery’s ability to produce new products. Last week it released a seasonal whiskey, Heirloom Bloody Butcher.
“Luckily, we are a manufacturer of liquor first and foremost; so our business never had to close during this,” Steffens said.
Still, Pinckney did have to modify some aspects of its business.
Those modifications included changing the indoor tasting experience that could accommodate small groups of people at a time to a “tasting window” where patrons were offered “take and taste” flights. The switch occurred around the St. Patrick’s Day holiday and is still in place.
Last year, some 22,000 people visited the tasting room, which accounted for 25 percent of 2019 sales. Steffens said the overall increase in sales helped the business overcome the loss of the tasting room. The distillery also received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan from the Bank of Franklin County, Steffens said. She declined to disclose the amount.
Steffens said the distillery went into education mode during the pandemic, offering classes on social media to teach people at home how to make their own cocktails, a program it plans to continue.
Steffens said the pandemic allowed the distillery to hit a reset button. “It has allowed us to take a step back, refocus efforts and energies, and connect with old and new customers in more meaningful ways.”