Giving Local Brands an International Platform

Lyon Distilling Company shares their story on how to use Tales to give a small brand big attention.
Lyon's bottles on an American flag
Although its primary audience is in New England, Lyon Distilling Company has used Tales of the Cocktail to gain international consumers.

Founded in 2012 with the unique goal of creating a distinctly Eastern Shore rum, Lyon Distilling Company is the very definition of a local company. However, just because a company has regional roots doesn't mean its appeal is limited to its geographic place of origin; with the right tools, local brands can achieve nationwide -- even international -- recognition. Here, Lyon Distilling Company talks about how it used Tales of the Cocktail to spread their message beyond its Maryland border.

What was the initial inspiration behind your product’s creation? Was there a specific “eureka” moment?

Love and appreciation for rum, and a true desire to create a distinctly American rum on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

What are the three most challenging aspects of starting your own brand?

Time, time, and more time. There is never enough time when you insist on doing everything by hand ... As far as other challenges, they are part of the experience and adventure of launching something small and new, and we embraced all of the challenges along with our successes.

What are the three most rewarding aspects of starting your own brand?

There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your vision come to life. We are incredibly proud of Lyon spirits: the look, the taste ... not only have we created something that we love, but it's crazy wonderful to share it with other people who are delighted and excited about what we are making.

How did you first learn about Tales?

Through a distiller friend: Chad Robinson of Catoctin Creek. He urged us to join up with him and a few other D.C. and Virginia distilleries and sponsor a tasting room at Tales in 2014. We had just launched and had never done any event before ... it was quite a thrilling experience!

Were there any challenges you had to overcome to attend Tales the first time (financial, logistical, etc.)?

Yes. All of the above and then some. It was our first time shipping spirits, dealing with a distributor, setting up a table, making cocktails for a large audience, and so on ... it felt like SO MUCH WORK! Plus, we had to close our distillery for four days, which meant no production and no sales. That was a major decision.

Kindly describe your first Tales experience and what it meant to you?

There is nothing like being immersed in cocktail culture on one of the hottest weeks of the summer in New Orleans, with the best people in the industry from all over the world. We learned so much, drank so much, and were so overwhelmed with the incredible response to our brand-new spirits from our tiny distillery. It was really amazing.

Why did you choose Tales as a platform for promoting your product?

We truly value the input of our peers and the spirits aficionados that attend Tales.

How do you think that smaller brands can compete against bigger ones for mindshare at Tales?

Join forces with other small brands (we share a tasting room every year with other local craft distillers), and bring your most creative/innovative/unique products and twists! We continue to attend Tales to learn new things and try things we never have before!

Lyon bottles in front of a marquis sign Lyon Distilling Company's aim is to create rums that reflect the unique culture and aesthetic of New England.

If you've already activated at Tales, please describe your activation and how you measured its success.

So much wonderful media attention, new industry connections, and, most importantly, solidifying vendor relationships!

What made you most proud of your Tales activation?

That we are SO tiny, and yet somehow managed to hold our own alongside major brands at this stellar event!

What are your product’s signature cocktails?

Rum everything. Rum Old Fashioneds, rum Negronis, spicy ginger Mojitos, classic Daiquiris ...

What advice do you have for small entrepreneurial brands activating at Tales?

Bring your "A game," be unique, go all-out with energy and creativity. Do something memorable! Tales is about the WOW factor ... and the photos!

What is your marketing mix, e.g., advertising, PR, consumer events, bartender relations, etc.?

95% consumer events: tastings, festivals, etc. Minor bar relations and social media make up the remaining 5%.

How important a platform is Tales for reaching bartenders with new products?

It's a great platform! Very important.

How does your company connect with consumers?

By pouring our spirits at liquor stores, events, festivals ... anywhere that will have us! We are owner-operated, and you can find our master distiller and other owners at local farmers markets, liquor stores, or giving boozy seminars in Maryland and D.C. on a weekly basis.

What do you think that Tales has done for small entrepreneurial companies in the cocktail/spirits scene?

It provides a fantastic media platform and promotes visibility.

Ann Tuennerman Founder of Tales of the Cocktail, Ann Tuennerman is a serial entrepreneur focused on hospitality.

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