Gerónimo Mejía

Gerónimo Mejía

Country Director, William Grant & Sons
Mauricio Gutiérrez

Mauricio Gutiérrez

Founding Member, Mil Demonios
The producers that lead the spirits business in Colombia are leaning on innovative production methods and creative marketing techniques to bolster demand.

What is your strategy to position your company in the spirits segment here?

GERóNIMO MEJÍA 98% of the premium and super premium category is blended scotch whisky, which is 12 years and above. We decided to invest heavily and bring in the Glenfiddich with all its variants in order to tackle the premium blended opportunity. In 2011, there were just a few cases of single malt sold in Colombia, not even 1,000. We became pioneers and started a massive effort to educate consumers and the trade on single malt whisky and the difference between single malt and blended whisky. We have been investing consistently over the past 10 years, and we continue to do so brining new single malt brands into the market such as The Balbenie and Monkey Shoulder. Today, the category is around 25,000 cases, which is still a small base if we compare it to the blended category. We are growing at a fast pace, at double digit numbers, and we are the market leaders with around 35% market share within the single malt category. We have been doing all sorts of brand activities including tastings to let customers know what single malt is all about. William Grants is the pioneering company that created to single malt category in Colombia, and we are determined to continue to do so.

MAURICIO GUTIéRREZ Mil Demonios is a triple distilled, triple filtered sugar cane distilled spirit. It is a spirit of Colombian origin called aguardiente, and its origins can be traced back to colonial days in Cartagena. The premiumization of spirits is a trend that is been driving growth globally, and there was no local offering up to the standard of a world-class drink. We started a process of R&D with a clear purpose to make our national drink a world-class drink. In that process, we discovered the unique and fascinating story of how Colombian aguardiente was born. It all goes back to the foundation of Cartagena, the most important seaport for the Spaniards back in the day and a city with an interesting cultural mix: race, languages, gold rush, opportunities, religion, and, most importantly, sugarcane. All that gave birth to a beverage made out of the rudimentary distillation of sugarcane. It would later become the most popular drink in town and this led to a hard taxation and subsequently Prohibition. Some stores Estancos became hidden bodegas just for a few and with a very special aguardiente at hand. It is a fascinating story, told in a nutshell, but it defines a drink that is been an important part of Colombian history.

How does your company maintain quality and long-term success?

GM One of our global core values is long-term sustainability, and the more we control our end-to-end operations, the more success we will have in the long term. We do things with passion, though we also take time to build our brands. A clear example is Glenfiddich, where we have invested to build a brand that was not known in Colombia 10 years ago, and now it enjoys a fairly strong top of mind with consumers. It will take another 10 years to be where we want to be, but we are focused on building a strong brand for the long-term future. Our shareholders do not care about cutting corners when it comes to building brands. Another success story is Hendricks Gin, the brand was created in-house in the UK in 1998. We launched it in Colombia in mid-2011 and since then, we have patiently built the brand along with consumer by teaching them how to enjoy an amazing gin and tonic with our peculiar serve with cucumber and rose petals.

Can you elaborate on the awards that Mil Demonios received? To what do you attribute your recognition as the world's best aguardiente?

MG The San Francisco World Spirits Competition is one of the most coveted spirits competitions in the world, and this is due to the specialty of the judges and tasting mechanics. No brands or packaging are shown to the panels; they just have a glass of the spirit, so it is completely up to the spirit to stand out. To win a gold medal means that our Mil Demonios is part of an elite group of exceptional spirits that are near the pinnacle of achievement; these products set the standard for their categories. High-quality white spirits all have an extra step in their distillation processes. We studied the likes of gin, vodka, pisco, chachaça, and tequilas, and we incorporated the best of the best in our process. A better distillation adds smoothness, body, and complexity to the liquid and a unique mouth feel and aftertaste.

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