Hensol Castle Distillery in the Vale of Glamorgan was due to open the doors of its gin-making visitor centre in March this year. The family-run distillery, based in the dungeon of the historic Hensol Castle, began trading its own blend of gins in August 2019 to retailers, and was on the verge of becoming one of the first distilleries in South Wales to invite the public behind the scenes. That was until the Covid-19 pandemic forced it and many thousands of businesses across the globe to temporarily cease operations.
Managing Director, Andy Mallows said the company was faced with the decision to either furlough the factory, or to respond positively to the crisis by drastically changing its product line to make much needed hand-sanitiser for frontline workers. The company’s strong sense of social responsibility and its close-knit management team meant they were able to quickly decide on the latter course and began producing hand sanitizer to clients nationwide.
“My son and I set about opening up a new supply chain,” explained Andy. “It was one of the hardest things we’ve done, but we persevered and succeeded in doing. Within two weeks we started producing sanitiser.
“Initially we wanted to source ingredients locally, but our aim was to make the hand-sanitizers as accessible as possible to public services so we had to go further afield within the UK to achieve the right volume and costs.”
hand sanitiser produced per week
100ml bottles per week, to clients including the Met Police
increase in impressions on social media due to raise profile
Utilizing Local Resources
With contracts coming in to supply hand-sanitizer to large organisations including the Welsh Parliament, the MET Police, Transport for Wales, the Vale Hotel, John Lewis, local authorities and health boards, the company found they were unable to cope with the high demand for product. Using their connections to the local high school, they enlisted the help of several teachers who were not working due to the lockdown to fulfil the large orders.
Since then, the distillery has gone on to create more than 12 additional jobs, employing high school students aged 17-18 to continue to help meet the demand. This employment has given the teenagers opportunities to stay occupied through this unsettling period and has allowed them to make some earnings for their lives post-lockdown.
“We’ve worked 16-hour days, seven days a week for the last six weeks,” said Andy. “But we’ve got on and done it because people need it on the frontline.
“What we’ve learned is to be agile and flexible in our approach. When adversity comes, think creatively and openly about how you can deploy and repurpose yourself. There’s always opportunity, you just have to find it; and being a small, tight-knit team enables us to react nimbly to changes in the marketplace.”
Though there have been some significant costs incurred as a result of adapting the business (such as the need to service the distillery equipment which has become disrupted by producing sanitiser), the company has also seen real benefits to the short-term changes it’s made.
By turning its attention to manufacturing a product that has been in such critical demand, the company has raised its profile nationally, and consequently increased demand for its gins and liquors. The rate of sale for its gins currently on the market has increased, and the distillery now has 6-8 weeks of full production orders waiting for when it returns to gin-making in the near future.
The company isn’t taking for granted the goodwill it’s created as a result of working to support frontline workers, and plans to ensure this spirit of social responsibility feeds into the company’s ethos when distilling spirits of the gin variety become its main focus once again.