Mark Watson and Adrian Spitzer had all they needed to create their dream, qn artisanal distillery on an organic farm in Stittsville.
What they needed to make their distillery successful was a partner who knew how to get their whiskey, vodka and gin into the hands of customers.
That's business development officer and partner Adam Malmberg's job. Barely two years since their launch and Dunrobin's whiskey, Earl Grey gin, vodka, limoncello and bitters are now being happily consumed in many pubs, restaurants, bars, venues and hospitality partners all over the capital region.
It's an impressive list too. The Barley Mow, the Royal Oak, Clocktower, golf courses including the Canadian, Calabogie and Hylands, the list covers about 100 places to eat and drink around town. Lansdowne Park carries Dunrobin for their Redblack games, as does the Canadian Tire Centre for the Senators' games and events.
More importantly, Dunrobin spirits are listed with the LCBO in eastern Ontario and a few locations in the GTA.
And today, here Malmberg is shaking hands and promoting his distillery's line of award-winning artisanal spirits at Lansdowne's Christmas Market chalet.
At 39, a well-aged professional who knows the Ottawa bar and restaurant scene as well as anyone, Malmberg was the general manager at Lieutenant's Pump, Royal Oak and a few restaurant chains he'd rather not mention before joining Dunrobin Distillery in 2016.
“I drum up business, develop opportunities, corporate partnerships,” Malmberg explains. “It's a relationship driven business. The liquor community is close knit. It's who you know. We help each other. That's the value I brought to the distillery.
“I'm not doing this for the money,” he adds. “You have to build your client base slowly in order to be successful. I do it because I love the interaction, being with people, and I'm proud of the product. I'm in for the long run.”
That's where Malmberg's experience managing bars and slinging booze came in handy.
With something that resembles foresight, founding partners Spitzer and Watson started the distillery business in 2016 when they realized there was an opportunity to create a new local distillery, one using local water and locally grown botanicals to create new flavours reflecting a modern taste for spirits.
Of the 100,000 bottles Dunrobin sells every year, their most popular is the Earl Grey Gin.
“Cocktails that were big in the 1980s and 1990s are coming back,” he says. “Sex on the Beach, Negronis, Old Fashioneds, cocktails that were big in the 1980s are coming back again. Mixologists are breaking down barriers with a lot of spirits, breaking down barriers and having more fun, smoking ingredients, barrel aging. People are experimenting, having a lot more fun. This isn't your grandfather's gin anymore.”
Since entering the market in 2020, Dunrobin's made a name for themselves, winning ten awards at three international competitions in 2022, including a gold and silver for their gin at the U.K.'s Spirits Business Gin Masters competition, two silvers at the International Whisky Competition in the U.S. for their four-year old rye, and a gold, silver and bronze for their gin and gold for their vodka at the MicroLiquor Spirits Association competition.
“It's the passion and drive behind Mark and Adrian that made me want to be a part of this team,” Malmberg says. “Their manufacturing is phenomenal, and chief distiller Ryan MacDonald is making spirits you won't find anywhere else. You could tell from the start that the team had the experience, the drive and the imagination to make Dunrobin successful.”