All world-class businesses evolve over time. Many would say that's what gives them their longevity and success. Here at WB, we aspire to be a world-class business and brand, and we like to think we are building something for the future that transcends the current team involved; something that will outlive us and continue to bring the wonder of the world of whisky (and spirits) to South Africans, and hopefully to others, in the decades to come.
Like a whisky distillery filling casks for the future, every year we have tried to invest in WB's future by growing, refining and improving our offering and services, as our resources have allowed. Sometimes this growth is obvious (our Morningside Bar or The Only Whisky Show) but many times it isn't (one more exclusive single cask release than the prior year or improved pricing). I'm proud to say that our handful of owners, myself included, have never taken a dividend, nor have we ever needed to raise more investment to grow. This business has always been about passion and people, not profits, and ironically, I believe it's how we've come so far in a notoriously competitive and challenging industry.
It is with our drive to be world class and show the world what a small and proudly South African business can do, that we introduce the next step in our evolution: WhiskyBrother&Co. Although we do not see this as a giant leap by any means, it may be more obvious to you, our customers and fans, so it is important to share the rationale for the change and what it does and doesn't mean.
WHAT'S IN A NAME
The original name and accompanying logo was designed in 2009 for the WhiskyBrother blog, three years before we went "legit" and opened our Hyde Park store. A month before the store was due to open, I needed a name and a logo, and with no better ideas in mind, and with a pre-existing (albeit tiny) brand from a whisky blog, decided to continue on with WB. I was WhiskyBrother after all. (That feels arrogant to say, but seriously, that was the name of my Twitter account and blog...)
That original logo (done for free by a friend, as is so often the case with a start-up), lasted until 2016 when we moved to the logo that you most likely know and recognise now. At the time it was a simple refresh on the design and didn't signify any real change, other than maybe subconsciously that we weren't going anywhere, and contrary to the naysayers, had a viable business.
It was around that same time, that I personally started having reservations about the name WhiskyBrother. The business had become so much more than just me and a long-forgotten blog, and the name didn't accurately capture the essence of our culture. WB was a growing team, each as passionate as the next, and wouldn't exist if not for the community.
This brings us to our latest iteration, the small but meaningful addition of an '&Co'. Although just three letters, they are important to us as a business and a symbol for what we stand for... the company. The company we keep; from the producers who make our cherished drinks, to the company we drink them in; the company of those that share our passion, as well as the company whisky keeps in the greater world of spirits.
In short, it represents inclusivity, for all people and for all premium spirits. To be clear, we always welcomed everyone, but I don't feel the name sufficiently reflected that. We haven't always welcomed all premium spirits, however, and that's the only real change going forward.
WHY THE CHANGE
Between the two SA alcohol bans, we extending our product offering to include a very small and limited number of other spirits. This was born out of requests from customers as well as a necessity to recover from the significant impact of the first ban. We offered it as a convenience and because our positioning and service easily allowed us to.
Although we were uneasy about it initially due to concern that the singularly-focused whisky fans would be upset. The issue of survival was the push we needed. Since then, and the upliftment of the second alcohol ban, we've had a somewhat obvious revelation, that we can do what we do with whisky while also doing cool stuff with other spirits. Doing both doesn't compromise our love or dedication for either. Instead (and again, obvious in retrospect), the larger portfolio actually gives significant benefits to both our whisky and spirits capabilities.
This is not a pivot (I personally loathe that word), this is an extension; doing what we have always done but extending our product offering to include a carefully selected and limited number of other premium spirits. Our passion, knowledge and dedication hasn't changed, rather it has grown to encompass some truly wonderful spirits who also deserve love and attention. Many of them hailing from fellow South African producers, creating world class products but often not getting the recognition they deserve locally.
The truth is, unsurprisingly, most whisky drinkers also enjoy other spirits. The ratio may vary, it may even favour whisky, but there is a discerning palate that appreciates the wonderful and varied flavours that whisky and its company of other spirits offer.
SO, WHAT'S NEXT
This year did not go according to plan. Not for us, and not for the world at large. We had five major projects planned that have either been delayed without progress or totally scrapped. Only one has managed to see the light of day and that one is grossly delayed (more news coming in early December), but we are planning and working hard for 2021 with several very exciting projects.
As for the slight "renaming", evolution of our logo and further extension of our product offering, we will be rolling that out over the coming few weeks. (Our website URL will not change.)
On behalf of WhiskyBrother&Co, we hope you'll not only understand the direction, but welcome and embrace it. If you only want whisky, apart from the logo revision nothing should change; we'll continue to offer you the widest range, exciting exclusives and the best service. But, if you also enjoy the company of other spirits, then stay tuned, we're about to work our magic!