Bringing a brand to Market

An interview with Tim Simmons

"To bring a brand to market you have to be surrounded by great people, no one person can do it on their own"

This is the advice given by Tim Simmons, founder of the recently launched Sipello. A gooseberry led bitter-sweet British aperitif that has quickly appeared on the back bars and cocktail menus of many of the most highly regarded bars in London, think The Artesian, Crossroads Cocktail Bar, Lyan-ess, KOL etc and Schofield’s in Manchester.

Originally what started as a collaboration between three friends soon became just one but Tim drove forwards and astutely picked the award-winning Silent Pool Distillery as the producer on the project. Beginning in earnest from July 2020 by himself, 12 months were then spent with Tom Hutchings who was awarded the Rising Star Award at the International Spirits Challenge, macerating, blending, tasting and batching samples to take to bartenders for feedback before launching into the market in October this year.

“When I first started Sipello I wanted to create something that evolves on your palette as you drink it. I knew I wanted it to be different and stand in a category of its own. It’s not a liqueur, it has botanicals but isn’t an amaro or a gin and whilst it’s red (naturally by red sandalwood) it’s not just bitter – it’s a fruit-forward, floral and botanical liquid with a gentle bitter finish. Everything about creating the liquid was an adventure in trial and error.

“Different By Nature is our tagline. We source our fruit from farms around the UK and our botanicals are wild-harvested over large areas so terroir plays a part in making the liquid nuanced by nature. Originally the profile of the first batch was quite delicate and only worked over ice, but the final liquid is now much bigger in profile. This is a result of the feedback from dozens of bartenders who tested it and played with it in different drinks and gave me their invaluable opinions”.

Although Sipello has probably had the widest bartender input of any new brand, product development following feedback from trade and consumers is reminiscent of the approach taken by the highly popular Asterley Bros range of Vermouth, Fernet and Amaro who sent out a large amount of beta samples before finalising their blends, but this process had a very distinctive difference due to the onset of COVID-19 and lockdown.

The ongoing learnings through the production process and continual feedback and adjustments has produced a final product that has a great story to tell and a bold and balanced taste profile and we expect this brand to do very well in the future.

“I would be doing the home-schooling during the day whilst my wife worked and then come 7pm I would jump on the bike and deliver samples to bartenders houses and venues across London. I clocked up over 700km from mid-December to mid-Feb.

Bartenders would often wake up and find a sample of Sipello outside on the front door mat, perfectly chilled! Many brunched it up at home with Garibaldis as a result”

When talking about the launching the business Tim reflects, “I made something to suit my own tastes and the elegance and eccentricity of the product has become something of an alter-ego as I am regrettably, neither of the two. Inevitably you will be compared to other products in the market but I learnt as a sportsman never to compare or size up the competition, if you do that you can defeat yourself before you start and talk yourself out of an amazing experience – you have to focus on yourself. You need to develop a thick skin as you are creating something that you put your heart and soul into and have to learn that it’s okay if someone doesn’t like or understand your product.”

Launching a brand into the premium on-trade is a difficult business, it is a highly competitive market and many venues will be approached by dozens of brands per week.

“It’s daunting to walk into Michelin star restaurants and world-class bars to ask if they would consider tasting your brand but it’s been a great experience and the support from key people in the industry has made a huge difference. I remember cycling over to drop a sample off to Declan McGurk (formerly The Savoy Bar Manager and now Commercial Director for Boatyard Distillery) who not only enjoyed it but then took the time to contact a lot of his colleagues in the industry and recommend Sipello, this was such a generous thing to do, a true mark of the man and led to so many new opportunities for a new company like mine”.

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