Themed distilleries are a less common way for distilleries to stand out and increase traffic to their tasting room. But it's typically a drive for high quality that craft distilleries typically try to set themselves apart. The thing with that is, quality stops being a standout feature when every other craft distiller can rightfully claim the same thing.
The need for brands to stand out has given rise to unique blends and infusions. Unfortunately these are usually single product specific. As amazing as one bottle of uniquely blended or infused spirit may be, it doesn’t help all the other products from that brand fly off the shelves. Which is why some distilleries are looking to themes to enhance and drive the entire brand.
Theme Your Tasting Room
Most distillers have a theme of some sort, but this is sometimes in the background or relegated to window dressing for the label. A label can play up the backwoods bootlegger or noir speakeasy, but that image might be just minimally present in the tasting rooms. Not only that, there's no reason for the imagery to be limited to the history and themes of hard liquor’s past.
One example of a distillery that went full out on its chosen theme is Backwards Distilling in Wyoming. The owners love the circus and the mystique connected to it. They decorated their tasting room with vintage Ringling Brothers posters and named their various spirits Ringleader, Contortionist, Sword Swallower, and the like. Not only does it help set them apart and makes their tasting room a destination, but it also speaks to their own interests.
Choosing a theme can be a daunting task, but embracing it fully as on-premises décor is a big decision as well. Whatever it is, it will be something that the owners and people working there will have to look at for years to come. Will you still think the theme you picked is as cool twenty years from now as you felt on day one? And how far do you want to go with the theme? Are we talking a little bit of décor to add atmosphere, or are we wanting to make visitors feel wholly immersed in the theme?
Changing Dining Landscape
Like the liquor industry, the restaurant industry is changing. It’s a complicated situation with restaurants that has many variables, but it ultimately boils down to changing habits of dining, while many restaurants have stayed the same. Millennials, the demographic that gets blamed for every business that goes under, want uniqueness paired with value. People don't want to spend money on mediocre food at a corporate chain. There's a push for supporting local, in general, but a huge desire for local eateries and boozy spots.
Nothing you serve at a themed distillery will be mediocre or feel like a chain. That's because craft distilleries are passion projects. No one starts a distillery as a get rich quick scheme or as a hands-off, money generating business. Everything that's put into it means something. Any theme you come up will have the same heartfelt quality.