Challenger to Watch 2017: Lone Wolf

The irreverent maverick returns.


Is this the year that BrewDog makes its much-anticipated dent in the world of spirits?

Two years after the feisty and fast-growing beer brand announced their intention to move into hard liquor, Lonewolf’s first offering, two versions of a ‘prelaunch prototype’ gin and vodka, were finally unleashed in December 2016. Initially only released to BrewDog’s ‘equity punks’, a limited number of 50cl bottles are now available online.

With a stated aim to “challenge the perceptions of what a spirit can be”, Lone Wolf is explicitly calling out both the incumbents’ maintenance of the status quo; a reliance on Scottish provenance in whisky for example, and the so-called “charlatans” of the craft spirit boom. 

By distilling their all-grain base vodka from scratch in house, Lone Wolf is committed to ‘going it alone’ and in one fell swoop de-positioning those who don’t.  While we are yet to see how that affects quality of the product, it certainly means that they can maintain the independence, transparency and spirit of experimentation that is core to the BrewDog brand. The decision not to focus on provenance is a smart one too, as it gives the brand the option to grow by opening distilleries in new geographies, without losing control of quality or diluting the brand.

With no marketing as yet, beyond a brand identity and spiky blog post, we’ll need to wait and see if they pursue the same strategy in spirits that has been so successful in beer – small batch limited edition products combined with headline-grabbing stunts – or will the longer production time require a different approach?

It’s early days of course, but if I was a gin, vodka or whisky brand with a market share to protect, I’d be keeping a close eye on the lone wolf at the door.