Case Study Interview: “Sullivan’s Cove” Strategist, Fred Siggins

Tucked way down deep in the southern hemisphere, an intriguing business scenario has been taking place.

On the island of Tasmania, Sullivan’s Cove have been distilling whisky since the 1990s as a niche operator. For many years, they were a small fish in a tiny pond.

Then, in 2014, Sullivan’s Cove went from obscurity to burst onto the world stage, upsetting the historical single malt whisky establishment by winning the prestigious World’s Best Single Malt recognition at the World Whiskies Awards.

Clearly this was no fluke, as they followed up this achievement with back-to-back World’s Best Single Cask Single Malt awards in 2018 and again in 2019. Something very right was happening down there in Tasmania, and all of a sudden this tiny distillery was the focus of whisky fans the world over.

Watching this clip makes me want to book a flight to Tassie.

While tiny in comparison to major distilleries around the world, clearly the folks at Sullivan’s Cove have a very high quality product to offer their market. Accordingly, they’ve found a premium price-point to reflect that quality and respond to the spike in demand that these awards have afforded them.

I caught up with Fred Sullivan, strategist at Sullivan’s Cove to talk about their brands and the way that this business has responded to the fame that they’ve achieved in the whisky world. Given the long distilling time, it was no simple matter to just “produce more” as demand grew. It takes about a decade just to distill a batch. So what to do? Furthermore, it’s clear that the Sullivan’s Cove approach is to keep things real, continue to make a great product, and organically grow and evolve within the space they feel is uniquely theirs.

Apologies for the terrible internet connection and audio issues on the video. Try to look past those, and you’ll hear themes that are really interesting for any business owner, including:

  • Making the most of a “Golden Moment”: a sudden increase in both Originality and Credibility that came with globally recognized awards
  • Premium pricing in response to demand spikes
  • Perception of quality in the marketplace
  • The importance of a narrative in building their brand
  • An authentic connection with customers at the heart of tactical marketing executions
  • Honesty and simplicity in communicating brand qualities

I loved chatting with Fred. As a whisky fan who was lucky enough to try their award-winner back in 2016, I can tell you that it is totally worth spoiling yourself for a special occasion. If you’re tempted, here’s where to find it:

  • In Europe, Fred recommends asking your favorite whisky bar if you fancy giving it a try.
  • In the US, Californians can head to K&L, and on the east coast, you can visit Astor wines. Both have a delivery service.
  • Or, just book a flight to beautiful Tasmania and visit the cellar door!

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