Old Duff Genever – Story of success from Philip Duff

What inspired you to create your brand?

I had fallen in love with genever after moving to Holland in 1995, doing a great deal of research and translating it from Dutch into English, and sharing it in my seminars. This partly lead to me being on the team that created the Bols 1820 genever that launched in 2009; I was on the tasting panel and the marketing team, and even wrote the text on the backlabel! 

After learning so much about how to create a brand, I saw the opportunity to create my own, exploiting the differences between “real” genever and the existing big brands such as Bols: my genever would be 100% milled, mashed, fermented, distilled and bottled in Holland, not Belgium; we would be honest and transparent about every aspect of where it is made and who makes it; and we would give back to the bartending community by donating the equivalent of USD $1 from each bottle sold to charities benefitting bartenders.

How close is the brand to a barman and a consumer and how does it work?

Very close: the bartender, and the bar, is everything. Even now, in the depths of COVID, bartenders are trusted guides to help introduce consumers to new, different and interesting spirits & cocktails just as a sommelier does with wine.

What is the difference between a craft brand and a usual mass brand? Where is the point of turning one into another?

It’s an almost endless debate! I think “craft” is – or should be – about how much care is taken in how the product is made. I know brands that sell 10, 000, 000 bottles per year that I wouldn’t hesitate to classify as “craft”, and I know brands which sell 1, 000 bottles per year which definitely are not craft.

Another major factor is transparency: if you are just using “craft” as a “magic-fairy-dust-marketing-slogan”, you aren’t craft. Craft is about honestly, and transparency, even if it’s awkward. As I always say, as the owner of a mega-authentic Dutch genever made at a Dutch distillery which traces its roots to 1777, it would be very convenient if I was Dutch, or even if I just didn’t tell people that I am Irish – but that wouldn’t be transparent.

If your brand was a person, how would they look? What would they be?

I’ve always thought that Old Duff Genever isn’t meant to appeal to everyone, its just for the people who understand and want it. I like to think the Old Duff “person” would be kind, thoughtful, well-dressed, well-informed, either taking the train or driving an Audi (not a Mercedes!), wearing a Swatch, or a Tag Heuer (but not a Rolex), vacationing in Varna or Portugal (but not Ibiza!), and drinking one or two tasty, authentic cocktails each day (instead of three or four bland ones).

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