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Reservoir Distillery Establishes Itself Down Under With Help from VEDP Trade Missions

Reservoir Distillery has manufactured craft bourbons, ryes, and other whiskeys from its Richmond facility since 2008. The company prides itself on locally sourcing its ingredients — all of the grains used in its spirits come from within 45 miles of the distillery, and every whiskey is crafted, aged, and bottled in-house.

The problem: Reservoir had been exporting for years to Europe while eyeing the Australian market, but the barriers to entry were too high.

Reservoir had established markets in Germany and the United Kingdom, but recent tariffs affected sales in those countries. Founders Jay Carpenter and Dave Cuttino had been looking to get into the Australian market to capitalize on a relative lack of American craft whiskey in that country, but the distance and effort required to find the right partner had always dissuaded them, with shipping and logistics particularly challenging.

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The solution: VEDP’s trade missions and in-country consultants helped Reservoir make the leap into the Australian market in a cost-effective manner.

Reservoir used VEDP’s State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) Grant — enabling the company to invest in market-specific packaging and translations of marketing materials — and participated in VEDP trade missions to the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia. The latter proved particularly helpful — grants and trade missions put the company in front of a critical mass of buyers and helped them understand the intricacies of each country’s distribution models.

The result: A lucrative new market and a rebound in international sales.

After tariffs put a dent in Reservoir’s international sales — dropping those numbers to just 2% of total sales — the increased focus on Australia has helped those numbers rebound. In particular, the selection of an Australian distributor helped Reservoir maintain and support its brand. The company expects international sales to make up 16% of total sales in 2022.

We would not have been able to accomplish this without VEDP help. International footholds take time and effort in our sector, and we expect to grow this opportunity into a meaningful component of our business.

Dave Cuttino Founder and CEO, Reservoir Distillery

The increase in international sales and brand awareness has helped Reservoir both internationally and domestically. International success has helped build buzz for products that may not be available in the domestic market. The company is working to cement its relationship with the Australian distributor and plan out the next several years of its export efforts. As Cuttino put it, “This protects us for a number of years. That’s the way you’re supposed to do it.” 

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