From the editor's desk to the unknown

All good things come to an end

Our Editor has decided to hang up his captain's hat, steering his ship towards uncharted waters as this publication continues towards new adventures.

Here, Olivier looks back at the journey so far, raising a toast to the triumphs, tribulations, and the tantalising tastes he encountered along the way.

In this farewell note, he shares his learnings, and his passion for bringing the diverse world of spirits to all who are curious to learn about it.

My time at this spirit-soaked carnival draws to its twilight and this will be my final post.

Spirits Beacon launched in March 2021, still in lockdown and a few months later than hoped. The pandemic did that to a lot of things. We made up for lost time though, publishing just over 300 articles in the 28 months since as well as the additional cornerstone content found around the site. 

It’s been a privilege to have been allowed to post at such a prolific rate, frantic at times, and to have worked with so many talented writers. 

As I close notepads and schedulers, I’ve been reflecting on my time here. 

More than anything, I come back to the notion that too few commentators get the opportunity to go from short news clips to essay length thought pieces, to guides and the occasional trend reports. To vary their content and the subject matter they cover. To work with different voices and find ways to leave them shine through collaborative content, and not dim their light or alter their tone.

I’m grateful I got a chance. 

Looking at the thousands of Spirits Kiosk baskets over three years and separately, the way readers navigate this site – most drinkers are shapeshifters. They often order on a whim and are willing to explore a spirit even if it’s outside their comfort zone, so long as you can pitch them an idea they can engage with. There's amazing opportunity in that.

Over the years I’ve come to fully appreciate the beauty of a category specialist too. You can never acquire the level of knowledge without singular dedication. Spirits move so fast and to be at the forefront of a category requires total immersion. But it comes at a cost – perspective. I’ve seen how many are siloed by their deep but narrow spirit-specific knowledge. I certainly was when this site started. 

The same goes with styles of writing and presenting content. Thankfully the era of the endless a-la Buzzfeed ‘best of’ listicles are over, but many writers are confined to strict publication styles and opportunities that limit the scope of their enquiry to deliver to a tried and tested format. 

It wasn't until I dived into these alien waters that I discovered new perspective, fresh lines of questioning that lit up the well-worn subjects like a neon sign pointing to a hidden dive bar. As a writer, it’s opened my mind to the many ways one can tell the same story and how to do it in a manner that connects with a different audience. 

It's what most readers want. It's what most shoppers connect with. It’s what so many spirits need. It's vital to speak to those outside of its core fans and cross pollinate and to present topics in different ways. Whisky and Tequila in particular.

Despite this, most drinks publications still focus on speaking to tribes, de-marked by singular interests; cocktail enthusiasts, whisky only, gin only, business only for trade, travel retail, bar talk etc. 

I’m proud to have gone against the current and established Spirits Beacon as a place for all of it, all at once. 

It’s been a pleasure to have been able to dance across spirit categories and to find the kind of content that matches a theme. To build a full picture one tile at a time and celebrate the full scope of the spirits industry. 

Logging in each day has served as a reminder that venturing into unknown territory is a wild, glorious ride. That indulging curiosity leads to a treasure chest of newfound knowledge. 

I raise a glass to the fearless explorers who keep that flame alive and to the spirit journalists who meander through the labyrinth of categories, finding the unseen connections, linking the dots in a disjointed world. 

I’ve loved working with a few of them in the past couple of years. I hope they have found the same pleasure I have in this approach – from the mails I get and comments online, it’s clear readers certainly have.

This month also marks the departure of both Emile and I from Spirits Kiosk too. 

Just like it is here, our sister platform is something we’re incredibly proud of. We are delighted with what’s been achieved, especially as it’s been accomplished over some of the most turbulent years in a generation. In many ways, given the brutal times the hospitality industry has faced, we feel like the survivors of an unforgiving storm, standing victorious against the gales of economic and societal upheaval. 

I’m also glad to say that plans for Spirits Beacon & Spirits Kiosk look bright, a lot of which has already been months in the making. 

The first visible step will be the arrival of a cocktail builder, where shoppers will be able to create baskets based on a recipe, and once the items are all in place, unlock a discount on the bundle. Given most buy spirits to drink cocktails, Shop by Cocktail functionality has long been on our minds.

The next leap will be a grander shift, slated for later this year - a merger of the two platforms, and a fusion of the editorial and retail experience.

As those who follow the blogs and social feeds will know - both Beacon & Kiosk have been delivering parallel content themes already. One talking cocktails at home adding context for how to use the brands we sell, the other talking about categories and trends for those wanting to grapple with the bigger picture. This was no coincidence, and the merge will be a further rapprochement of the two.

The vision for Beacon might have changed course, but I take solace in the fact the new direction further adds to Kiosk’s mission. All the wisdom-infused, story-driven content will now sit right at the point of purchase enhancing education, transparency and encourage conscious consumption.

While this month marks our last here, both Emile and I will be in Australia this year to continue our work on Junipalooza and creating meet the maker events that connect drinkers directly to those who produce it. 

We remain fully committed to supporting the events there and are glad to be a part of their continuing success. 

With the Australian craft distilling scene on fire - we’re excited to reveal more about what both Junipalooza Sydney & Melbourne events have in store this year, both of which are set to be the biggest they have ever been. More on that in good time. 

For now, it’s farewell and thank you to all who supported the journey from Gin Foundry to Spirits Beacon and Gin Kiosk into Spirits Kiosk. We leave them in good hands and a have a tremendous amount of goodwill towards the team taking them forward.

It’s been a roller coaster, punctuated by incredible brands whose narratives I've been privileged to tell here, and whose bottles we facilitated landing in liquor cabinets across the UK.

Here's to new adventures for all!


By Olivier Ward

24 July 2023