Edinburgh friends celebrate as craft whisky business Young Spirits triples its revenue in three years

Edinburgh craft whisky and rum business is in good spirits

Young Spirits co-founders John Ferguson and Alex Harrison.
Young Spirits co-founders John Ferguson and Alex Harrison.

A small batch craft whisky and rum bottling and distillery business in Sighthill has tripled its revenue by 300 per cent in three years and grown from two to 42 employees.

Young Spirits was established in June 2019 by co-founders John Ferguson and Alex Harrison, who have backgrounds in the operations and drinks industries respectively. Entrepreneurs at heart, both John and Alex were looking to set up their next venture when they met through their partners at a bar in Edinburgh. The two became friends, and harnessing Alex’s background in the drinks industry they decided to set up Young Spirits.

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Not long after setting-up the business, like so many across the country, was hit by Covid, forcing it to close its doors. However, a week or two later Young Spirits received a boost when they received massive orders for hand sanitiser, a product that was in very high demand at the start of the pandemic.

Work at the Young Spirits bottling plant in Sighthill, Edinburgh.

Alex explained more about the company’s huge growth since it started three years ago. The 32-year-old said: "We had just moved to bigger premises in Sighthill after previously using a small garage in the area, because we had gone from 2-40 staff members. A month later we had to close due to Covid so we were a bit concerned about the future. But Covid basically increased our business.

"The hand sanitiser volumes from a distiller were so big we were working 24 hours a day trying to bottle it and get it out of the door. After that we had a backlog of spirits which we got through. Most of the growth in the business was quite organic, through word of mouth with not much promotion, but it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster.”

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Looking forward, Alex said: "The future for the business changes on a daily basis. We want to make it more carbon neutral in the future, that’s a big thing for us. And then we want to open an online shop. We plan to increase our staff numbers to 55 by 2024.”

From the early days of bottling 750 bottles per day, Young Spirits now bottle 4,000 bottles each day – which works out at more than a million a year. This had led to three warehouse moves, from a 2,000 square foot warehouse to a 30,000 square foot space, which has its own bar for tasting events.

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The two-man team has also grown to employing 42 people across the business.

Alex and John have now also invested in Whitebox drinks, a ready-to-drink canned cocktail company owned by friends. "We got involved to help their business grow. It was just a small investment to help them on their journey,” said Alex.