Gerald and Raphael, you, as two longstanding friends, decided to go into business together and founded Rheinland Distillers in 2014. What painful lessons have you had to learn since then?
RAPHAEL — They do say that you only learn from your mistakes, but fortunately we had already made most of our mistakes in our previous occupational adventures. As a result, we were able to approach the founding without any of that naivety people might expect, instead – drawing on experience from our previous professions – we set the right course very consciously from the start.
GERALD — Of course, we’ve learned a huge amount about the spirits industry since 2014. Making small mistakes is always part of the process, of course – but things like that are only painful if you don’t learn anything from them for the future.
When did it first become clear to you that Siegfried was going to be a success?
R — That was the moment in March 2015 when we sent out the press release about winning our first award. This was the first time that I was sure that it was going to really take off. And looking back it actually was a game-changing moment, because then we had outside confirmation, in black on white, that our Siegfried Gin is a world-class product.
G — Another very emotional moment was when our Siggi appeared on our trusted dealer’s shelves for the first time – alongside all the already famous brands. That really brought it home: wow, this is more than just a hobby now.
More than 25 employees now work for Rheinland Distillers. How do you keep your easy-going spirit despite your growing success?
G — Well, it’s in our DNA. We don’t have to laboriously create this casual, experimental mentality, it’s just there. But of course it is a challenge to transfer the spirit that we had as a little start-up into a growing company. It’s not enough to have a table football in the meeting room, you need to bring on board people with the right spirit.
R — Exactly, that’s why we deliberately gather people around us who, like us, want to have a lot of fun while doing their work perfectly, without paying much attention to superficial things like a dress code, for example. We provide them with a framework in which everybody can develop and do their thing. And if then – like with us – the right people come together, who know what to do with this freedom, then something almost like magic happens.
What exactly does it mean to work for Rheinland Distillers?
G — Self-realisation is more than welcome with us. After all, our employees, whether they’re in logistics or financial accounting, also have other abilities and interests. And we try to make sure that they can also make use of these and pursue them in other parts of the firm as far as possible. That is why we have transparent communication channels, for example, where everybody can read everything and also have their say. Ideally, this kind of thing creates a motivating and creative environment. For example, one of the most recent funny memes on Instagram started off as an idea from Controlling.
R — On top of that, everyone knows everybody here, so the working atmosphere is quite informal. And our employees know that they can come to us with problems – and they do, if something is weighing on their mind.
What drives you to enter into new collaborations with other brands?
G — For a start, we simply enjoy it and people outside the company can definitely also sense that enjoyment. And of course we don’t want our brand to become boring or predictable. That’s why we are happy to work together with super exciting partners who at first glance don’t fit in at all with our own brand. But if you take a closer look at these collabs, you suddenly discover that they have a lot in common with us after all.
R — For me personally, collaboration, which is to say marrying brands, is one of the highest forms of brand management. After all, we only cooperate with brands that are exceptional in their industry. And if we manage to convince such strong brands that Siegfried is the right partner for them, then that gives me personally a very deep feeling of satisfaction.
What do you do to make sure that the next generations will also be able to enjoy your products?
G — Sustainability means a lot to us. That is why, for example, we have had cardboard boxes specially produced that don’t require any more outer packaging and use as little material as possible. We are all familiar with goods often being delivered in boxes that are much too big, which are also half-full of packaging materials. We don’t do that. All our shipping is CO2-neutral and on top of that we have a tree planted for every order in our shop.
R — Our goal for now is to become CO2-neutral. We are working on this together with a major certification company and are implementing the necessary measures step by step. And if, in the end, we are not climate-neutral but maybe even climate-positive, then of course we would be very happy about that.
What is the best way to drink your Siggi?
G — We don’t presume to tell people what to do, but of course we can give a few recommendations from our own experience. For example, when I mix Siggi – whether it be Siegfried Gin, Easy or non-alcoholic Wonderleaf – with tonic water, then it should be a good, high-quality tonic that corresponds to my desired taste profile. Many tonics are rather bitter and dry, others sweet and fruity, so you often have to experiment a bit at first until you find the right one. And you shouldn’t scrimp on the ice either, so no old or flaking ice from the fishmongers, but instead nice clear, fresh ice cubes. And of course you should always savour and enjoy our Siggi. We don’t like the idea of somebody only drinking our products to get drunk; it’s just a waste.
R — I would add that there are, of course, always moments when you should give yourself a treat and enjoy some “me time”. But personally, I always recommend that people enjoy our Siggi in good company – personally, I find it tastes best then.