It’s International Women’s Day next week (8 March) – an occasion when the world celebrates women’s contributions to business, culture and society. Each year there is more to celebrate, as more female entrepreneurs and pioneers leave their mark on the world – and this includes the gin world! To mark the day, we chatted with Ellen Weigall, founder of BABY Pink Gin – Australia’s first 100 per cent female-owned spirits brand. She describes her journey from disenchanted consumer to brand owner, and explains why gin makers should reassess the way they cater to female consumers.
Gin Magazine (GM): Tell us about your background and your interest in gin.
Ellen Weigall (EW): Gin has always been a go-to drink in my family, especially for the women in my family (my mum and grandma). As I was coming into my early 20s, the gin boom was really starting to happen in Australia, which meant distilleries were popping up like never before. This meant that the general public could easily go and make a day out of educating our palates and learn about the intricacies of gin. I began loving and appreciating gin for the first time, especially local, Australian-made spirits. But I didn’t quite feel a connection with these brands like I’d prefer to with my ‘drink of choice’. By this I mean that the branding, packaging and messaging didn’t feel like it was speaking to me, a girl who wanted to drink something both pretty and premium.
GM: How did you come to found BABY Pink Gin?
EW: I began getting really fussy with what I was drinking, and searched for something both local, quality and more ‘feminine’, but couldn’t find anything that suited these credentials, despite such a massive gin boom in the country. The alcoholic drinks that caught my eye either looked beautiful and suited my personality, but turned out to be bad quality, cheap and sweet, or on the flip side, they were really premium and great to taste, but the branding felt sort of ‘masculine’.
I’m a publicist by trade, with a communications degree, so I knew if I created a brand, I could handle the branding, marketing and digital side of things. So, when I couldn’t find the product I wanted, I created it myself. After 18 months of research and development, BABY was born in January 2020. At age 25, I had financially backed, created and launched the only 100 per cent female-owned spirits company in Australia.
BABY Pink wears its heart proudly on its sleeve – what would you say the brand’s driving principles are?
EW: BABY Pink Gin is more than an alcohol and lifestyle brand. For me, it’s a platform for conversation about women’s issues from a younger feminist perspective.
BABY’s driving principals are to unapologetically be yourself, proving to the market and to any woman in business that you don’t need to sacrifice your femininity to be taken seriously. There’s nothing wrong with being feminine, and you don’t need to fit a masculine mould to be seen as more premium.
My mission isn’t merely to produce pink gin, but to encourage women to boldly step into male-dominated vocations their way. It’s also about looking at branding and advertising from a female perspective and questioning unconscious sexism. When you look at a pink version of a product, why do you assume it’s weak, cheap and sweet? Why can’t pink equal strong, complex and powerful? Basically, tap into the message of [2001 film] Legally Blonde – it’s a happy coincidence that Elle Woods [the film’s protagonist] and I share the same initials. I also take huge inspiration from the book/movement Feminists Don’t Wear Pink.
GM: Tell us about how your gin is made.
EW: As I mentioned above, I created the BABY brand from a marketing and consumer perspective, but I had no experience in the distilling or production side of things. I had two options. One was to create my own distillery, which was immediately out of the question as the business was backed only by my personally savings. So, I had to find somebody to help me bring my idea to life. At this stage, contract distilling wasn’t the ‘done thing’ in Australia, but since then it has certainly boomed. It creates benefits for distilleries and brands, as many new distilleries don’t use their stills a lot of the time, so can essentially rent them out, and people like me need these stills and experience to make our dream happen.
It took me many months and a lot of meetings to find the perfect production partner. This was around the time I realised the industry wouldn’t make it easy for me to enter the market. A 24-year-old with no distilling experience wanting to create a premium pink gin wasn’t something they were keen on facilitating.
Finally, I found my perfect production partner, based in Regional Victoria (Macedon Ranges region, about an hour outside of Melbourne). They immediately and genuinely understood and believed in my vision and wanted to help bring it to life. After a few rounds of test runs, we created the perfect floral and berry pink gin, dry and juniper heavy, that stays pink when mixed – exactly what I had envisioned 12 months prior. This distillery continues to distil, bottle, label and store my gin, and we are currently in the process of developing an exciting RTD [ready-to-drink] range with their help.
GM: Obviously BABY Pink is a female-owned brand – how do you think it has affected your business, if at all? Will it influence your plans going forward?
EW: I experienced some backlash in the development stages of BABY, and quickly shied away from being the face of the brand, as I had only experienced negative opinions from the industry about a female my age launching a gin. So, for the first 12-18 months in business, I really hid this story from the public. However, in the past six months I have developed so much confidence in this space, and the fact that we are the only 100 per cent female-owned spirits company in Australia is one of our major marketing points of difference now. The consumer space has embraced this side of the business in an overwhelming way, and now we work with other women-run Australian businesses as much as we can.
We’re just about to launch our podcast “Spill The G&T”, where we will interview other Australian female-run businesses who are friends of the brand, and their journey in growing a brand without an existing platform. We are also in the process of developing a cocktail book, where we will interview Australia’s Top Women in Mixology, covering their stories and their take/recipe involving BABY. So as you can see, the female-owned angle is a huge part of our brand messaging and values now, we support other women whenever and wherever we can.
GM: Compared to other countries, how gender balanced do you feel the gin industry is in Australia? What, if anything, needs to change to make it more equal?
EW: As we know, the gin industry is very male dominated worldwide, but I have to say, we have some incredible female distillers here in Australia. Although many of our brands are male owned, a lot of them have female head distillers, which is amazing. There are also quite a few husband/wife and father/daughter-run gin teams here in Australia, which brings a feminine perspective to these brands.
I suppose what I believe needs to change in the industry is that the female consumer needs to be respected and catered for properly. When you examine spirit consumption trends, women certainly hold our own in the percentage of spirit sales, and this is growing dramatically year by year. Women appreciate a great spirit and want more than a sugary or low-quality pretty drink. Ideally, we want the best of both worlds – to put it very simply, pretty and premium – and this is what BABY hopes to offer them.