Five Minutes with the Founder | Alex Christou, Founder, Eight Lands

“Getting positive feedback on our spirits, no matter who from, always makes my day. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of the business but that feedback is a reminder that we have achieved our primary aim of making world-class spirits.”

In today’s ‘Five Minutes with the Founder’ we meet Alex Christou, who, together with his stepfather Alasdair Locke, established the Eight Lands distillery on the family estate in Speyside in 2018. Here we interview Alex on how he’s building the Eight Lands brand, where he finds his inspiration, and his favourite luxury under £10 – clue: it’s created in Scotland by a fellow Walpole member!

Tell us about Eight Lands

Eight Lands produces really high quality organic vodka and gin on our family estate in Speyside. Both our gin and vodka are made with only the finest organic ingredients and Scottish spring water, distilled and bottled at Glenrinnes Distillery, which we built in 2018 and also acts as a visitor centre.

Tell us the story of how you built your brand?

From the beginning, we wanted to ensure that honesty was at the heart of our communications. The easiest way to do that is to create something that needs no excuses, which is why we put so much effort into making our spirits taste really good. Our location in the heart of Speyside whisky country is a big part of our identity, as is our family ownership and the fact that our products are organic. Key for us is to build strong relationships with partners in the on-trade as well as discerning drinkers. Where possible, this means taking people to Glenrinnes Distillery as it really helps to bring the brand to life (such as the recent launch of our VIP tours), otherwise looking at ways to take that brand experience elsewhere.

Why did you choose to set up your business in the luxury sector?

Our aim is simply to produce the best quality spirits possible. In positioning Eight Lands as a more exclusive alternative to the dominant, mass-produced super-premium vodkas and gins, we are reliant not only on the quality of our liquid but our provenance, our water source, and the lifestyle cues that come with having a distillery on an estate in a stunning part of Scotland. I believe that there is an opportunity for a brand like ours to deliver luxury credentials at an accessible price-point.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

Getting positive feedback on our spirits, no matter who from, always makes my day. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day running of the business but that feedback is a reminder that we have achieved our primary aim of making world-class spirits.

What and/or who is your source of inspiration and motivation?

I enjoy reading biographies, partly because I like being inspired by people who have achieved great things in their field. Whether sport, business or culture there is always something to learn. However, I haven’t had to look that far because my stepfather, Alasdair Locke, is a big inspiration to me. I really admire what he has achieved in business and how that has allowed him to pursue philanthropic interests. I originally wanted to work with Alasdair so that I could gain exposure to new sectors and to learn from him, whilst playing a more active role in family affairs. At the time, I had no idea that we would end up launching a spirits brand!

If you could have any other job in the world what would it be?

Almost ten years ago, I wrote and self-published a book. It was an unusual blend of travel writing and interviews focused on my passion for cars and driving. Whilst it was great to have an excuse to do a fantastic road trip and engage with an interest to such a degree, it was speaking with other enthusiasts that made a lasting impression on me. I came to realise how many fascinating untold stories are out there. Rather than writing another book, I think making a documentary would be fun.

If you could do something differently in your career what would it be?

Nothing. Not everything has gone smoothly but I have come to value every lesson learnt. All experience is valuable and somehow ends up being applicable down the line.

Where do you see yourself and your company in 10 years’ time?

Our mission is to “establish Eight Lands as an internationally respected brand which is available in the world’s best bars and is the spirit of choice for thousands of discerning customers to enjoy out or at home”. In ten years’ time, I expect to be well on our way to achieving that aim. Export will play a key role in that journey, as we look to take our spirits and our story to new markets and new customers over the coming months and years.

What does success look like to you?

As a business, naturally profitability is a key measure of success and this means seeing Eight Lands reaching many more customers. I want to achieve that by maintaining a clear focus on quality; by ensuring that Eight Lands is a positive brand to work for and with; by considering how we can minimise our impact on the environment; and by having some fun on the way.

What advice do you have for any young entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?

Be patient. Everything takes longer than you would like.

What is your greatest luxury under £10?

I have a real weakness for chocolate. Walpole member Iain Burnett, the Highland Chocolatier, does some fantastic stuff. We have used his chocolates in Eight Lands gift boxes in the past and I would be very happy to spend my theoretical £10 on some more.