Rod Gillies photo

Interview with Rod Gillies

You’ve been with The Borders Distillery/Three Stills Company for over a year now, what was the first major change you put into action?

There hadn’t previously been anyone in a pure marketing role at the business, and whilst they’d done a great job getting 3 brands launched, there was a definite requirement for some proposition work and portfolio strategy. We launched another brand, Puffing Billy Steam Vodka, six months after I started, and so sharpening up the brand propositions was an important thing to do, otherwise we could have had 4 brands potentially getting in each other’s way or acting the same when they should have been targeting different occasions or consumers.

What’s unique about your business? Why did you join the The Borders Distillery?

For 20 years I’d been working for big corporate businesses. The thought of joining a start-up was both exciting and frightening – and that’s a good combination even if it doesn’t sound like it! The opportunity to get involved in a business in its early stages, and the longer-term prospect of creating and launching a new Single Malt – I couldn’t afford not to grab at the chance.

As for what makes The Borders Distillery unique? We’re doing really interesting things with our spirit. Take Kerr’s Gin for example – we don’t buy in any spirit from anywhere else. Unlike many other gin makers we redistil our own malted barley new make as the base for our gin. That gives it a rich rounded character which is really interesting. And our Steam Vodka is genuinely the only vodka in the world made the way we make it – and it’s amazing! We’re taking that inventive approach forward into our whisky-making and I can’t wait until that’s ready for us to share with people.

What’s involved during a typical day for you in your role as Head of Marketing?

There is no typical day! There’s a lot going on – from developing phone apps for our Private Cask owners to building our cross-border e-commerce capability, from working with my distilling colleagues on tasting notes to working with agencies on pack design, from planning how to reignite our tourist trade once Covid measure ease to planning for future whisky releases. And taking care of the brands’ social media presence and community engagement. It’s pretty full-on, but at least it’s never boring!

You’ve been heavily involved in creative & innovation for many years and have developed a fantastic rapport with your peers. What’s the key to your success?

That’s very kind of you to say so. I suppose the biggest thing I’ve learned about creativity and innovation is to ask lots of questions, actually listen to the answers, and to fill your head with random stuff which you might be able to usefully click together into an idea in the future.

What keeps you inspired?

Reading and learning. I can’t understand people who don’t read, or actively choose not to learn new stuff. I know it’s cheesy, but I love the idea of the “growth mindset” – the belief that we can always learn new skills, always come up with new ideas, and always grow and develop both personally and professionally. That’s really important to me.





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