Establishing a distillery from an oceanic island location accessible only by ferry requires an ambitious vision. Martin Hallberg, CEO of Feddie Ocean Distillery, introduces us to this prosperous distributor of handcrafted whisky, gin and Scandinavian akvavit operating on Fedje Island, owned by women.
Tucked away off the western coast of Norway lies a picturesque gem – the island of Fedje. Approaching the island by ferry, Fedje embodies a harmonious blend of natural beauty, rich history, and a close-knit community.
Once a bustling centre for the fishing industry, Fedje has experienced a decreasing population in recent years. Today, this coastal paradise is home to Feddie Ocean Distillery, a unique artisanal distillery which captures the essence of its coastal setting. Salty sea air mingles with the scent of maturing whisky, juniper and botanicals, creating an intoxicating atmosphere that immediately immerses visitors in the world of distillation.
Award winning Martin Hallberg, a shining light in the restaurant and international alcohol distribution industries for many years, now leads this remarkable, forward-thinking Norwegian enterprise. Here he gives us a fascinating insight into the unique qualities of Feddie Ocean Distillery, its aims, objectives, and future plans.
Working on an island in the middle of the ocean must surely present numerous challenges? Do you experience staff transportation issues, for example, and how do you cope with bad weather?
Logistical challenges are part and parcel of our everyday work, and therefore effective communication is vital. We regularly hold meetings on Teams to keep everyone informed on targets, schedules and progress, but also to maintain the all-important company ethic of togetherness. Although our distillery manager, head distiller and several in the team live on Fedje, the wider Feddie team work from various mainland locations. In having to depend on each other totally in their roles, the culture instilled within Feddie is one of respect where everyone is treated as part of a family.
Weather conditions can impact ferry services to Fedje as the island is prone to strong winds and rough seas. During severe weather events such as storms, gales or foggy conditions, the ferry services may be temporarily suspended. However, with ten scheduled crossings per day, the service is generally reliable.
On a positive note, the humidity, maritime environment, and a readily available water source make Fedje an ideal location for a distillery and were important reasons behind our decision to locate on the island.
Another unique feature of Feddie is its network of female owners and investors. Could you tell us more about this?
The spirits industry has long been male dominated. With an inspirational female founder and major shareholder who has demonstrated a successful reputation in building women-centred networks, Feddie aims to empower women to step up and invest in our industry.
We currently have more than 600 female investors, and we will continue to play an active role in inspiring and encouraging more women to invest and own stocks. This includes building a strong shareholder community where we provide courses to introduce basic knowledge around investing, arranging investor meetings as well as tastings and whisky courses.
We are also proud of our ‘Young Sister’s programme aimed at daughters of our shareholders. These young women are given training and tuition by professional investors and then develop their own investment strategy in companies they form themselves. ‘Young Sisters’ is currently owned by 52 young women with more due to join the investment community this year. Female investors have been our most important ambassadors since Feddie was established and this unique ownership structure distinguishes us from other distilleries across Norway and indeed the world.
As CEO of such an innovative company, what personal goals have you set out for Feddie to achieve, and what is the long term aim?
As a passionate advocate of the whole culture and history around global alcohol production, I’m aiming at putting Feddie Ocean Distillery on the international map! My actual mandate from the Board includes building the organisation into something which no Norwegian distillery had achieved before – to produce a core whisky in large volumes with a focus on top quality and certified organic materials. In doing so, we will bring more tourists and vibrancy to Fedje, and hopefully in turn more inhabitants. Last year we had over 2000 guests at our distillery. Our guided tours take visitors behind the scenes and offer an intimate glimpse into distillation. From witnessing the precise measurements to understanding the delicate balance of flavours, our aim is to provide guests with a new-found appreciation for the craftsmanship that goes into each bottle. Visitor numbers have increased substantially since opening, and we envisage selling 2300 tickets for our 2023 season.
Thank you, Martin. That’s impressive and very informative background information on Feddie. Now let’s move on to the actual products. Tell us about your whisky, gin and akvavit products, their markets and distribution channels.
- Nine Sisters Ocean Gin – Consisting of certified organic wheat spirit, juniper berries, local pine shoots, sugar kelp and willowherb.
Winning double gold in the ‘International Spirits Challenge – April 2022, Nine Sisters Ocean Gin continues to impress in local competitions. In two years, sales to the Norwegian market has totalled 48,000 bottles.
Our aim is for our products to feature prominently within Vinmonopolet (the state-owned alcoholic beverage retailer with exclusive sales rights. Thanks to demand from our many shareholders and ambassadors, Nine Sisters Ocean Gin is now stocked in Vinmonopolet outlets nationwide.
- Nine Sisters Grapefruit Gin – Developed in May 2021, rich, aromatic and with a scent of juniper, grapefruit, berries, and flowers Nine Sisters Grapefruit Gin has rapidly been adopted by gin lovers.
- Feddie Akvavit – Launched in Spring 2022. Akvavit addresses a more traditional market than gin. To focus on familiarity with our distillery, a conscious decision was made to market and sell our akvavit products under the Feddie label. Laying the ground for whisky, we find that whisky customers concern themselves with the distillery and its reputation. Cask stored akvavit is an ideal accompaniment to cured meats, fried cod, stews and traditional Norwegian dishes.
- Feddie Single Malt Whisky – Our core product, launching November 2024.
At present we are working to expand our export of gin and akvavit whilst at the same time preparing for export of our whisky, as our Go-To-Market strategy will soon be presented to the Board. Our products are sold throughout Norway and are soon available online in Denmark, Netherlands and Germany. Our gin is sold at tax free outlets at main airports and we look forward to launching sales in the UK via Amazon.
A prerequisite for our goals and budgets is initial success in the domestic market followed by exports. Our strategy will be to work on distribution within relevant markets, ultimately leading to access to new markets including e-commerce channels. From 2024 onwards we will be appointing staff who are fully dedicated to the export market, as well as continuing to seek capital from new and existing owners for operations and investment within the Norwegian and international markets.
Feddie Ocean Distillery is a groundbreaking distillery known for its exceptional spirits and its commitment to sustainability. Its portfolio ranges from meticulously crafted whiskies to artisanal gins and akvavits, each showcasing the distillery’s dedication to quality and flavour. Through its exceptional focus and dedication to empowering women, and commitment to sustainability, Feddie Ocean Distillery is reshaping the Norwegian spirits industry and inviting enthusiasts to embark on a journey of taste, innovation, and positive change.
Further information on the distillery, its products, development plans, investment opportunities and contact details, please visit the company website: https://www.feddiedistillery.com/