How local distillery is trying to gain edge in local market

Part of the distillery at 1000 Hills Distillery in Kigali. Kelly Rwamapera.

On the way towards Rebero Hill, in Kicukiro District is the Thousand Hills Distillery, the first place in East Africa where coffee liqueurs, Rums, Whiskies, Vodkas Gins and the unusual Macadamia nut liqueurs are distilled.

In 2014, two investors, Daniel Hogan and Stephen Knoef, came to the country seeking to start a firm. From a range of ideas, they zeroed in on distillery business.

Andrew David Herweg, the Managing Director of 1000 Hills Distillery, told Business Times that the two chose to have the distillery in Rwanda because it is an ideal place to do business especially due to the fact that the Government is very supportive.

“Rwanda is one of the best places to do business in Africa”, he said, adding that the “supportive business climate attracted them to make Rwanda the launch pad.”

Herweg explained that there is enough raw materials the distillery needs to make the finest wines such as sugar canes, macadamia nuts, and coffee.

“If we had to import raw materials a distillery would be impossible here,” he said.

Today, the distillery exports wines to Belgium, Netherlands and other European countries. The distillery’s products also have a market in China and Japan.

Local market

Currently, most of their customers are those who frequent big hotels and bars.

The distillery owners say that they are often faced with the common poor perception that locally made products are of inferior quality.

“The first few years were challenging for our new product. People had little trust in our wines but the more Made-in-Rwanda programme campaign penetrates the more we our market expands,” Herweg said.

Herweg said that they are responding to the challenge of being new on the market through innovation.

“There are wine brands that have been on the Rwanda market for over 30 years but what we are doing is producing with innovation,” he said.

On March 23, 2019 the distillery will hold a coffee liqueur tasting (called Kigali Cooler) in which hotels and top bars in Kigali will participate.

Tourist attraction

The serenity of the area overlooking River Nyabarongo and the view of Kigali has made distillery an ideal tourist attraction.

According to the Managing Director Herweg, visitors come to have a tour and drinks.

“We’re not only making and selling the wines but have an ideal place for tourists in the country to visit and learn about liquor and wine production,” he said.

The barrels used in aging the wines and the whole process and instruments for making wines are thought to be major attractions to tourists.