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3 min read

How New Riff Distillery adds a novel twist to whiskey-making with automation

By Elena Alston · February 15, 2023

Whiskey, as it turns out, isn't just responsible for many a fabled cocktail, like the Old Fashioned or the Manhattan. The process behind it is an art form, one that requires dedication. For starters, you need distilled water (preferably from an aquifer). Also fermented grains. Toasted-oak barrels. And years of patience thrown into the mix. 

It's something that Kentucky-based New Riff Distilling knows well—and takes great pride in. The company distills everything from bourbon to malted rye whiskey and even wild gin. 

Alyson Fossett, who runs the company's Single Barrel Program—through which customers can take tours, partake in tasting sessions, and purchase their one-of-a-kind bourbon barrel—says her own passion bleeds through the experiences they offer.  

"[The program] is one of the most complex departments in our company."

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The trials of launching a successful program

In the beginning, running this program was no easy feat. From booking customers for tours to handling invoices and sending emails to the right teams, coordinating and managing internal processes was a struggle.  

Fossett admits that this process gave rise to manual entry errors, occasional confusion amongst teams, and miscommunication with customers when email confirmations weren't sent out in a timely manner.   

"There was a lot of redundancy in our systems," says Fossett. "We needed a way to eliminate mistakes when it came to sending out repeat communication and reminders to our customers." 

Automation, Fossett knew, would help them better scale the program. And she had a feeling that Zapier could streamline their customer intake process and communication. 

She explains: "I knew this was a tool I could implement with not only my team but in so many other ways throughout the company."

A seamless customer intake process

Today, all of New Riff's web inquiries and potential customers interested in either the Single Barrel Department or the Event center use Jotform to submit their requests. 

"We then have Zapier take those requests and, based on the information it reads in the forms, it sends the appropriate information to the correct Airtable base. Through Gmail, Zapier then sends different follow-up emails with curated information based on what was submitted via Jotform."

Want to create a similar workflow? Connect Jotform and Airtable to get started.

That's at a base level. Fossett's system also uses Zapier's webhook trigger to create templated documents that have unique information for each account—like invoices, packing sheets, unique QR codes, and barrel menus. Zapier then finds those specific Airtable records and makes sure they're updated accordingly across all their systems. 

This helps team members find what they need to process customer orders—quickly. This workflow then sends email confirmations and reminders to customers (as well as to teams), helping them optimize overall communication. 

The result? A streamlined customer intake process that has allowed customers to interact with and reach New Riff quickly and easily, so Fossett's team can get back to them in a timely manner. 

Scaling a program—and the company on automation alone

Not only has this new process cut the time spent on customer communication in half, it's also allowed Fossett to shift their hiring needs away from administration help to the experience side of the department. 

"We've been able to grow our team by two people, which in turn has allowed us to enhance our selection experiences."

Fossett explains that Zapier and Jotform work so well together that it feels like using one seamless system. 

"We've always held quality is of the highest standard when it comes to our whiskey and our products. So now we're at the point where we're able to take that same quality of standard and apply it to the systems and the processes behind whiskey."

As for what's next, Fossett says: "I continue to be surprised with what Zapier can do and what it can connect me with. I'm just getting started—there are infinite possibilities!"

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