Michael Vachon: Craft's own Maverick

I had 720 bottles I had to sell in order to pay my rent, which was due in three weeks. I didn’t have another job so I just had to get out there and start knocking on doors.”

Not many entrepreneurs launch themselves into business at such an extreme end as Maverick Drinks’ Michael Vachon. Having studied for a degree in sociology and criminology at his hometown of Maryland, Vachon was ready to sign up to the police force. But before doing so, he decided to take full advantage of a visa opportunity to visit the UK, where he worked in IT. He never left. 

After a series of visa extensions, he took a masters degree in business administration in Manchester and during his studies he asked the university for funding to do an entrepreneur project to study the feasibility of launching a gin in the UK. Vachon then used this money to fly to Oregon to visit a distillery which makes Ransom Old Tom gin. 

“I just fell in love with the whole concept of somebody doing something for passion’s sake.”

Vachon realised how popular the gin was that he brought back to the UK so, after graduation, he decided to do some distribution as a side hobby. He managed to scramble together enough money to buy a pallet of gin and have it shipped to his at.

“I had 120 cases delivered to my flat on September 21, 2012, and it literally covered the entire wall. I think people could see the passion I had for trying to get this to work, and they still do today.”

This was the start of his distribution company Ginuine Spirits, and although Vachon isn’t particularly proud of the name, it was the start of something much bigger for the once-aspiring policeman. 

Just 10 months into his new business Vachon was approached by Master of Malt, which offered him the distribution of Bathtub gin as well as a portfolio of brands of his choice, his own staff and a salary.

This led to the birth of Maverick Drinks, which is now in its sixth year and distributes Bathtub gin, That Boutique-y Whisky Company, Smooth Ambler and Teeling, to name just a few, around the UK.

“The distribution is just the functional bit – we’re trying to lead a craft spirits movement. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning and going from 10-34 employees over the past year we’ve focused a lot on culture so that people feel they’re a part of something.” 

In 2018 Maverick Drinks was acquired by ZX Ventures, subsidiary company to AB-Inbev, the world’s largest brewing company.

“We now have the backing of the largest drinks company in world and it’s giving us the resources to go as fast as we want, which is a totally different challenge but still just as exciting as it was when we first started.

“I can’t honestly say what’s next for the business but I know we have a lot to do.

“People have described us as disruptive, but that’s not what we’re trying to be. We’re just one of the only ones asking ‘why?’. We would like to see craft spirits in every bar, shop and every drink. Our definition of craft is craftsmanship, authenticity, quality, provenance, being founder-led and having a purpose. If we ask why something is done the way it is in the industry and the answer is ‘that’s the way it always has been’, then that’s not good enough for us. 

“I wasn’t supposed to work in spirits. I was supposed to be a police officer. It found me, and I’m glad it did because, for the rest of my life, I will be working in the alcohol beverage industry.”

Maverick is defined in the English dictionary as ‘an unorthodox or independent-minded person’. But it’s not only Vachon’s company behaving like a maverick – he’s done his own thing since the day he landed in the UK.