They say the best way to get over a rejection is to get back on the dating scene. And perhaps the same can be said for a brand whose product has been dumped by a major retailer.

Take Brewdog. Its POP Soda was ditched by Tesco in January shortly before the first anniversary, having sold less than £1m in its first seven months on shelves. That was despite inclusion in the retailer’s meal deal.

Observers reckon BrewDog struggled to translate its reputation for craft beer into soft drinks. “BrewDog’s attempt to trade off an adult name in a children’s category was futile,” was the verdict of Ian Humphris, CEO of brand consultancy Nokamo.

Like many a jilted lover, BrewDog has reached for a stiff drink. And craft spirits are its poison.

Today it announced a £7m investment into its spirits range. That money has gone into a new distillery over the road from its brewery in Ellon, enabling the company to triple its output. It has also redesigned its LoneWolf gin brand, as well as rebranding its Seven Day vodka to Abstrakt and its 500 Cuts rum as Duo.

The revamped lines will be available in Morrisons, Asda and Sainsbury’s this month, while BrewDog’s website and its bars are due to stock them from July.

A renewed focus on spirits is certainly more in keeping with BrewDog’s core market. But it’s unclear whether Martin Dickie, the company co-founder who now heads up its spirits arm, and the division’s MD Steven Kersley, can achieve their aim to create “globally recognised cult brands”, as the company did in craft beer.

For one thing, the market for premium and newfangled spirits with interesting flavours in UK retail is a lot more crowded than the craft beer market was in 2007, when BrewDog was founded.

There is already a whole subscription service dedicated to craft rum: the Craft Rum Club. Smaller brands like Dead Man’s Fingers, which has grown its value by 22.1% [NIQ 52 w/e 30 April 2022], are flying. Gin has long been a fertile breeding ground for smaller, specialist brands. And craft vodka is starting to take off, thanks to brands such as Gattertop and Lillywhite & Brown.

As BrewDog acknowledged in an article for The Grocer earlier this month, it’s “an increasingly competitive spirits arena”. And so far, its spirits have struggled to muster much in the way of meaningful sales. The value of LoneWolf London Dry Gin fell from £2.9m to £1.9m last year [NIQ, 52 w/e 10 September 2022]. So any rebrand will have to work hard to cut through.

In this context, it’s perhaps surprising that BrewDog has avoided trading heavily on its name in the new designs. The striking new bottles for LoneWolf, Seven Day and 500 Cuts are arty and stylish. But BrewDog’s name only appears in small writing – a marked contrast to the early designs of LoneWolf, which mimicked the can design of BrewDog’s beers.

It’s a choice that suggests the company is not intent on enticing those who drink its beer to try out its spirits. And given BrewDog’s reputational difficulties of the past year, it’s perhaps a sign that its name is seen as less of a draw.

But there is also marked change in tone. Despite describing itself as a “maverick spirits company”, the division is shying away from out-there flavours in favour of “on-trend options”. It’s hard to imagine James Watt using that terminology to describe Punk IPA in the 2000s.

The mass appeal and supermarket listings suggest BrewDog’s spirits could yet prove a hit. But if they do, it will have little to do with the credentials of their parent brand.