Marketing unconventional spirits as a young woman isn’t easy. Just ask Monica Pearce.
As the owner of the Tenth Ward Distilling Company, Monica Pearce has grown accustomed to having to earn the respect of new customers – especially men.
The 4-year-old distillery, based in an industrial neighborhood of Frederick, Maryland once known as the Tenth Ward in the late 1800s, started out by hawking its spirits at local farmers markets and drinking festivals, bringing Pearce and crew frequently into contact with patrons who are unfamiliar with the unique brand.
With its slogan, “Ward Off the Ordinary,” Tenth Ward specializes in “unusual and unconventional spirits,” like a Smoked Corn Whiskey that tastes a bit like a Mezcal or a Scotch, and Maryland’s first and only locally distilled Absinthe.
“It’s definitely a challenge to market something different,” Pearce said.
“The quality of the product speaks for itself.”
Equally challenging: convincing the typical male drinkers, who Pearce finds eye the woman-owned Tenth Ward with skepticism. Especially when she was starting out, Pearce said she got a lot of arched eyebrows when old, white men looking for 12-year-old whiskeys came to the Tenth Ward table.
“Being a young woman in the spirits industry, I was viewed as not knowing what I was doing,” said Pearce, 34.
Tenth Ward leans hard into its uniqueness, both as a maker of unconventional spirits and as one of the nation’s few woman-owned distillers. Pearce feels it gives Tenth Ward a competitive advantage in a marketplace dominated by bland convention.
But that also means Tenth Ward and its staff have to prove its worth to the skeptics, of which there are many. It helps that that the distiller’s spirits are top notch – “The quality of the product speaks for itself,” Pearce said – but Tenth Ward doesn’t stop there.
“Being a young woman in the spirits industry, I was viewed as not knowing what I was doing.”
Pearce has made it a priority for her and her small staff to become bonafide experts in everything about not just their own products, but the distilling industry at large. Tenth Ward’s sales staff is not only trained extensively in the tasting and nosing notes of its spirits, but also encouraged through a bonus program to take professional development courses on their own time. The team will also visit other breweries, wineries and distilleries for team training sessions and to support fellow industry members.
This focus on expertise, however, is as much a function of combating the dwindling naysayers as it is about serving an increasingly knowledgeable consumer base. Pearce loves that curious patrons can be assured that they’re getting the truth about spirits from Tenth Ward, either from its salespeople or its vast trove of marketing materials on its website and social media pages.
“Everything we make is non-traditional and unconventional, which is why we live fearlessly by our slogan – #wardoffordinary.”
Tenth Ward’s diverse products, from a Genever-Inspired Gin to an apple brandy dunked in local, tart cherries, known as Brinton’s Brandy, to a forthcoming canned cocktail program, may be found in restaurants and liquor stores across Maryland and in the District of Columbia, and in its hip tasting room called the Cocktail Lab in Frederick, Maryland. But the distillery is exploring expansion to other East Coast states and may engage in some lobbying to allow it to ship its products across the country.
“Everything we make is non-traditional and unconventional,” Tenth Ward advertises on its website, “which is why we live fearlessly by our slogan – #wardoffordinary.”
For much more in-depth knowledge, sign-up for Tenth Ward’s free training program.