Whilst others were binging Tiger King during the COVID-19 lockdowns, Aaron Rieniets decided to take the plunge into starting up his own distilling business – Tan Lines Distilling. He shares his journey, his vision for the future, and his love of a good Dad-joke in our latest “5 Minutes With…”.
Tell us about yourself and Tan Lines Distilling.
I’m a Melbourne-born, U.S.-raised, Dad-joke loving Townsville resident. And, yes, I have a mongrel accent. My path into the world of spirits started in 2014, not because I had a drinking problem but because I was working as a bartender while slogging through my MBA. It was during this time that I bumped into the owner of Dogwood Distilling in Forest Grove, Oregon. Before I knew it, I had been sweet-talked into becoming their Operations Manager, and it was there that I got deep in the distilling business, and trust me, it wasn’t all gin and tonics.
In 2020, while most people were perfecting their sourdough starters during the COVID-19 lockdown, I decided to spice things up and launched my own venture, Tan Lines Distilling. The global pandemic wasn’t exactly the most opportune time to start a business, but hey, what’s life without a bit of challenge? So, I dug deep into the world of business planning, recipe development, and late-night gin tastings… someone had to do the tough job!
From this spirited adventure, a unique gin recipe was born, proving that you can, indeed, make lemonade (or in this case, gin) when life hands you lemons… or a global pandemic.
What has been the most challenging aspect of starting/owning Tan Lines Distilling?
The most challenging and rewarding aspect of owning a business is taking it from a mere idea to a fully operational distillery. Growing Tan Lines Distilling has been a journey filled with continuous learning, adaptation, and growth.
As a solo operator, I’ve been at the helm of this venture, managing everything from refining our gin recipe to handling administrative tasks. However, the true backbone of Tan Lines Distilling is the unparalleled community support that has made this journey possible.
The greatest challenge and achievement has been moulding a business that not only represents my personal ambitions, but also resonates with the values and spirit of the Townsville community. The pillars of Integrity, Community, and Legacy have guided every decision, every step of the way.
Tan Lines Distilling is not just about producing exceptional gin—it’s about honoring and reflecting the strength, unity, and support of the community that has played such an integral role in bringing this vision to life. This endeavor is more than a business; it’s a shared journey and a collective accomplishment.
What is a fun fact about yourself?
A fun fact that most people don’t know about me is that I spent over five years posting a Dad-joke a day on my Facebook page, and I have quite an arsenal of jokes to pull from.
What is the best piece of career or business advice you have ever received?
The best piece of business advice I ever received came from an unlikely source: my 93-year-old, teetotaller grandfather. He told me, “As long as you don’t become your own best customer, you’ll do well.”
Despite not being a drinker himself, his words held a nugget of wisdom that is particularly meaningful in the distilling industry. It’s a gentle reminder to keep my focus outward – creating remarkable spirits that others can enjoy, rather than keeping it all for myself.
His advice is a daily reminder that success lies in sharing our best with the world.
Going forward, what is next on the cards for Tan Lines Distilling?
Going forward, the vision for Tan Lines Distilling is as clear as a well-distilled gin – we want to be a name that Townsville is proud to put on the map. We’re not just about producing top-notch spirits; we’re about distilling the essence of our community into every bottle.
Our next steps involve expanding our offering beyond our current lineup. We’re eager to explore and incorporate local and native flavours, reflecting the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage of our region. Imagine sipping on a spirit that captures the unique character of Townsville – that’s the experience we aim to deliver.
But it’s not just about what goes in the bottle; it’s about what we give back.
We’re committed to creating a lasting legacy that supports Townsville and its communities. Whether it’s through local collaborations, community initiatives, or simply by being a business that our town can rally behind, our goal is to make Tan Lines Distilling a source of local pride.
In essence, we’re charting a course towards a future where our spirits are not just known for their quality, but also for the positive impact they have on our community.
Main image – Aaron Rieniets, Owner & Founder of Tan Lines Distilling.
Images Credits – All images supplied.
Read our earlier story about Aaron and Tan Lines Distilling: Gin O’Clock for Tan Lines Distilling, as well as our story about Rockpool Pavilion (home of Tan Lines Distilling): Iconic Building Gets a Facelift.