Building a Bazaar not a Cathedral*

Both of our distilleries, Psychopomp Micro-distillery and Circumstance Distillery, run almost entirely on open-source software. It has been this way from the beginning . In fact, the philosophy of open source permeates most of what we do.    

The idea of ‘open source' originated in software and that is where the term is most familiar. In essence, software is open source when the source code is freely available. This means anyone can use, modify and re-distribute the software.

I have always been inspired by the open-source model for 4 principal reasons. 

The first reason is that there is nowhere to hide. If there is an error in the software, if it’s insecure, or contains malicious code, it can be found. The source code is freely available. This means open source projects are generally more trustworthy.
The second reason is that open-source projects are based on collaboration.. There is a recognition that the intelligence of the community is greater than that of any individual. Projects build a community of users and developers that can identify and solve issues quickly and efficiently.

Efficiency is the third reason. In a closed-source environment resources are allocated to protect what is considered to be owned. In an open-source environment no resources are wasted on protectionism and are allocated to the project or community.

The fourth reason is that creativity flourishes, both within the project and outside. The community’s solution to a problem are freely available and can influence other projects far removed from its original application.

So, the open-source model is a way to leverage the intelligence of a community so the project is efficient, stands up to scrutiny, remains creative and can influence well beyond its own sphere. As a result the open-source model is slowly being adopted beyond software, particularly in hardware and engineering projects, but also in other areas.

So how can Psychopomp Micro-distillery and Circumstance Distillery embrace opens source ideas more widely? A broader definition of open source is needed. For us, open source is a philosophy of collaboration whereby others are encouraged to fork, modify, discuss, and contribute to an ongoing project, and it is these principal we try to apply.

At Psychopomp Micro-distillery our ongoing project is taking gin recipes in interesting directions whilst preserving what we consider to be the essence of good gin. At Circumstance Distillery are ongoing project is pushing the boundaries of grain spirits and cane spirits. How do we encourage others to fork, modify, discuss and contribute? This begins with transparency and continues with community. The distilleries are entirely transparent about what we are doing and how we are doing it. Our gins have no ‘secret botanicals or ‘special methods’, and you can learn how to make our signature Woden gin at our ‘Distil your own gin’ sessions. At Circumstance each bottle has a full description of the ingredients and process used in its making available from the website. Because of our transparency and openness, Psychopomp has spawned a number of gin distilleries. After transparency comes community. We try very hard, and say ‘yes’, whether that be a request to shadow one of our distillers for a week, or help with an idea for a new rum. This has brought us many amazing collaborators, all of whom want to discuss and learn, and modify what we do to fit their needs. These collaborators include chefs, coffee roasters, tea blenders and completely unrelated businesses. They have all contributed their intelligence to our projects and have benefited from them in return.  

We hope are distilleries never become ‘Cathedrals’, quietly working in isolation and preaching a single message. We want to work in babbling chaotic bazaar where the many voices inspire each other, becoming miraculously coherent.

* The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary (abbreviated CatB) is an essay, and later a book, by Eric S Raymond.


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