I started thinking about making spirits around seven years ago. I was working at an ad agency, one of a few marketing positions I had. I was working on big brands, and was frustrated by the work. I wanted to make something real.
Around the same time, I went to Scotland for my uncle George’s funeral. He was my mother’s brother. In my family, we buy a good bottle of single malt scotch when someone dies and we drink it over the course of a year, on important dates. After the service, my cousin pulled out a bottle of Glenrothes 1984, which was the same bottle that I had bought when my dad died. In that moment I realized that I wanted to make something serious and significant, that people would drink ta important moments in their life. I wanted to make whiskey.
I returned from Scotland and started building a business plan, going to distillery school, and looking for investors. In 2011, there weren’t a lot of interested or qualified investors because of the financial crisis. Whiskey was going to take a lot of money. We didn’t have a lot of money. We decided to focus on the liqueur category, because it seemed like everyone else was focused on vodka, gin and whiskey and we didn’t have the money for whiskey.
We wanted to focus on using real ingredients- no artificial color or flavor, no high fructose corn syrup, no chemical additives. We wanted our ingredients to have touched dirt. We also decided that because we were working in the liqueur category, we would not make the base. We would use different techniques to modify the base- distillation, infusion, maceration, compounding and other techniques.
We started learning to make liqueurs- our first focus was on single note liqueurs. We released a line up of five flavors- all using real ingredients. We still make four of the flavors and have two of them in national distribution. We thought if we could learn how to balance one flavor with sugar and alcohol, then we could move on to more complex products.
Like most new distilleries, our first products weren’t very good. They didn’t mix well. We started sitting with bartenders, putting our products in front of them, and trusting their opinions and advice. We started making improvements- in techniques, in balance, in mixability. We found a number of bartenders around the city, who we trusted to help guide our efforts.
We released an improved version of the single notes, with a higher ABV and made a switch to agave nectar, which has been our go to sweetener ever since.