338 – Getting Crafty in Upstate New York with Brian McKenzie of Finger Lakes Distilling
It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Finger Lakes Distilling since it’s one of the crucial components in Pursuit United. A few months ago, we booked some flights and took our recording gear to upstate New York. We sat down with their president, owner, and former distiller Brian McKenzie. We talk about his journey into whiskey and some of the challenges he faced as a craft distiller. We cover the unique aspects of being a craft distiller with a column still, their incredibly low barrel entry proof, and their infamous wheated bourbon.
- Catoctin Creek has been honoring that tradition of small craft rye whisky since 2009. Learn more at CatoctinCreekDistilling.com.
- Smooth Ambler builds on the traditional roots of American whiskey in West Virginia. Visit SmoothAmbler.com to learn more.
- Wilderness Trail is Sweet Mash Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Rye Whiskey distilled, aged, and bottled in Danville, Kentucky. Learn more at WildernessTrailDistillery.com.
- You can now buy Barrell Craft Spirits products online and have them shipped right to your door. Visit BarrellBourbon.com and click Buy Now.
- Spirits of French Lick is delivering the finest hand crafted Bottled in Bond bourbons. Check out SpiritsofFrenchLick.com.
- Total Wine and More is wonderland for wine, spirits, and beer lovers! Explore more in store or online at TotalWine.com.
- Heaven Hill Distillery has been lifting America’s spirit since 1935. Check out educational resources and sign up for their newsletter at HeavenHillDistillery.com.
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick (@fredminnick) talks about how much wood we consume from drinking bourbon.
- What’s changed since the last time you were on the show?
- Tell us about your journey in whiskey.
- Who were your first phone calls to get started in this industry?
- Peat or no peat?
- Tell us about your wheated bourbon.
- What challenges did you face at the beginning being a craft distiller?
- Talk about your experimentations.
- Since the wheat is so popular, why not just focus on that?
- What’s more fun, finishing or experimenting with mashbills.
- Tell us about your Master Distiller.
- Did you have any issues when starting the distillery?
- Why do craft distillers prefer certain stills?
- What other spirits are you creating?
- Talk about your seasoning process and why your barrels look so old after only 4 years.
- What kind of barrels are you using?
- Do you think the low entry proof contributes to having better tasting whiskey at a younger age?
- Where does the big bold fruitiness flavor come from in your bourbon?
- Tell us about your older aged bourbon that’s coming out.
- Does lower entry proof have an impact on taxes?
- What has your distillery done for the local community?
- Do you get visitors from all over?
- What are you forecasting for your distillery?
- Support this podcast on Patreon
296 – The Origin of Belle Meade and Nelson’s Green Brier with Charlie Nelson
Belle Meade is a very recognizable brand to bourbon enthusiasts. But how did that brand get revived and what’s the story behind Nelson’s Green Brier? We’re joined by Charlie Nelson, Co-Founder of Nelson’s Green Brier, who shares his story of stumbling into the bourbon business when his dad purchased a quarter of a cow.
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about helping others understand your bourbon hobby.
- What’s your best halloween costume?
- How did this journey begin?
- Talk about building your business plan.
- Do you consider Belle Meade your flagship?
- When using old labels from the archive, did you have to get them re-approved?
- What is your DSP?
- Where did you get your recipes?
- Talk about building the Belle Meade and Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery brands.
- Tell us about the success of the Belle Meade brand.
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288 – How to Scale a Brand on Sourced Whiskey with McCauley Williams, CEO of Big River Distilling
Building a brand on sourced whiskey is difficult. When you’re not the one distilling the product, it’s hard to be price competitive. At the same time, you’re at the mercy of the market on barrel availability so it’s hard to determine the continuation of a product. In this episode, we’re joined by McCauley Williams, CEO of Big River Distilling, who is behind brands like Blue Note Bourbon and Riverset Rye. We talk about how to run a large scale business that relies on sourcing and how you protect the brands flavor integrity for the future.
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about empty bottles.
- What game show would you want to be a contestant on?
- How did you get into this business?
- What was the first step to start a spirits business?
- How did you raise capital to make this happen?
- Tell us about your brands.
- Did you have a proof of concept?
- How do you select a distillation partner?
- Talk about the competitiveness of the sourced market.
- Tell us about the pricing of sourced whiskey.
- How do you differentiate your products?
- Why 93 proof?
- How do you get a brand to market?
- Any states you’ve seen success in that you didn’t expect?
- Which is a better ROI, liquor stores or bars/restaurants?
- Do you experience any frustrations with acquiring packaging materials?
- Any other frustrations with the business?
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267 – Putting the High Malt in Bourbon with Tim Piersant and Grant McCracken of Chattanooga Whiskey
What does it take to put all your money on the line, ignore the experts, fight the law, and spend years experimenting with different mash bills and barrels? That’s what Tim Piersant, CEO, and Grant McCracken, Head Distiller, of Chattanooga Whiskey did. Against all odds, they launched a bourbon that features Tennessee High Malt. We talk about the early successes and challenges of the business and get into the whiskey itself.
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about SRPs.
- What kind of music do you like?
- Tell us about your background.
- How did you get into whiskey?
- Do you have a favorite kind of beer?
- When did it become legal to distill in Chattanooga?
- Tell us about the early days of the business.
- How did you fund the business?
- How did you decide what kind of whiskey you wanted to make?
- Talk about the experimental distillery.
- Why did you decide to use malt?
- How did you know it would have future potential?
- How did you recreate the process to scale up?
- How did you know when it was ready to be released?
- Tell us about your entry and distillation proof.
- Talk about the high proof version.
- What can we expect to see in the future?
Support this Podcast on Patreon
256 – Inside the World of Woodinville Whiskey Co. with Brett Carlile
For today’s episode, we traveled to Woodinville, Washington and sat down with Brett Carlile, Co-Founder, Distiller, and Lead Hose Dragger of Woodinville Whiskey Co. Brett gives an inside look at how him and his best friend, Orlin Sorensen, built one on of the most explosive craft brands on the market. It starts with an idea, enlisting late great Dave Pickerell to provide guidance, and good luck. Their whiskey began turning heads and led to an acquisition by Moet Hennessy. Get insights into their production process and their aging facility, which is a few hours away from the distillery and has a Kentucky-like climate.
- Du Nord Benefit Discussion Panel: https://youtu.be/-fuH8aSQVhw
- Du Nord Fundraiser: https://www.gofundme.com/f/minnesota-poc-business-support?utm_medium=copy_link&utm_source=customer&utm_campaign=p_lico+share-sheet
- Distilling Research Grants: https://distillingresearch.org/research/
- Barrell Craft Spirits Private Release Whiskey: https://www.barrellbourbon.com/privatereleasewhiskey
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about how the world needs a drink.
- How did you get into whiskey?
- How did you decide to start the distillery?
- Where did you learn to produce whiskey?
- Tell us about working with Dave Pickerell.
- What was your first distillate like?
- Why Woodinville?
- Where did you get your mash bill?
- Was it a success out of the gate or did you run into issues?
- How long did it take to be successful in Washington?
- What is the whiskey scene like in Washington?
- How long did it take to bottle your product?
- When did you realize you had good juice?
- Tell us about the whiskey.
- Why 90 proof?
- Talk about your barrels.
- Where are your warehouses located?
- Tell us about your rye whiskey.
- Talk about getting purchased by Moet Hennessy.
- What has the partnership meant to you all?
- What markets are you expanding to?
- What are your plans for distillery expansion?
- What are you trying to accomplish with the port finish product?
- How much of the product is lost to evaporation?
- How do you store the barrels?
- What do you admire about your partner?
- Any plans to make an older product?
Support this Podcast on Patreon
242 – Building a Colorado Whiskey with Michael Myers of Distillery 291
Michael Myers sits down to tell us his story of starting Distillery 291. He had a booming photography career, but while living in NY during the events of 9/11, it made him want something else. He found out early on that he liked whiskey, so like most of us who start off with something new, he researched and used his skills from a past farm life to make it a reality. Michael actually built his very first still on a tight budget and ended up using some of his photography equipment to create the still. From these humble beginnings, his whiskey has gone off to win many different awards and they are now expanding even further, creating a whiskey that is Aspen stave finished and authentic to Colorado.
- Maker’s Mark Solar Panels: https://www.wlky.com/article/makers-mark-now-powering-rickhouses-with-help-of-500-solar-panels/31017612
- Beverage Daily Article: https://www.beveragedaily.com/Article/2020/02/17/Alcohol-s-three-tier-system-slows-ecommerce-and-dates-the-industry
- Why Does Whiskey Taste Like Whiskey: https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-does-whiskey-taste-like-whiskey-an-excerpt-from-lew-brysons-new-book-whiskey-master-class
- Rate Our Podcast: https://ratethispodcast.com/bourbon
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about blended whiskey.
- When were you first introduced to bourbon?
- Where are you from?
- How long where you in Savannah?
- Let’s talk about your background in photography.
- Which more enjoyable, photography or whiskey making?
- Tell us about your experience with 9/11.
- How were your first attempts at making whiskey?
- Did you lean on any outside consultants?
- Tell us about building and designing your still.
- How much did it cost to build your still?
- What was your end goal when you first started?
- Tell us about your barrels.
- What was going through your mind when you first started?
- Did your photography career fund the whiskey business?
- Tell us about your awards.
- What is the operation like today?
- Was it daunting coming to Kentucky with your bourbon?
- Did you experience growing pains?
- What do you want our listeners to leave with about 291?
227 – Catching up with the Johns of Smooth Ambler
John Little and John Foster of Smooth Ambler are good friends of the show. We’ve had them on before and they’ve been doing a lot of stuff recently to keep their audiences engaged. They have a new video series, divulge their plans for future whiskey production, and talk about their latest launch of their MGP based Old Scout. Tune in to hear their take on what’s happened to American Whiskey in the past 2 years.
- KDA Press Release: https://kybourbon.com/2-barrels-for-every-kentuckian-distillers-top-9-million-barrels-for-first-time-in-modern-era/
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about blind tastings.
- Tell us about your video series on YouTube.
- What’s been happening in the past two years?
- When are you going to use the new make?
- What is the game plan for Rye?
- What’s the plan for the American Whiskey?
- Let’s talk about sourced whiskey.
- Do you see Big Level as always evolving?
- Do you consider yourselves a craft distiller?
- What impact has Smooth Ambler made in West Virginia?
- What’s the Whiskey Wagon?
- What benefits have you experienced from the Pernod Ricard deal?
- Where does the name Smooth Ambler come from?
223 – From Liquor Store to Distillery with Ken Lewis of New Riff
New Riff is a name that has become synonymous with bourbon lovers. You may have recalled our conversation with Jay Erisman, Vice President, back on Episode 072, but this time we get to speak with Owner, Ken Lewis, who drives a bunch of the decision making behind the company. It feels like an episode of How I Built This as we get to hear Ken’s story. From owning and hustling liquor stores to eventually selling all that to start a distillery, hiring some great people, and having a few strokes of good luck to put him in the position where he is today. Then we also get to hear about his thoughts on stickers and some future plans he has in store for New Riff as well.
- Jim Beam’s Historic Kentucky Home on Airbnb: https://www.travelandleisure.com/hotels-resorts/vacation-rentals/jim-beam-bourbon-historic-kentucky-home-airbnb
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about the top 5 states for bourbon besides Kentucky.
- What is your title?
- Tell us about your entrepreneurial spirit.
- How did you get into the alcohol business?
- How did you end up in Northern Kentucky?
- Do you have any regrets getting rid of your stores?
- How did you decide to sell Party Source and start a distillery?
- How did you get interested in bourbon?
- When was your first taste of bourbon?
- How did you find the team to get the business off the ground?
- How did you chose the mash bills?
- Tell us about the O.K.I. days.
- Do you still do contract distilling?
- So why did you release the bourbon at 4 years?
- How is such a young product so good?
- How did you get such a great location?
- What are your future plans for the bourbon?
- Tells us about the balboa rye.
- What do you think of the single barrel stickers?
221 – Blending, Finishing, and Sourcing with Joe Beatrice and Tripp Stimson of Barrell Bourbon
Today is all about Barrell Bourbon. We had Joe and Tripp back on Episode 164, but it’s time we get an update on what’s happening with this team. We talk more about the flavors they are pulling from different states of distillation and how that goes into the blend as well as hearing about their newest release of the American Vatted Malt Whiskey. We then talk about some gripes with the TTB, take another stab at online sales, and then look to the future with new dovetail offerings while potentially phasing out other products.
- Bourbon Warehouse made out of shipping containers: https://www.wdrb.com/news/wdrb-video/bourbon-warehouse-made-of-shipping-containers-planned-in-j-town/video_100e2934-e0ca-5335-a956-83f9d9a9150a.html
- Bourbon Pursuit Yelp Collection: https://www.yelp.com/collection/Si779eiZUmjGomZP2pZLTg
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about barrel proof bourbon.
- What’s new with Barrell?
- Tripp, what is your role?
- Do you taste every barrel?
- What flavors are you looking for?
- Do you think every batch is significantly different?
- How many barrels does it take to get the right flavor?
- Tell us about Batch 18.
- What is your ratio of barrels from each state?
- What notes do you pull from KY, IN, TN
- Where do you get the barrels?
- What makes up an American malt whiskey?
- Is the TTB creating new categories for you?
- How do you decide what to blend?
- Why do producers have non-disclosure agreements?
- How many employees work at Barrell Craft Spirits?
- Did you envision this growth?
- What challenges have you faced?
- Are distributors knocking on the door for the next batch?
- Any plans for Barrell Vodka?
- Are you pro online sales?
- What’s next?
- Is it hard to make a new label for every product?
- Any plans to phase any products out?
- Is sourcing rum similar to bourbon?
- Why rum?
- What do you think is the next it category?
- Have you considered using armagnac?
- Tell us about Dovetail 3.
- What’s the difference between finishing and aging?
- How much product is left in the finishing barrels?
- What are you passionate about?
- Any plans to distill your own product instead of sourcing?
218 – The Contract Bourbon Business with David Mandell, Co-Founder of Bardstown Bourbon Company
Some people thought it was crazy to build a business doing 100% contract distilling. David Mandell, Former President and CEO of Bardstown Bourbon Company, told us this back on Episode 019. Four years later, we catch up with him to see how the operation has tripled from its original plan. This podcast covers what it takes to be a client of Bardstown Bourbon Company and how they are making 40 different mash bills for them. From the business side, we talk about building a destination for visitors and what it takes to find the right talent pool and keep employee retention. We look into their recently launched bourbon line and what the future has in store for more collaborations.
- Barrell American Vatted Malt: https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190827005179/en/Barrell-Craft-Spirits-Releases-First-Ever-American-Vatted
- NAWR post on 21 states violating the constitution for shipping laws: https://nawr.org/twenty-one-states-in-violation-of-constitution-after-tennessee-wine-supreme-court-case/
- Bardstown Bourbon Company’s new CEO: https://www.thespiritsbusiness.com/2019/09/bardstown-bourbon-co-names-new-ceo/
- Bardstown Bourbon Company new Visitor Experience: https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/bardstown-bourbon-company-opens-immersive-visitors-center-experience-300914083.html
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about glassware.
- What’s been going on since the last time you were on the podcast?
- What is Bardstown Bourbon Company?
- What kind of brands do you work with?
- What technology have you implemented in the distilling process?
- Talk about building Bottled & Bond Kitchen.
- How did you find the right staff?
- Do you see an end of investing into the business?
- Tell us about your innovation.
- How did you decide to get into this business?
- How many locations did you scout?
- What do you do for employee retention?
- Tell us about your bourbon.
- What’s the next phase for the Fusion line?
- What about your vintage whiskey?
- Where do you see the business going in the future?