31/01/2023 I am learning a lot about web3, NFT, and crypto. I want to sell a barrel of brandy as NFTs.
Tell us a little about your background and journey into distilling
I grew up in the wine industry at my family's winery. I was blessed with the opportunity and privilege that started with a goal of a science degree and landed me a degree in creative writing. I graduated from UC Riverside and returned home to work at the family winery, where we eventually concocted the crazy idea of starting a distillery. I fell in love with Brandy and made it my mission. So here I am. That's the short version.
Your current role and what does your day look like?
Distiller. Looks like paperwork and learning a lot about web3 / crypto. I want to sell a barrel of brandy as NFTs.
What inspired you to become a distiller?
Maybe it was the show Boardwalk Empire -- I think it's that show that made me fall in love with the idea of the roaring 20s. Maybe it was the show Breaking Bad that re-invigorated my love affair with science maybe it wasn't TV. Could it be the time that I finally fell in love with some of the scotch my dad offered me - a Laphroaig 10yr, when I finally learned to appreciate the peat? I don't know. When does someone fall in love with the mystique of the world of booze? Ultimately, it was when we saw an opportunity in our industry and I ran with it.
What are some of the most important skills for a distiller?
Record keeping. Paperwork. Diligence. A discerning, clean (and sober) palate. A good nose. Connection with the "real world" (consumers) and appreciation/understanding of what they're looking for. The ability to "fight the hype" and progress forward with innovation. The willingness to fail, and fail miserably. Basically an entrepreneur with the hospitality radar of a bartender and the attention to detail of a wine critic. I let you know when I become one.
How do you think a distiller can help in driving marketing and sales personally?
A hands-on approach to the front of the house is a requirement. Must actually interact with customers. Must actually go into "the trenches" and keep in touch with the consumer mindset and culture. Must attend events and be willing to be a public-facing figure, because, without your customers, your product is NOTHING. Must work in-house with the attitude of "listening" and be willing to stifle your opinion of how "you" think it should be.
Define a good distiller
Someone who appreciates what defines a good leader, and has a killer palate/nose to boot.
Image: Dida’s Brandy; Source: Dida's Distillery
What is the hardest part of a distiller's job?
What's your elevator pitch to a bartender when pitching your brand
Everyone wants bourbon. I don't make bourbon. I make brandy, which I call "bourbon with flavor". And if you don't love it, I'll leave
What are the current challenges the spirits industry is facing according to you?
Regulation left over from the prohibition era, control states, and a lack of transparency in labeling/branding -- which the TTB is not suited to rectify.
What skill or topic you are learning currently and why?
Web3 and NFTs -- because I believe pretty much everything will be tokenized in the future, and I believe that consumer packaged goods are ripe to benefit from the technological opportunity of blockchain technology.
What is your idea of a good life?
When I'm able to tell my kids that "I'm not going to work, I'm going to the distillery" (stole this one from my dad, because he's able to say he's not going to work -- he's going to the winery)
Which is your go-to drink and what is the perfect setting you enjoy it in?
Brandy on the rocks while doing the dishes and giving my wife's reflection in the kitchen window that "yeah I know I'm the best" look.
Your favourite 2-3 books?
1) Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure (Donald Kladstrup, Petie Kladstrup)
2) Proof: The Science of Booze (Adam Rogers)
3) Whiskey Distilled: A Populist Guide to the Water of Life (Heather Greene)