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Producer Profiles

Tony Gugino, Distiller at Waypoint Spirits

Photo for: Tony Gugino, Distiller at Waypoint Spirits

13/09/2022 Tony Gugino, Distiller at Waypoint Spirits shares his distilling journey & day-to-day role.

What has your distilling career been like? Tell us a little about your background.

My distilling career started about 4 years ago when I was hired as a part-time assistant distiller with Waypoint Spirits, this is where I learned the basics of proofing, blending, and packaging. The company then closed its doors during the pandemic and went through an ownership change, and in that ownership change, I was offered the position of full-time distiller which I accepted in October of 2020. From there I have hit the ground running by revamping the old recipes, refining our procedures, and releasing 12 different spirits and 2 RTDs this past year. I currently run 2, 500-gallon hybrid pot stills and also a 150-gallon column still.

How do you think the Spirits industry has evolved?

I think the spirits industry has evolved in that we are accepting new processes, and new flavors and starting to embrace craft as a whole. People are realizing that there are craft distilleries in their towns or cities and have started to explore them more, and they get to see what is unique to their location through distillation.

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Tell us a little about your day-to-day role.

Day to day for me changes and I love that. But typically you will find me in the production space working on new recipes, trying out new ideas in the test stills. Currently, I am working on some past-date beer from a local brewery that I am good friends with and distilling it to make a hopped whiskey. I will let it rest in a new 30-gallon #4 char barrel from Adirondack Barrel in New York, and I am very excited. I have opened 2,980 cans and have another 3,000 to go!

What's unique about Distillery that you like?

What’s unique about distilling is that there is only one way to get the alcohol out of your mash, so there are not many secrets in the industry. But what I do like is how each distiller has their own take on the equipment preferences, where they like to see copper touch their product, and how they treat it afterward is what makes each of us uniquely different.
What were some of the challenges you faced when you distilled your first spirit?

The challenges I faced when I distilled my first spirit could be a book in itself, from stuck mashes and stills puking to very low yields and off-flavors. You think of something that could have gone wrong, and I have probably done it. For each mistake I have made, I have made sure to keep track of what I did to cause that so I can learn from it and be better the next time. Those who do not make mistakes are not truly learning.

Image: Waypoint Spirits Distillery

Image: Waypoint Spirits Distillery

How do you think a distiller can help drive marketing and sales personally?

A distiller can help with marketing and sales by living their product and brand. For me, it is tough to think of taking the distiller out of the production facility to go help with sales. Their job is to ensure that the product is coming out to their standards and is consistent with their flavors.

What are some of the essential skills required to distill?

The most essential skill for a distiller is patience. Patience with your fermentation, distillation, and proofing will provide you with a better spirit. Being meticulous in note-taking on each of your runs, whether it is a ferment, stripping run, spirit run, or proofing down, all have their nuances, and the better you can recreate what you did before, the better and more consistent your product will be.

Define a good distiller.

A good distiller is willing to put the care and time into their product. Distilling is not a fast-moving industry; spirits take time and effort for them to stand out. Make critical cuts and ensure that you are collecting what you would want to drink yourself.

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What advice would you give to future distillers?

Advice to future distillers is not to be afraid to try something different. Yes, there are tried and true methods to our madness, but those that can create something unique without fear of bending traditional practices will thrive. There are people putting seaweed in gin now, and I have to tell you, it is fantastic!

Which is your go-to drink, and what is the perfect setting you enjoy it in?

My go-to drink is a gin on the rocks with a splash of tonic, no fruit, best enjoyed on or at the edge of the water with a fishing pole in hand.

What do you do when you are not distilling?

When I am not distilling, you can find me in the woods or on the water enjoying what mother nature has given us.

Image: Tony Gugino, Distiller at Waypoint Spirits; Source: Instagram

Image: Tony Gugino, Distiller at Waypoint Spirits; Source: Instagram

What is your idea of a good life?

A good life is one you enjoy, and there is no set standard for that!

Header Image: Tony Gugino, Distiller at Waypoint Spirits; Source: Instagram

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