Selection Guidelines Base Selection Standards: › An individual (not a business) › A distiller (active or retired) › Having the fundamental skills in distilling, blending, fermentation, aging, etc. › Recognized as a quality producer › Distillery size is not a consideration (craft or macro)
How did you get interested in distilling, and what led you to start Du Nord Craft Spirits? I knew I wanted to run a business. I’d heard enough bad things about business owners and thought, “Why not? I think I can do it better.” But I didn’t really know what. I had been a homebrewer for about 15 years, but there were just so many breweries, and I didn’t want to have to make these huge, high-alcohol beers. A friend of mine suggested, “How about a distillery?” I had already started getting interested in maybe doing a little ’shining on my own. And then I thought, hey, this is a way to do it legally. Why not? Miraculously, my wife Shanelle agreed, and the rest is kind of history.
› Distillery ownership is not a requirement Education & Values: › A steward of knowledge who educates passionately › Fosters community › Collaborates › Not a “dick” (aka, no history of shouting people down, pretentiousness, bigotry, sexism, etc.) Innovation: › Willing to push boundaries while still understanding and learning from tradition › Not afraid to learn from failure
Before starting Du Nord, you were an attorney and a congressional aide in D.C. How do you think that experience influenced your work as a distiller and business owner? I think a law degree is a great degree if you’re going to go into business. What I did for a hot minute as a commercial litigator was come in after things have been broken. You get into this mindset of protecting yourself from everything that can go sideways in a business transaction. At times, I felt like that mentality held me back, to be honest. There’s so much of running a business that’s just about relationships and people. It’s really finding a balance between using the legal training, and then remembering you’re still a human who’s going to work with other humans, and sometimes you have to take a risk to build a real human relationship.
Advocacy & Leadership: › A leader in legislative or community issues and regulations (state/federal/guilds/ associations) › Industry advocacy to customers and others outside the boundary of the distillery › Celebrity status within the distilling industry is not a selection requirement
Selection Committee Nichole Austin, George Dickel Philip McDaniel, St. Augustine Distillery Jason Barrett, Black Button Distilling Jason Zeno, Porchjam Distillery Thomas Mooney, Westward Whiskey Amber Pollock, Backwards Distilling Company
Of your products, which one was the most challenging to create — and how did you finally figure it out? The one that took the longest was our coffee liqueur. It took almost two years to get that right. By that time, I already had a number of other products, and since I was the distiller, janitor, and every other job, I didn’t have that much time to work on things. Also, I had an idea of who I was going to name it after, and I could not screw this one up if I was going to name it after my favorite teacher. Louise Bormann — better known as Frieda — was more than a teacher to me; she was another mom, at a time when I was in kind of a rough patch in my life. She ran the theater program. I was a tough kid, there was a lot going on, and she invested so much in me. I don’t drink coffee, which is a huge impediment if you’re going to make a coffee liqueur. So we needed to find people who did. I would just take samples out to the cocktail room, about eight at a time, and it ticked off the bartenders because I was giving out free booze, but we learned a lot from that. I have a tendency to take as much sugar out of things as I can, but it turned out you needed a little more sugar than I thought.
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The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.