Craft Distilling…

There’s been a lot of talk lately about craft distillers across the country who are or aren’t making all their own booze — in essence, marketing brands rather than true distillers that buy booze from somewhere else and sell it. A recent article brings this discussion out in full (see article HERE). Being at the forefront of the craft distilling movement, I feel like I have a unique perspective to share.

I’ve heard all kinds of perspectives from within the industry. Guys as authoritative as Dave Pickerell (former Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark) readily acknowledge that it’s basically the only intelligent, economical way to get started in the business (listen to his appearance on the podcast UnderMyHost HERE).

For example, let’s say you were starting a restaurant and wanted to serve your own home-grown vegetables. You wouldn’t open it — pay all the utilities, the insurance, a full staff, etc. — only to not serve food for the first five years as you waited for your garden to come in. You’d buy your vegetables from somewhere else while you waited.

I for one, can fully understand and appreciate the strangling constraints of a tiny start-up budget. You can’t even begin to compete if you can’t stay alive long enough to do so. Craft distilling is unique. Its closest relative, craft brewing, is even fundamentally different in one key aspect: time.

A talented craft brewer (many of which we have here in St. Louis) can brew a beer in weeks that could rival or beat anything even the biggest global brewery could produce. However, with craft distilling, the enormous barriers to entry, time and money, are more significant. Even if the distiller creates a great spirit, there is no real shortcut to aging it appropriately to properly showcase the spirit.

I know firsthand how expensive and resource consuming it is to even distill a barrel’s worth of whiskey — and then to intentionally set it aside for months, years even, before you see the first dime returned upon the investment (and that’s if it’s good). And all that damn time, the greedy angels are taking their share! So I understand why a distillery would go that route. And I personally don’t feel appropriate to judge them for that. I’d rather judge whether or not I enjoy their spirits. And I think there are good, quality spirits being made in this fashion.

I’ve said from the beginning that my goal is to create a lasting distillery that my children will run one day, and their children after them. A distillery St. Louis can be proud of. And I’m proud to say that I distill, barrel, age, and bottle everything in house. Come on by and see for yourself!

RYES & SHINE – 2nd Annual 630 Day!!

On Monday, June 30th, we hosted our 2nd Annual 630 Day Party… The theme was ‘breakfast for dinner’ and ‘RYES & SHINE’ was a big success!  I’m so thankful to all the friends new and old who came out to the distillery, braving the heat of the first Heat Advisory of the year, to celebrate with us!

Kyle and I planned and prepared for weeks for this event, and it all paid off.  We had absolutely delicious food from Quincy St. Bistro.  Their head chef, Rick Lewis, created a fantastic plate consisting of red-eye braised pork belly, atop a bed of cheesy grits and greens, topped with a sunny side up egg.  I ate at least two plates of it!

When you think breakfast, you think coffee.  So Jacque DesMarais, a barista and coffee cocktail whiz from Kaldi’s Coffee, created a great cocktail: Over Easy (RECIPE HERE) that combined Kaldi’s Coffee cold brew concentrate, RallyPoint Rye Whiskey, Campari, and lime juice.  It was great.

And what’s breakfast without a bloody mary?  Not one I want to be a part of!  So I also created a variation on the classic Bloody Mary cocktail: the Bloody Jake.  Homemade Bloody Mary Mix, Big Jake White Dog Rye Whiskey, and celery bitters.  (RECIPE HERE).  According to the attendees, it was also a big hit.

We had Alpha Brewing Co here serving some of their beers for those who wanted something different.  They were pouring their Topaz Pale Ale and their Imperial Smoked Black Ale… which was special because it’s the beer that our joint collaboration is based on!  So that was a special sneak peek.

But the star of the evening, was the release of our brand new spirit: RallyPoint Maple Sunset!  It came into being as a single barrel of RallyPoint Rye Whiskey, aging in Missouri Oak barrels for 14 months before finishing it’s maturation in an ex-bourbon (Knob Creek Single Barrel), ex-maple syrup barrel (Sweet Sophie Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup).  The Wine & Cheese Place provided the barrel after they’d produced their Sweet Sophie and it added a spectacularly creamy and smooth maple syrup finish to the RallyPoint.  It’s truly one of a kind and will only last a short while.  Once it’s sold out, it’s gone for good.

If you can’t make it to the distillery or to the Wine & Cheese Place in person, the only two locations on Earth you can buy the Maple Sunset, then click HERE and you can buy it on the TWCP Blog and have it shipped to you!!

Again, we had a great night that wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of many people, specifically the folks at Yellow Ranger, Rick Lewis of Quincy St. Bistro, Paul Hayden of The Wine & Cheese Place, Alpha Brewing Co, and Jacque DesMarais.  Working behind the scenes was the indomitable Kyle Albertson, Adam Larkin, Sammi, Johnny, Kara, and others.  We really couldn’t have pulled off such a great event without you guys, so thank you from the bottom of my heart!

And THANK YOU to all you whiskey lovers who came out to support your local distillery.  It’s your great and continued support that keeps us going!

RallyPoint Maple Sunset

RallyPointMapleSunset

I know many of you have been patiently awaiting this release…  So I’m very excited to introduce our newest spirit: RallyPoint Maple Sunset!

If you don’t know the story behind the spirit, read all about it HERE!

There is a very limited number of bottles in existence, hurry in and get yours before it’s too late!

 

 

Mother’s Day

What a wonderful day this is.  A chance to focus our thoughts and energies on the most deserving of people: Moms.  We’re all here because of one, and while some are better than others, none of them ever get the thanks they deserve.

So I’d like to take a minute and talk about two of them that are near and dear to me personally.

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First, is my MILly, my Mother-In-Law, Dana.  She’s such a phenomenal woman.  She bikes crazy long distances and watches her grandson with pure joy and love.  She has one of the greenest thumbs and biggest hearts I’ve ever seen.  She’s one of my biggest supporters and I can’t thank her enough.  (PS. I’m sorry for my beard scratching you!)
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The other is my wife, Sidni.  The mother of our son who’s also carrying our second child.  I could write a novel about you and how amazingly wonderful you are.  But I’ll try to keep it simple by thanking you for being the spectacular, loving mother that you are.  I cannot imagine someone I’d rather have by my side raising our children than you.  You’re so strong, intelligent, supportive, and beautiful.  You inspire me to be the best version of myself I can be.  Thank you for that.

And I can’t forget the many other wonderful moms out there who deserve their own recognition!  I know this isn’t everyone I know, so forgive, me but I’d like to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to Nan H., Jill S., Patti H., Amy S., Bri S., Laura A., Courtney J., Les R., Janet W., Joan I., Jill W., Ronna P., Lisa M., Mary P., Cindy P., Annie B., Jamie G., Cori S., Pam T., Abigail P., Allison T. and every other Mother I love whom I’d too dumb to include.

And of course, my mother.  I love you and miss you, Mom.

A Very Special Birthday

I want to take a minute and get personal.

I want to wish an incredibly happy and wonderful birthday to my wife, Sidni!
Sidni & Mason
She is an absolutely amazing woman. She is smart, funny, loving, and beautiful! Perhaps best of all, she is a completely phenomenal mother. Watching her care for and teach our little guy has been incredible. She was an elementary school teacher (how else could she understand and put up with me!?) and is now focusing all that fantastic energy, patience, and love on our son. And it’s a true pleasure watching him blossom under her care.

IMG_1226 IMG_2150You mean the world to me, sweetheart. And I love you even more now than when I married you. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you and share the adventures that are in store for us.  Happy Birthday!

FEAST TV!

In early January, Cat Neville and the Feast TV crew came out to the distillery for a fun morning of filming.  I was honored to be featured in their wonderful program, but I was totally unprepared for the final product.  See for yourself below, they did a phenomenal job!  I am honored to have been included with St. Louis icons like Tony’s and Ted Kilgore’s Planter’s House.  Cheers to you, Feast TV!

It was Big Jake’s television debut as well… he can’t believe it!

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Fun times at the distillery

You know, sometimes it stinks being the guy in charge when you’re also the only employee…  It’s really hard to blame anyone else.  (those of you who’ve been in the distillery know there’s a certain cardboard cut-out who takes quite the verbal lashing from time to time)

And while the latest challenges haven’t necessarily been my fault, they’ve been quite infuriating.  First off, the clutch in my car gave out earlier this week, keeping me from making some deliveries and otherwise throwing a fork in my plans with time lost and costly repairs.  Secondly, the recent cold snap burst a pipe in the ceiling above the fermenters, bringing work at the distillery to a halt until we can get the pipe repair inspected by the city (next week).  I wish I could say that the burst pipe was responsible for all the water in the distillery, but with the snow melt and rain, water seems to be working it’s way in everywhere…  Quite infuriating if you’re me.

But in actual good news, I did have a great time with the crew of FEAST TV when they came to shoot a piece on the distillery for the emmy-winning show.  The episode with StilL 630, Planter’s House, Tony’s, and Hammon’s Black Walnuts will air on the Nine Network at 2pm on Sat Feb 1st.  Make sure you tune in!

Check out this awesome pic of the beast in his lair: FeastTV-BigJake

Miss Do It All

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while and I apologize to her for waiting…

One of the great people I’ve been fortunate to meet on this wild journey, Cori Paige, has received some well-deserved recognition.  Cori has been named as one of Imbibe Magazine‘s “Imbibe 75″ A list of the adult beverage industry’s top 75 people, places, and flavors to watch in 2014. (Imbibe Mag is definitely worth reading, FYI)

I got to know Cori through another friend (thanks Dennis) and have joined in on a couple podcasts for her show UnderMyHost (www.undermyhost.com), which I highly recommend if you have even a passing interest in booze and the colorful characters who run rampant in the industry.  UMH talks with all the top people (brewers, distillers, winemakers, mixologists, etc) in the craft beverage world and it feels like you’re just pulling up a bar stool to meet with old friends.  It gives great insight into the (sometimes twisted) minds of the very people crafting the products you love.

Here are the two podcasts I weighed in on, listen for free:  (Podcast 1) (Podcast 2)

UnderMyHost

But the podcast is just the tip of Cori’s iceberg… she’s founded, continued, and/or spearheaded many different projects, with more in the pipeline.  She’s got enough going on to keep a whole team busy, but she balances a new cocktail (she just created) in one hand, a laptop in the other, and a wit to balance it all out.

Aside from the stellar podcast, two of her best ventures going right now, or at least in the works, are her new, non-profit “Veterans In Craft” initiative and a craft beverage publication entitled simply: “CRAFT.”  I’m excited to get my hands on the first issue of Craft because Cori knows everyone in the craft world and so I’m sure she’ll have articles and pieces written by the cream of their respective crops.

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But it’s “Veterans In Craft” that I’m most excited about.  It’s a venture that I hold very dear.  It’s always been my plan, but it’s even more exciting now to make it a public initiative.  The goal is to offer training and assist in connecting returning veterans with those employers looking to hire them.  As a large group, we can do even more good and help offer another path for the deserving service men and women as they attempt to assimilate back into everyday life.

It seems to me that to help produce something that brings people together could be particularly helpful to our veterans, who’ve seen more than their share of ugliness.  A no matter who you are, a drink with friends (old or new) is always good for the soul.  If you’re a veteran or craft producer looking to get involved, please reach out.

Back to Cori though…  She’s one of the best people to follow on twitter (@UnderMyHost) facebook (Cori Paige) etc if you like craft beer/wine/spirits/cocktails.  And I look forward to the next time I can share a drink with Cori, that is if she’ll sit still long enough!  Cheers to you, Cori.  Thank you for helping promote all us knuckleheads.

2014 UPGRADE

Jan 1st, 2014

I always get excited about a New Year.  I choose to believe that the future is going to be better than the present, in a small amount because I work to make it so in my little corner of life, but despite all the evidence to the contrary, I believe that in the end the good in people will win out over the bad.  It would be a terrible existence to truly believe the opposite.

But a new year is a great time to pause and take stock.  What have you accomplished in the past year, what important milestones have you hit?  To look at how much you have to be thankful for.  To make plans for how you’re going to achieve your goals, how you’re going to evolve as a person, what new and interesting things you’re going to learn in this new year.  I believe in setting goals and then attacking them.  Which is partly why I like the new year, it’s a fresh opportunity to attack life.

I believe I’m a better person than I was 12 months ago.  Not by magic or simply surviving another year on this planet, but because I have consistently and relentlessly worked at improving myself.  Little aspects, little tweaks here and there, like snowflakes, eventually add up to something big.  And I’m nowhere near perfect – ask anyone who knows me well – but you can be damn sure that 2014 David Weglarz is a better version than the 2013 model.

2013 was a huge year for me personally.  There are many things that come to mind, but two tower above the rest.  After years of hard work, I finally realized the beginning of my dream when I opened my own business.  Even more important, my wife and I welcomed into this world our son.

I believe in personal accountability, so here are just a few of my goals for 2014:

2014 GOALS

-Be the best Father & Husband I can be
-Introduce 2 new spirits
-Double distillery output
-Have 30+ barrels aging on Dec 31st, 2014
-Celebrate St. Louis’ 250th Birthday
-Barrel Age 12 cocktails
-Throw a great 2nd Annual 630 Day Party!
-Go to 12 new (to me) STL restaurants
-Read 12 books
-Cook 12 new dishes
-Swim 24 miles, Run 120 miles, Bike 600 miles
-Lose 15 pounds (start 253)
-Obtain out of state distributor
-Blog & Social Media Current
-Launch Rum/Sorghum
-Have an intern
-Successful Mardi Gras
-Win Spirit Medal
-Celebrate Sidni’s Bday
-Celebrate Anniversary
-Celebrate Mother’s Day
-Complete 2 Short Stories
-Complete 4 Poems
-Write children’s book
-Catch up w/Journal before March 1st
-Frame Life Goals
-Go Diving
-Attend Kentucky Derby
-Attend Monon Bell Game
-Go Camping
-Go Rafting/kayaking
-Taxes done before March
-Visit Chicago
-Visit Indy
-Leave the Country
-Grow successful garden
-Increase Flexibility
-Make Stained Glass for (gift)
-Finish Climbing Picture
-Finish Guest Room (paint/hang pictures)
-Complete An Athletic Event
-No Procrastination, FWYS GOADI
-Support a Charity
-Volunteer
-Go through all basement stuff & clean out clutter
-Visit 5 old friends who live out of state

There they are. On The Record. Told you I like making a plan of attack. Now it’s time to Go Out And Do It.

Make it your best year yet.

Cheers,
David

Giving Thanks

All throughout the year I think about it, but given this specific holiday I figured it would be a good time to share those thoughts…

Sitting here (this was written Wed Nov 27th) in the distillery, working on my 20th hour of distilling in the last 23 hours, maybe I’m a little woozy from the delicious smelling fumes, but I keep reflecting on where I am and how far I’ve come.  And all of this modest success I’ve been blessed to achieve this year, is due more to everyone else than my own hard work.  Though I’m well aware I’ll fail spectacularly, I’d like to use this post to try and thank some of those people who’ve been instrumental in getting us to this point.

First and foremost, my wonderful wife for supporting, encouraging, and giving me a needed kick in the butt from time to time.  She’s been my cheerleader and my co-dreamer and it’s for us and our family that I’m trying to create the future we’ve envisioned.  Thank you, Sidni.  I love you.

I want to thank our parents, for their support and encouragement, sage advice and challenging me to rethink my plans to make sure I’m focused on what’s most important.  And for their help in the distillery and in all aspects.  I couldn’t have done it without you guys and it’s been incredibly special to share this journey with you.

To Jim, Dyke, & Ben, Thank You for your belief in me, you’re willingness to come along on this journey, and making the long trips to help out for various events.  I’m so excited that we’ll be able to toast our great success together in the years to come.  That will make it even more special.

To all our family and friends and friends who are family, thank you so much for you selflessness and willingness to help out.  Whether it was remodeling the inside of the distillery, bottling, cleaning, and just generally helping promote the distillery in any and every way possible, I sincerely thank each one of you.  I am extremely blessed to have the people in my life that I do, family & friends.  Know that I do not take you for granted, even if it may seem that way sometimes.

And perhaps most of all, I want to thank our fans.  You are the reason that I can continue to chase my dream. You great conneisseurs of whiskey, with your impeccable taste and discerning palate, you’re willingness to try and then embrace a tiny start-up company like this… is truly phenomenal.  Without your support, we couldn’t keep doing this.  So I thank you.  And believe me when I say that it’s only going to get better, so stick around!

And to everyone else who’s helped me and the distillery out, I truly appreciate it.  Please don’t be mad at me if I didn’t name you specifically.  It’s unintentional and only because I am indebted to so many wonderful people for helping in myriad different ways that my tiny brain can’t keep everything straight.  Know that you are appreciated.

This venture has led me to run-ins with some unsavory folks, but those few are dramatically outnumbered by all the kind, sincere, and genuinely good people that I’ve been fortunate to come into contact with.  It’s been an amazing path so far and I absolutely love it.  I pray that it continues on, for I will.

THANK YOU.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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