Want to start your own liquor company?

Go to Moonshine University. Really.

glasses

If you’re interested in becoming a chef you might consider the Culinary Institute of America, so why not a school to teach you the craft of making liquor. Well, there is such a school. It’s part of Distilled Spirits Epicenter and you can find the website here.

So, the first stop in becoming the next booze business tycoon is the school.

Next, they have a number of different businesses to help the wannabe craft distiller. One is called Grease Monkey Distillery, which is designed for use by everyone from entrepreneurs to industry experts, and is equipped to distill spirits of all kinds. Kind of like a do-it-yourself still using state of the art equipment.

bottling line

What good is an outstanding, crafted liquid without a vessel to put it in? Well, then avail yourself of Challenge Bottling. It is a highly

flexible bottling line that is versatile enough to handle smaller production runs, challenging projects, and various packaging requirements. In other words, they are contract bottlers.

Let’s go back to Moonshine U. No, they don’t teach you to find a remote spot in the woods, set up a still, cook the mash and drive like hell to outrun the revenuers.

cookerInstead, they have a fairly comprehensive 5-day program that I think is impressive. The curriculum runs from learning the fundamentals, to the production of rum, whiskey, vodka and gin, as well as general management covering all aspect of marketing, sales and distribution. It isn’t cheap folks ($5,500) but I’m guessing it’s well worth the money.

mashAside from the aspiring liquor moguls, the school is a good place for marketing and sales people to learn about the liquor business and see more of the production landscape. At Seagram, we had such a program at the Lawrenceburg KY plant, which was very popular. Absolut had one in a town called Åhus, Sweden, which was both educational and afforded the opportunity to eat herring. (Hey, don’t laugh it was world-class herring.)

Seriously, this is a very worthwhile endeavor in the heart of the Kentucky. Distilled Spirits Epicenter has an endorsement by virtue of its membership in the Kentucky Distillers’ Association as the group’s first-ever Educational Distillery member.

About the only thing they don’t do is teach you how to get lucky and produce a winner. That’s up to you.

 

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Do different types of liquor have different effects on you?

liquor bottles 2Fact or fiction? Physiological or psychological?

What do you think?

I’ve been researching this topic lately and have been thinking about it ever since I got into the booze business.

When you talk to consumers, many have clear cut answers such as, “tequila makes me crazy,” “whiskey makes me angry,” “gin makes me sad, must be the junipers.” My favorite, that I found online, is… “I’m allergic to tequila. Last time I drank it, I broke out in handcuffs.”

Whether in focus groups or with friends, these beliefs are strongly held and generally tied back to a memorable occasion. Usually, it’s based on a particular episode of, ahem, being over-served or the maiden drinking voyage. But, misconceptions play a big role – there is nothing in juniper to lead to sadness and even if there were, the distillation process would eliminate it. Similarly, the agave plant from which mescal is distilled (tequila is a type of mescal) has nothing to do with mescaline.Alcohol is alcohol

Sorry folks, alcohol is alcohol. The differences one experiences from different types of liquor (and alcohol in general) have, in my opinion, little or nothing to do with the liquor itself. There are many other factors at work.

What about the congeners (the substance produced during fermentation of alcoholic beverages)? While red wine and dark spirits have the greatest amount, they are present to different degrees in white spirits. They also are more related to the morning after than getting you to slur, “I love you man” during an evening’s indulgence.

How about the mixers used as a possible explanation for the difference? Tequila is consumed as a shot half the time and with sugar laden margarita mixers the other half – do these play a role? Rum mixed with juices, sugar or cola can affect the impact. Maybe it’s the tonic in your G&T.

I think the culprit is the mood, occasion and situation you are in while drinking. If you’re planning to get hammered, or the situation calls for it, you will. If it’s been a tough day and you’re looking to unwind and mellow, what you choose to drink will have that result.

mixedSo, in effect, it’s in your mind rather than in your glass or bottle.

Here’s something that sums it up. I found it online at io9, a blog by Gawker media:

…The question of whether mixers or congeners affect our experiences with different alcohols seems almost inconsequential; if you wholeheartedly believe that a tequila is your one way ticket to Bedlam, there’s probably not a whole lot that can be said to convince you – or your body – otherwise.

What do you think?

 

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How a Chilean Wine came to the US via China…and won awards

labelsDon Mateo Wines started with three global entrepreneurs, a passion for wine making and a vision to become world class.

So, what’s so special, you ask, lots of aspiring winemakers out there.

Yes, but how many have won four awards at the recent Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) convention? And, how many have had a journey that began in China?

I first met the partners running Don Mateo Wines in late 2010 and was immediately struck by their business acumen, gained in global trading, and applied to the wine world. Their story is interesting.

Andy Lam and his brother Matthew were successful exporters of various products and commodities to Chile from China. Over the years, the currency exchange swings hurt their business and so they turned the ship around and began importing wine from Chile. Their passion about wine helped, and they began buying vineyards and wineries. Added to that was the patience and tenacity to develop top quality wines. They hit the Chinese wine market at the right point in time and the business flourished._MG_0417

You can’t be a global wine player without the US market, so a third partner, Peter Loucks, entered the picture and applied his overall business skills to the wine business. Peter is smart and a quick learner so it’s not surprising that he soon realized that, unlike China, the supply of wine (Chilean and others) exceeded the demand. Consequently, growth here would be an uphill battle. Further, the mandatory wholesaler tier has become more and more difficult to deal with, as in “take on another wine brand, are you kidding?”

But, he knew that despite the hurdles, he had some key brand equities and assets. For one thing, Don Mateo is a memorable brand name for a Chilean wine and the brand symbol is both interesting and notable to consumers.

Maoi

As you can see, the symbol/logo is the Moai (pr. mo-eye). These Moai are the monolithic statues of Easter Island, off the coast of Chile. According to their website “they reflect our commitment to discovery, craftsmanship and passion. These three elements have been the guiding principles for Don Mateo wines from Chile.” Might even stand for the three partners behind the venture. You never know.

If you asked the brand owners what is the single most important asset of their wines, their answer is most likely to be, the wine. Trust me folks, these are outstanding wines. But, in case you don’t believe it, think about the medals they won at the WSWA – three silver and a double gold.

silver and gold

Here’s the irony. Despite the entrepreneurial approach, despite their marketing and branding and, despite the high quality and good value, you would think wholesalers would be beating a path to their door. Instead, getting wholesalers to take on the line has been slow and difficult. Such is the state of the booze business and the plethora of brands on the market.

But, hey, the Moai on Easter Island have stood the test of time, so why shouldn’t Don Mateo Wines.

For you former Seagram folks out there… It might interest you to know that Jim Reichardt introduced me to them and their New Jersey wholesaler is Sam Ellias.

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