Jan 1, 2012 - MANUYA!
Manuya is Tahitian for 'Cheers'!! Sidni and I were there on our honeymoon this time last year, so it's a special memory for us. It's amazing that another year has come and gone. I always like to take some time and reflect on what transpired over the last year and on what opportunities await in this new year. As usual, some of the best (and worst) things come unplanned, but that's what makes life so exciting. I also think that it offers great perspective to reflect on how I've personally grown. How am I better than I was a year ago? What do I still need to work on? Etc, etc.
After I retired from futures trading, we left Chicago and moved here to St. Louis. 2011 saw the genesis of StilL630, and now 2012 will see the fulfillment of that dream. It's taken longer to get where we are than I'd hoped it would, and I'm sure it will take longer than I plan to get where I want to go. But with enough passion and effort, and all your help and support, I know that eventually we'll get there.
So here's to the best year yet! I hope that 2012 proves better than you hope and you find it full of good health, good friends, and good spirits!
Jan 3, 2012 - Not a Great Start…
Well, I guess 2012 isn't off to the blazing start I'd hoped for... But that's fine, the best things in life have to be worked for and earned. This whole endeavor to open a spectacular craft distillery grew from a feeling in my gut. I wasn't satisfied with my life. I'd always dreamed of starting my own business, being my own boss, and making a living off my own hard work. And after 7 years of trading, I had a great condo, married to the girl of my dreams, and had a circle of amazing close friends. But I wasn't satisfied with my life. Trading wasn't fulfilling enough for me. I knew I wasn't living up to my potential, I needed something more.
It was very hard to walk away from such a stable life on a good trajectory. I was with a great company and liked my bosses and co-workers, trading could be frustrating, sure, but it definitely had it's perks and I didn't have much to complain about. But after months of soul-searching, I knew I would never be happy if I didn't follow my gut instinct. I knew I had to move on.
Like I said, it was very tough, but I had to trust instincts. And I can't ignore them now either.
There were some issues with the way the lease proposal process was handled. Again it's tough because I really like the building and can easily envision it as the home of StilL 630. But unfortunately my gut is telling me that this isn't the right situation. And therefore I must force myself to walk away and keep looking. So, I've tabled that promising location for now to continue the search...
Jan 18, 2012 - Falling Down
Though I pray for a different ending than the great film "FALLING DOWN", I feel like Kurt Douglas' character as he shouted, "I'm going HOME!". Awesome news: StilL630 finally has a home! I can't say enough about Mark Brennan, my realtor with SolonGershman, and the job he did helping me find my location. He worked tirelessly, but more important he was honest and treated my search with complete care and concern, as if it were a hugely important project. Well, it IS important to ME, and he acted like it was to him as well. He's a good man, and a true friend of the distillery. Can't wait to share a bottle with him... he's earned it.
So after months and months (and then a few more months) of searching, I've finally found what I think is the best location for the distillery. It's on a prime piece of real estate just south (and slightly east) of Busch Stadium. In fact, I expect to be able to hear the cheers of the crowd on hot summer days when I've got the windows open! (and let's hope for another season like the last one! 12 in 12!) And I hope that we'll get lots of visitors who stop in on their way to/from a Cards game. I think a stop at the distillery would make for a great addition to a great day at the ol' ballpark!
Back to the matter at hand... This interesting little building was born a Hardee's, went vacant, then was home to a florist, and soon will evolve into the home of the best little distillery in the world! That's my humble hope at least.
The current tenant still has time left on his lease, but once he's out I'll start on the remodeling and licensing. It's exciting to have finally completed one huge task, and to finally be able to move on to the next. And one day, almost on the distant horizon now, I'll be able to 'flip the switch' and start making that sweet, sweet nectar of life!
Jan 23, 2012 - Firsts are Always Exciting
We've gotten our first bit of real, live public press! It's not super long, but it's still really exciting for us. And it's in a great magazine too, one that we get delivered: FEAST Magazine! Here's a link to the article: http://www.feaststl.com/online-exclusives/the-feed/ article_5a19d5a8-4608-11e1-9939-001a4bcf6878.html#.Tx3TftnQw2w.twitter
This piece is basically just a small introduction, but it's still really exciting for us! We've been working so hard for so long, and with so much still left to do, sometimes it's pretty tough to avoid getting overwhelmed by the daunting challenges we face. But, by God, that's what our Indomitable Spirit is all about: staring our challenges in the face and relentlessly overcoming them. Never giving up. And little things like this press release help rekindle that flame and give us encouragement to climb higher. So thank you FEAST Magazine, we hope this is the start of many great articles to come!
Jan 26, 2012 - Maverick Gunslinger?
Just today, FEAST Magazine put out another article on us! You can find it here: http://www.feaststl.com/online-exclusives/the-feed/article_1f84c810-486c-11e1-8a2b-001a4bcf6878.html#.TyHU9ed1eBc.twitter I met with Brandon Chuang, the FEAST writer, at Tucker's in Soulard, and we had a great conversation over lunch. Brandon's a super nice guy and a big fan of spirits too. It was a very enjoyable interview.
I'm really excited about this piece because it gives the reader a slightly longer look behind the curtain and shares more of my own personal background. It scratches the surface on the passion that drives me and why we won't make vodka.
I laughed when I read how they described me, but I guess it must be pretty spot on. According to Distillery Friend Casey G: "David Weglarz: a 'Maverick Gunslinger'? Oh, absolutely." But I'm excited about being able to share my passion with others who loves craft spirits. I'm excited to try new things, wild and crazy ideas that the establishment isn't willing to try. And I'm sure some of my experiments won't turn out so great... BUT... it will all be worth it for the ideas that do turn out as truly great ones. After all, that mindset worked out pretty well for Edison.
But this is my life. The only one I get. So I'm going to make this the best damn life I can.
And if that makes me a Maverick Gunslinger... then so be it!
Mar 4, 2012 - Blood and Sand
Sidni and I went to Blood and Sand today for their Don Q Cocktail Competition. As always at Blood and Sand, the food was good and the drinks were delicious! But it was a real treat to experience 19 of St. Louis' best bartenders mixing up masterpieces using the same base spirit, in this case, tequila. It was a really fun afternoon and so interesting to see such a wide variety of cocktails conjured up from the same starting point. There was one in particular made by Lauren from Taste that used carrots and cilantro (something I'd never have thought of) that was exquisite. At the end of the day, the champion was TJ from Blood and Sand for his cocktail: The Fix. Well-deserved I might add. It was a great time and Sidni and I left dreaming of one day in the future when one of StilL 630's spirits is the choice liquor for the cocktail competition!
Mar 18, 2012 - Erin Go Bragh!
Happy St. Patrick's Day! This was our first St. Patty's Day in St. Louis (first for me/together, 20-something for Sidni), so we decided that we had to go to Dogtown and check out the celebration... and we were not disappointed! It was a beautiful day filled with thousands of friends new and old, wildly decorated floats, and a general air of raucous enthusiasm. Now I'm not Irish, but I absolutely love the music (in fact, I was listening to it for hours on end while painting several rooms in our house over the previous couple weeks), it's just great music with hauntingly beautiful fiddles. The pride of the people for their beautiful homeland is so clear, you feel like you know it yourself. And of course, any excuse to drink whiskey is great by me! All in all, it was a great St. Patrick's Day in Dogtown, can't wait for next year! Well done St. Louis, well done indeed.
Mar 20, 2012 - Going Once….Going Twice…Sold!
When the old Hardee's moved out of our building years ago, they left behind some 'relics' from their operation. Mainly stainless steel fryers, oven hoods, prep tables, dish washers, bun warmers and heaters, etc. I put them up for sale on craigslist and luckily got a surprisingly strong response. Now I'm happy to say that as of today, after a lot of greasy and heavy lifting, we've succeeded in selling them all off without me having to drag any of them to the junkyard. So if you ever find yourself in Macomb, IL, stop by the BBQ Pit and while you're enjoying some of their delicious 'Cue, you can admire some of the old equipment that was once in our distillery!
Mar 25, 2012 - Let the Demolition…Begin!
For the past two days, I've been tearing down the drop ceiling, lighting, and ductwork in the building. Now today I'm going in there and going to start ripping up the counter and tearing down walls like it's 1989 in Germany! I've got a 30 yard dumpster arriving on Wednesday, so there will be some long, hard days ahead. But that's just fine by me. Those walls don't stand a chance when confronted with my indomitable spirit! BEAST MODE.
Mar 28, 2012 - It’s all about the Benjamins, baby
I'm proud to announce that as of today, we have finally secured our financing for the distillery! I just met with the last investor and he's committed! So now, with our bank loan and some private investment in our great and noble cause, we have the capital to launch the business and see it through. Talk about a huge weight off my shoulders... Now I can focus on other important things, like gutting the building, build-out, and applying for all our myriad licenses and permits... Not to mention producing spectacular products! We're no where near the end of the road, but we have cleared yet another major hurdle and that's worth celebrating. So now you'll have to excuse me while I go open one of my special celebratory bottles I've been saving for just such an occasion...
Mar 20, 2012 - Demolition: Complete
It's been a long, dirty week. But damn it feels good to say that I've completed the demolition phase of this project! I had a great guy named Paul, who worked with me and helped in the heavier aspects of cutting pipes and wall studs, for which I lacked the necessary equipment, but other than that, I dominated that place myself. And if felt good to be in there, working with my hands and getting dirty after all these months of planning and crunching numbers. The building was a huge mess, but the dumpster showed up 5 1/2 hours late on Wednesday. But I relentlessly filled it up late into the night. When I left, it was 80% full and I was worried about fitting the rest in there, let alone the prospect of others less scrupulous filling it with their own refuse overnight. When I arrived the next morning, I found that the dumpster divers had indeed been there... But instead of filling it further, they'd scavenged and removed some things, leaving it only 60% full! This turned out to be a great blessing because I was just barely able to fit in the rest of the trash as it was, and definitely wouldn't have been able to if it had remained as full as I'd left it. But I did fill that dumpster, filled it good and hard. And when I left for the day, the building was totally cleaned out and swept. The distillery is revealing itself more and more all the time. Demo phase is complete, and now it's ready for the construction and build-out phase to begin soon...
Apr 7, 2012 - Extra, Extra!
We've been fortunate enough to have a few articles written about us already, but I was honored when Feast Magazine invited me to be part of their article about the emergence of craft distilling in Missouri. Well, that was back in February, but now the April Issue of Feast Magazine has come out and right in there is that great article and several pictures, one of an array of bottles with Big Jake White Dog Whiskey featured prominently, and another of all the local distillers with yours truly tucked in there for good measure! So get out there and pick up a copy of the April issue. Or if you're not in the St. Louis area, check it out online at http://www.feaststl.com/this-months-feast/feature-articles/article_91edcd42-71fd-11e1-994c-001a4bcf6878.html
Apr 13, 2012 - 2012 ADI Conference - Louisville, KY
It's a good thing I finished the demo so quickly because on Saturday I traveled to Louisville for the 2012 ADI Conference. Last year it was held in Portland, which was a blast, but I was glad this one was in Louisville because that meant I got to stay with our close friends Andrew and Amy Smithka, who live there. The conference itself was a success. I got to tour several distilleries: Four Roses (really cool spanish mission architecture), Alltec, BarrelHouse, and (one of my all-time favorite bourbons) Woodford Reserve. The Conference started at the Brown Hotel in Louisville, an incredibly gorgeous old building with an interesting history (there was a flood there in 1937 that completely flooded the first floor. People were paddling in on boats and a bellhop caught a fish from the second floor!). But most of the conference was held at Huber Orchard and Winery over in IN. Also home of the Starlight Distillery, where I attended one of their hands-on rum workshops, which was itself very interesting and informative. It was a great opportunity to meet like-minded people, hear industry experts like Dr. Jim Swan, Dave Pickerell, and (one of my personal heroes) Darek Bell speak. Plus, it was perfect for me because they had booths and representatives for every kind of vendor a distillery could need. I was able to learn, ask specific questions, and make good contacts. And on top of it all, I got to sample many of the hundreds of spirits that were submitted to the judging. There are some people out there making some really incredible spirits and I hope that next year, that list will include StilL 630! Good people, good spirits, good times. Thanks ADI! And a special Thank You to Andrew and Amy for allowing me to invade their home for the week!
Jun 29, 2012 - Moving Equipment!
Last Wednesday was a big milestone for StilL 630 Distillery... we finally moved in our mash cooker, fermentation tanks, chiller, forklift, and still! It feels good to actually be at a point where we've moved in equipment. There is still some electrical, plumbing, and general construction to be done, not to mention the piping to hook up all the equipment, but at least things continue to visibly progress.(click through to see full pictures) Forklift & Chiller loaded up for transport
Tanks loaded for transport!
Tanks loaded for transport!
Entering St. Louis!
Tanks tucked away in the corner of the distillery! Can't wait until they're making that sweet, sweet nectar!
Entering St. Louis!
Tanks tucked away in the corner of the distillery! Can't wait until they're making that sweet, sweet nectar!
Jun 30, 2012 - Happy 630 Day!!
It's our very own holiday! Originally, way back when we were first launching this dream, I had hoped (planned) on throwing our Grand Opening party on this day. It would've been the perfect kick-off day for our new distillery here in the heart of St. Louis. Unfortunately, the timeline just hasn't worked out as hoped. To update you on our progress: We're still waiting to hear back from the TTB (the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau, the arm of the Federal Government responsible for permitting distilleries) about our license application. This is the first and most crucial step on our licensing road to becoming a working distillery. They are currently quite backlogged at the moment in reviewing applications, but with some luck, hopefully we'll have our DSP (Distilled Spirits Plant) Permit in the next couple months. At which point we can start the application process for our State and then City permits... If you ever want to climb a mountain of governmental red tape, opening a distillery is a great way to go...
If it were just a matter of getting the building ready and hooking everything up, the distillery would probably be open by the end of July. But as of now, we're optimistically shooting for an opening in early/mid Fall because of the lengthy and time-consuming licensing and permitting process. We just want to get up and running and start producing delicious whiskeys, rums, and bourbon!! (not to mention having a positive impact on the local economy and creating jobs... something I feel like this country could really use right now!)
Things are moving along, just not as fast as we'd hoped. But rest assured that a year from now, on 6/30 2013, we'll be having our first personal holiday party, and you'll be invited! And who knows, depending on when we finally get the green light from the government, we might even have some aged rum and whiskey ready for the celebration!
So Happy 630 Day! Hope you're enjoying some spirits!
Jul 27, 2012 - Indomitable Spirit of the Olympics
What is more indomitable than the Olympic Spirit? Across centuries and time zones, borders and languages, the spirit of the Olympic Games transcends our differences as we unite to celebrate our kindred spirits.
From Still 630 Distillery, to the farthest reaches of the globe, mankind shares an innate love of competition and desire to be the best. We cheer on the athleticism as much as we praise and respect this lofty display of commitment that all these athletes share. Gaining strength from the possibility of failure. Only by risking defeat and disappointment can they bring victory within reach.
Very few among us are willing to make such sacrifices and dedicate their lives to the pursuit of human perfection in their chosen field. Years of hard work, discipline, and commitment to a goal, that is what these athletes personify. And that, as much as anything else, we celebrate during these games.
And as spectators we like seeing that in the athletes, we want to see it, for it reflects that which is in all of us. And who doesn't need to be reminded of the best in all of us, the good and wonderful potential in humanity as a whole? Especially when we are bombarded by images and news of the worst on a daily basis.
We learn intimate details of these -otherwise strangers- lives. We adopt them as national heroes and lay the weight of our expectations on their shoulders. And in return, we live and die with them, crushed by their disappointments and thrilled by their triumphs, our hearts collectively beat with theirs.
The stories that mean the most to us, the ones that resonate most strongly, are those of hardships overcome, obstacles and challenges met head on and relentlessly overcome. More than the natural gifts or athletic prowess, we can identify with that. Our hearts respond to that refusal to give up, the courage and strength to persevere when times are difficult, and the sheer will power to push ourselves farther than we ever thought possible.
These athletes, at the pinnacle of their field, most clearly display that sacred inner flame. The fire inside all of us, kindled bright and strong and nakedly on display for the world to see. They represent the greatest human attribute: the Indomitable Spirit. And for that, we salute them.
So from all of us at StilL 630 Distillery, to all of you across the world: CHEERS!!
And Go Team USA!!!
Aug 17, 2012 - TTB APPROVAL!
Finally! Formerly known as the ATF, the Alcohol and Tobacco Trade & Tax Bureau (known as the 'TTB') is the arm of the Federal Government tasked with regulating the alcohol industry. And now, after 5 months of waiting, we have finally received our Federal approval of our Basic Permit application for our Distilled Spirits Plant (DSP)!! This is a very exciting and huge step forward for us. During this time, we've been slowly working on remodeling our building and getting things set up, but this has always been one of the largest and most formidable hurdles that we knew we had to face. I'd love to say that we're ready to open our doors now, but that's not the case. We still have a little more construction to finish up, but more importantly, we still have to obtain our COLA (Certificate of Label Approval) from the TTB, along with all pertinent State and City permits before we can officially begin operations as a fully licensed and legal distillery.
So, while there's still a good deal left to go, the starting line is in sight! We are striving to be up and running this year, hopefully sometime this fall if the permits come through quicker on the state and local levels... Please bear with us, we'll make it worthwhile once we get the still in operation!
We just had to share our good news, now time to have a cocktail to celebrate!
Sep 9, 2012 - St. Louis Classic Cocktail Party
Thanks to all our new friends who stopped by our table in Lafayette Square Park this past Saturday evening during the St. Louis Classic Cocktail Party! It was great to meet all of you and share a little of our excitement with you. Wish we'd have had some of our spirits to let you sample... Hopefully soon! The evening was perfect, great weather, good music, and thirsty people. It was a lot of fun and there were some delicious cocktails being poured! Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us, hopefully before you know it, we can talk again over a taste of Big Jake White Dog Whiskey!
Dec 20, 2012 - REHAB, baby!
Transforming this old building from an old Hardee's-turned-flower-shop into the worlds pre-eminent micro-distillery powerhouse hasn't been easy. But it has been fun... most of the time. For over 9 months, I painstakingly gutted, cleaned, wrecked, removed, cleaned, and otherwise voided the building of all things unnecessary. I filled two 30 yard dumpsters along the way, as well as removing ancient relics from the former Hardee's glory days, such as stoves, deep fryers, warmers, soda machines, walk-in coolers, etc. Walls were destroyed and new ones put up, weak points made strong. It was a big undertaking, and at times I had to bring in some professionals, but in the end, as I knew I would, I prevailed over the building and my will was done. But it felt good to get dirty and use a sledge hammer, it felt good doing hard manual labor working towards my dream. I've truly invested my blood, sweat, and tears in this venture and I've emerged on the other side even more dedicated to seeing my vision to fruition.
So take a look at some of the pictures I took along the way: http://still630.shutterfly.com/pictures/136
Then come in and see the place for yourself as it now stands, and be amazed at what one man's indomitable passion can accomplish!