JJan 31, 2016 - Great Lengths…
I just got back from Louisville. It was an odyssey of a trip and it all began with a spirits competition. The American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) holds an annual Spirits Competition each year where they bring in an expert panel of judges to perform a blind judging of all the craft spirits entered. Last year they had over 150 different distilleries from all over the United States submit spirits. They are judged and awarded medals on a point system (which means it's possible for multiple medals to be awarded in each category). This year's judging is taking place at Huber's Starlight Distillery in Southern Indiana, just over the river from Louisville. We did incredibly well last year (READ MORE HERE) and this year StilL 630 has entered a total of eight spirits into the competition with high, but guarded, hopes.
I had to send the spirits in three separate packages, and of course one got damaged. Even though it was blatantly marked "FRAGILE" "GLASS" etc, it got damaged and one of the bottles broke. UPS opened the package and saw it was alcohol so they refused to deliver it, saying that either I or the recipient could come claim it before they destroyed it.
I'd been going back and forth with some of the super nice people running the competition, Teresa McDaniels specifically, hoping desperately that they could have someone pick it up. As you know, it's been snowing pretty heavily lately, and the snowstorm that just passed through is currently blanketing Southern Indiana/Northern Kentucky right now... making it almost impossible for anyone from the ACSA to pick them up.
So later in the evening, after I finished a personal tour of the new Shriner's Childrens Hospital (which is fantastic, by the way!), it took me 45 minutes to inch my way back to the distillery (about 3 miles). The snowstorm was starting to hit heavily, but I finally resolved to go myself rather than have those spirits miss the competition. And at this point, I wasn't exactly sure which spirits were in jeopardy, which made the decision that much more difficult. I knew one was the Maple Sunset, and I finally found an extra bottle at the distillery (which saved me an unknown amount of hours from having to first drive back West to my house and then East to Louisville in this snow traffic).
So I jumped in my car about 6pm and 33 minutes later I'd managed to travel the three blocks and actually get onto the interstate. I arrived at my friend's house (with whom I was crashing) in Louisville a little before midnight, having driven basically on the wings of the snowstorm.
He was waiting up for me and we toasted my arrival (and my birthday, which happened at 12am) and drank for a couple hours before finally heading to bed! I got up the next morning, finally made it to the airport, finally found the right place, and picked up my package (Soulard Island Rum and Maple Sunset) and an hour later I was actually pulling up to Huber's.
The ladies there were extremely nice and visibly surprised that I'd dared to drive all this way to get my spirits into the competition. I'm glad I did though. And hopefully when the results are announced in Chicago at the convention in March, it will pay off in the form of medals... but we'll see!
I'm also fortunate that when my car slid off the country road leaving the distillery, that I slid into the ditch on the side of the road that DIDN'T have the creek. Luckily, I was able to carefully drive out of it and continue on my way. But it was a pretty stressful few minutes where I imagined being stuck on a rarely-traveled back road in southern Indiana... on my birthday. But I ended up making it back home without further incident.
Just felt like sharing some of the behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations of a little distillery and the dedication required. Fingers crossed for March...!!!
Mar 5, 2016 - 2016 ACSA Awards or “Dreams Manifest”
This year's American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA) Convention was held in Chicago at the Palmer House Hilton and it was a great event. Tons of informative speakers and topics, good companies offering useful products at the expo, but the best part is always getting to know the other distillers from all around the country. And how better to get to know people than with booze-fueled mingling!? And the best part is that these are the people who make all the great craft spirits! This is the industry group for the American craft spirits industry, basically everyone who isn't Jim Beam. If I remember right, there were over 200 distilleries from all over the United States. Awesome to meet and talk with people who are doing exactly what I'm doing and hear all their unique stories, challenges, and successes. I got to meet the actual guys (and ladies!) who actually make some of my favorite craft spirits. Very cool just from that aspect... I got to talk with some guys who've played a big role (whether they know it or not) in my personal story. First and foremost: Orlin Sorenson from the fantastic Woodinville Whiskey Co in Washington. I did a short 'apprenticeship' with Orlin and his partner Brett back when I was first getting started. At the conference, after his presentation with Jeff LaHue of Independent Stave Co (MO proud!) on the results of their long term barrel aging study, I got to talk with Orlin and it was really cool for me to meet with him now as, if not really equals, at least peers. I also got to talk with John Jeffries, of Sante Fe Spirits now, but I first met John when he was a graduate student in the distilling program at Michigan State where I took a workshop on distilling when I was first getting into this thing.
Now, I left the trading world to start this distillery because I wanted to make the BEST damn spirits I can. To grow it into a world renowned institution that is respected and loved (and enjoyed!) all over the globe and eventually on interstellar colonies. I want to be a 21st Century Liquor Baron. And at the same time, I never imagined or hoped that I would see the greatest heights of this distillery. I want it to continue to grow even greater long after I'm gone.
But the best part of these early years is that I get to write what will be the history of StilL 630. I am single-handedly creating the legend of company founder. Through my blood, sweat, and tears, through countless hours of passionate labor, and with my sales manager Adam Larkin beating the pavement relentlessly, we are building this company, this brand. And so each little success along the way is a great milestone and cause for celebration.
And once in a while in life, our hard work is rewarded and we are blessed to achieve bigger successes. Which brings me to Wed night and the American Craft Spirits Association's awards....
You can read a little about my trials and tribulations just getting my products entered into the judging HERE. But without making this a novel, I'll summarize the awards by saying that they were broken down into 5 categories: Vodka, Gin, Brandy, Rum & Whiskey. (The medals are awarded on a point system, so that's why there can be multiple recipients) The full results from the 2016 American Craft Spirits Awards can be found HERE.
Our first ever brewery collaboration (with Alpha Brewing Co) won us a Bronze Medal for our ALPHA ISBA! We also won Bronze Medals for our Soulard Island Rum and Soulard Island Smoked Honey Rum!
We won Silver Medals for our S.S. Sorghum Whiskey and RallyPoint Maple Sunset!
And then, we won a GOLD medal for our Double Barrel RallyPoint Rye Whiskey!!
I was ecstatic. Going into the competition, I kept telling myself that I was really being greedy imagining that we'd win any medals, let alone top the three medals we won LAST YEAR. But it turned out to be a damn good thing that I drove to Louisville in that snowstorm back in January, because that ensured that Soulard Island Rum and RallyPoint Maple Sunset were entered... and obviously won us additional Bronze & Silver medals! But to come away with SIX medals was incredible! It proves that last year wasn't a fluke, and that our spirits are legitimately great!
I couldn't believe it. Incredible. And indescribably rewarding and validating and reaffirms my belief in the righteousness of chasing your dreams.
And even better, we weren't the only Missouri Distillery to receive medals that night! Square One Brewery & Distillery, Woodcut Spirits, and Tom's Town Distillery all took home hardware! Which is awesome because I know these guys, we're friends, so I love seeing them succeed too!
But after the medals, the judges broke the classes down into categories (ie. Whiskey-wheat/single malt/bourbon/rye/liqueur) And these were based strictly on taste by the judges. And Double Barrel RallyPoint Rye Whiskey was named BEST RYE WHISKEY!!!
But then, somehow, it got better. They picked an overall best spirit from each class (vodka, gin, brandy, rum, whiskey). ACSA2016Awards-AnnouncementVideo
DOUBLE BARREL RALLYPOINT RYE WHISKEY WAS NAMED "BEST IN CLASS - WHISKEY"!!! This award was something I'd coveted from the first convention I went to years ago. I promised myself that someday I would win it. As I sat down to dinner that night, I saw the Best In Class awards sitting on the stage and I renewed my vow again. Having no idea that this dream would be mine in a couple hours!
It was an incredible evening and I still am trying to digest it. I can't stress enough how much of an honor this award is. To me, it's validation of my passion, the payoff of years of relentless hard work, the sacrifices our family has made to chase this dream. I could not be more grateful. And tasting through all the great spirits entered into the contest (which we did after the awards ceremony) it's an even greater honor because there are lots of people around the whole country making some fantastic craft spirits.
But there can be only one... BEST WHISKEY!!
Don't misinterpret, we still have a VERY long way to go to achieve my vision. The mountain still looms ahead. Now I'm going to do my best to use this award to help grow the company so we can bring our fantastic spirits to more people in more places. And to do that means to grow. So hopefully this is just the beginning of the next great chapter in StilL 630 history!
And with God as my witness, I'm going to manifest my dreams.
So cheers to outrageous success and to bigger and better things to come!
Mar 30, 2016 - 4th Annual 630 Day Party: RUMBULLION!
4th Annual 630 Day Party Thursday June 30th, 2016 5-9pm at StilL 630 Distillery 1000 S. 4th St., St. Louis, MO 63104
BUY TICKETS HERE $30 advance / $35 door
Food: 5:30-7pm - Spirits Unveiling: 6:30pm
We're gearing up for our biggest and best 630 Day yet!
This year's party is all about EXPEDITIONS and RUM. They go hand in hand, right!? Specifically my all-time favorite expedition: the immortal Lewis & Clark Expedition. And the inaugural release of our flagship line of rum: Expedition Rum!
So the name of this year's 630 Day is "RUMBULLION"! 'Rumbullion' is an archaic English term for a riotous good time! So come join us for exactly that!
St. Louis was founded at the confluence of two of the mightiest rivers on this continent: the Missippi and the Missouri. This strategic spot helped St. Louis earn the nickname "Gateway to the West" which inspired the Gateway Arch, an iconic monument recognizable worldwide, which then inspired us in founding StilL 630 Distillery.
The Missouri River is one of our great local natural resources and it's particularly important as the pathway for Lewis & Clark's expedition in 1804 that began to map the Louisiana Purchase. It's personally precious to me, as a raft guide and general water lover, because it is also the course for the world's longest and greatest kayak race: the MR 340. Which I have successfully completed in 2014 and will (foolishly) attempt again this July!
Therefore we are proud to announce that we have selected the MO River Relief organization as our charity partner for this year's 630 Day! They are a great group of dedicated citizens who strive to promote, protect, and clean up our great local resource. A portion of our proceeds from the event will go directly to River Relief. Learn more about this great non-profit and how you can make an impact HERE.
630 Day means new spirit releases, and this year takes it up a notch with two new spirits and the triumphant return of an old favorite!
We will be releasing our inaugural batch of our flagship rum line: Expedition Rum! This pure molasses rum was aged in new oak barrels and then finished slightly in our famed Double Barrel RallyPoint barrels and it's fantastic! (read more about Expedition Rum HERE)
S.S. Sorghum Whiskey! We our releasing the Second Batch of our most award-winning spirit! (read more about S.S. Sorghum Whiskey HERE) Just like Batch 1, it won't last long, so make sure you come get it while it lasts!
Our THIRD spirit release this 630 Day is the 2nd in our Brewery Collaboration Series! This year's brewery partner is the awesome Modern Brewery! Last year, we started working on this collaboration, featuring their delicious Biere de Garde (a french style 'keeping beer'-traditionally brewed in the spring and cellared until fall, we took this delicious beer and distilled it into an incredible whiskey. Intense candied floral and sweet notes make this unlike anything we've ever created before! And to complete the collaboration, Modern Brewery has been aging the same beer in some of our used RallyPoint Rye Whiskey barrels! So come out for 630 Day and taste both variations on the same alcohol side by side!
Modern Brewery, of the glowing light bulb tap handles, and one of the best craft breweries around is this year's featured partner! They will be pouring their RallyPoint barrel-aged Biere de Garde, which is named: Cambre de Garde ('cambre' is French for 'Arch'). They will have at least one more of their delicious beers on tap to sate whatever your thirst may be!
Our goal is to make 630 Day the best party of the year. To do that, we wanted to partner with the best chef in town, so naturally we called upon James Beard Award-winning chef Gerard Craft and his hot new restaurant: Porano Pasta!! Read what Eater.com has to say about Porano Pasta. Porano will be here serving up some incredibly delicious food to pair with our great new craft spirits and Modern Brewery's awesome craft beer!
This year, we're also proud to welcome St. Louis' own gourmet chocolatier: Rick Jordan! He has been named one of the 10 Best Chocolatiers in North America by Dessert Professional! So in-between drinks and eats, get your sweet fix with the best handmade chocolates in the country!
We're pulling out all the stops to make this the BEST 630 Day yet! So we hope you'll come down to the distillery on June 30th and help make it so! You don't want to miss this party, so get your tickets now and let's have a RUMBULLION!
Jun 13, 2016 - Unfiltered thoughts on Orlando
I had a conversation over the weekend that I can't get off my mind. I was talking with some people about the terrible hate-fueled tragedy in Orlando. I said something like "This motherfucker was an evil piece of shit who deserves to die, no question." The other person flinched at my language. And that flinch has been gnawing at me. How soft has our society gotten that some sounds are offensive? This worthless human being intentionally planned and carried out the worst mass murder in our country's history. He shot up, rather, murdered FIFTY random, innocent human beings who were out having a good time. I lack the words weighty enough to condemn this coward. He is the most vile form of filth. He and his thinking are a cancer to our planet. A cancer that must be ruthlessly eradicated. And it is not laws that will accomplish this. Laws do not stop evil men. Good men, willing and capable of violence, are the only thing that can stop evil men. And yet, at the same time this terrible tragedy takes place, we live in a world with millions of great, heart-warming stories unfolding. People living their lives, peacefully pursuing their dreams; people selflessly helping others; people striving to give their children more opportunities than they had. Countless, unreported good stories unfolding around us all the time. This is what we are fighting to protect.
Freedom, that is what we hold most dear and what makes this country so great. Freedom to love whoever you want, freedom to worship whatever you choose, freedom to pursue whatever life you want, freedom to be whoever you want. These freedoms are what was attacked. In no way, do I intend to trivialize the deaths of these poor people. My heart goes out to their loved ones. Again, I lack the words to appropriately condemn this act. But I feel it is vital that we also confront the reality of the situation.
I don't think this is gun-control issue completely. I am 100% for gun control as long as it means reasonable background checks and waiting periods. The reason for the 2nd Amendment was to allow the citizens to protect themselves from a government that can become tyrannical without opposition. Human history is really just a set of examples of this fact. Look at our current politics and the candidates. Does anyone think for a second that if these politicians could lock up their political enemies they wouldn't? How far is it from suppressing political rivals to locking up 'radicals'? How long until 'radical' expands into anyone who doesn't agree whole-heartedly with the platform? When the 2nd Amendment was created, the citizens had the same advanced weapons as the military, rifles, pistols, etc. Like everything, technology has advanced since then, and while I don't see a personal need for an AR-15, I will support any responsible citizen's right to have one. We all know, guns don't kill people. People kill people.
But this sonofabitch, the weapon was just a tool. He and the evil he represents are at war with our ideas. Ideas like 'innocent until proven guilty', equality of the sexes, freedom of opportunity, free love. This was not just an attack against a nightclub full of people. It is a blow against our Western way of life and against our society, which is not perfect, but it IS actively trying to improve. You can't tell me for a second that this country hasn't improved in the last twenty years. Or that we won't be even better twenty years from now. We will stumble on the way, but we will get there eventually, that is the beauty of our self-correcting society.
Then the problem becomes our "innocent until proven guilty" theory. Which I would argue is a great and wonderful thing that is infinitely better than the alternative. It is correct and all people should be afforded that protection. But it becomes tricky when someone is suspected of planning something terrible. Our intelligence services are great, but they are run by humans and they are not perfect. Like this fucker who was on the terror watch list. Apparently interviewed by the FBI twice. What that tells me is that he was suspicious, but the 'authorities' were unable to prove him guilty of anything. Therefore he was 'innocent'.
I can't offer any resolution or easy solution to this travesty. The real problem is fucked up people with radical hateful ideas. Thank God, they are a tiny minority in this world, and especially in this country, but the presence of any of them threatens the rest of us. This IS a difference of ideas. This is NOT a difference in cultures or religions that should be tolerated. This is right versus wrong. We, and our freedoms are right. Those who oppose these inalienable rights for every man, woman, and child are wrong. And must be stopped. By force if necessary. So I will Pray for the Orlando victims. As I pray for cancer victims. But just like our fight against cancer, while we pray, we need to actively try everything possible to defeat the disease. Including ruthlessly removing and eliminating the deadly mass so that it can't spread further.
Jul 1, 2016 - THERE WAS A RUMBULLION!!
Well, our 4th Annual 630 Day party has come and gone... and I am proud to say that it was a huge success and far and away our best 630 Day yet!! First and foremost, a huge THANK YOU to all who came out to support us! Also, I have to give deep, heartfelt thanks to our partners this year: Modern Brewery pouring delicious beers (their Cambre de Garde - the other half of our collab was a big hit!); Chef Michael Petres & Porano Pasta for serving up their scrumptious pasta!; to Missouri River Relief for helping us spread the message of conservation of our precious resources; and to Rick Jordan for stealing the show with his incredible chocolates! (If you weren't able to make it, then consider it something you owe to yourself to check out his forthcoming line of barrel-aged chocolates!)
We had a great turnout and while I tried my best to talk with everyone personally, I know that I failed to speak with many. So please forgive me, but know that I was truly touched by the outpouring of support and love that you all showed StilL 630!
It was a very important day for StilL 630, not only because it's our biggest event of the year by far, but this one in particular because we released (what I hope will be) two of our flagship products: S.S. Sorghum Whiskey and Expedition Rum. And if the reception they received is any indication, they have a bright future ahead!
As I tried in vain to articulate in my little impromptu speech, it's because of all the wonderful people who continue to support this small local business, that I am able to continue to follow my dream and keep making whiskey for a living! We still have a limited amount of our new release spirits available at the tasting room and very small allocations will be released to some of our best local accounts. So stock up on what you love while supplies last!
Also, special thanks to my sister Jennifer and my wife Sidni for all their handwork and help!!
As well as our interns (past & present) who were present and helped out in a big way to pull off this great day! Thank you Geno, Spencer, and Kyle!
Jul 11, 2016 - Small visits from big people
This Sunday I was honored to host a private tour with Patrick Garrett of Bourbon & Banter who brought with him famous Bourbon historian and author Michael Veach! Truly an honor to talk with him and attempt to pick his mind... but as the conversation processed, I found myself losing track of the myriad ideas the conversation spawned in my head! Great conversation and good spirits always makes for a great time! Cheers fellas!
Oct 18, 2016 - RPMS BATCH 3 SPECIAL RELEASE!!!
UPDATE: 11/4/16 BATCH #3 is SOLD OUT! You might be able to find a bottle lurking on a hidden shelf at one of the great local liquor stores for a little while longer, but we are completely out at the distillery. Like all great sunsets, they eventually end... we hope to make another batch one day, but there is nothing in the works currently...
It's been over a year since Batch #2 of RallyPoint Maple Sunset sold out, trust me when I say we feel the wait as long as you do, but great spirits can't be rushed. So we're incredibly excited to announce the long-awaited release of our Gold Medal-winning RallyPoint Maple Sunset, Batch #3!
We wouldn't be where we are today with our incredible, loyal fans and we've decided to use this awesome opportunity to show a token of our appreciation to our supporters!
We will officially release the spirit on SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29th AT 10AM ONLY AT THE DISTILLERY!! $45/bottle. Limit TWO bottles per person.
However, we are offering an EXCLUSIVE, PRE-RELEASE OPPORTUNITY to any and all of our fans who want to be the first to get their hands (and lips) on BATCH #3 of our famous RALLYPOINT MAPLE SUNSET a day earlier on Friday October 28th!
Here's the catch: to qualify for a pre-release bottle purchase (LIMIT TWO) on Friday, Oct 28th. YOU MUST BRING IN A BOTTLE FROM ONE OF THE PREVIOUS TWO BATCHES!! (bottle must be RallyPoint Maple Sunset, no other bottles are valid)
Our goal is to be fair and try to reward our faithful customers by giving them first access to one of our most beloved spirits. So even it you don't have an old bottle lying around, then you still have both Saturday and Sunday to come into the distillery and claim one.
Whatever bottles (if any) are left on Monday, Oct 31st, we will release out to our great accounts around St. Louis! But there is only one precious barrel of RallyPoint Maple Sunset and it certainly won't last long, so don't delay!
Nov 1, 2016 - BOURBON outside of Kentucky??
YES. Very much yes. And we're very excited to release our very first batch of bourbon: MONON BELL BOURBON on Nov 12th! For sale in the distillery on Sunday Nov 13th. The Monon Bell is an actual 300lb train bell that used to run on the Monon line between Greencastle, IN (DePauw University) and Crawfordsville, IN (Wabash College), when it was retired, it was donated to become the trophy for the victor in the annual battle between the two ancient rivals. It is one of the oldest and most storied rivalries in the United States, though it's small nature keep it relatively unknown outside the diehard alumnus groups. But every fall, in the last game of the year, the Little Giants of Wabash and the Tigers of DePauw square off in an epic battle for pride, for their schools, for the Monon Bell.
Our inaugural bourbon is named after that great game and is a tribute to the Indomitable Spirit at the heart of the rivalry. It's a high rye bourbon with a tremendous buttery nose and this edition commemorates the 123rd Monon Classic which will take place in Crawfordsville, IN on Nov 12th, 2017. The distillery release will occur the following day on Nov 13th in the distillery starting at 10am!
Facebook event info HERE
Dec 4, 2016 - DOUBLE BARREL RALLYPOINT - BATCH II
YES. I couldn't be more thrilled to announce the triumphant return of the Best Whiskey in America! (named the 2016 "Best In Class - Whiskey" by the American Craft Spirits Association. Read more HERE) Batch II of Double Barrel clocks in at a robust 121.2 Proof of pure, uncut, unfiltered deliciousness. This is StilL 630 in a bottle. Passion and intensity. Our spirit in spirit form. There are only 396 bottles (375ml) and they will go fast, so come out and get them. The release event is scheduled for Dec 16th starting at 5pm in the distillery. Limit 2 per person. $54.99/bottle.
Dec 5, 2016 - RALLYPOINT wins DOUBLE GOLD MEDAL!
In a cosmic coincidence, on the anniversary of the ending of Prohibition, we also found out today that our flagship Single Barrel RallyPoint Rye Whiskey was just awarded a DOUBLE GOLD MEDAL by The Fifty Best!!!
I cannot stress enough how awesome this award is and how humbled we are by the continued recognition America's drinking public sees fit to bestow upon us. I can only chalk it up to the fruits of relentlessly chasing your dream with an Indomitable Spirit.
Thank you for joining me on this incredible ride, stay tuned and stay thirsty because the best is yet to come! Cheers!!
Dec 23, 2016 - Expedition Rum Wins best Dark Rum
I just got word that the World Drinks Awards just named Expedition Rum the TOP dark rum in the competition from the USA!! Now it goes on to the final round of judging where all the countries' best are judged against each other to proclaim a final champion. The ultimate winner will be announced at the Whiskies & Spirits Conference during the World Drinks Awards lunch on March 30th, 2017 at the Waldorf Hilton Hotel in London. It's been an absolutely incredible year and this is one more unexpected victory! Talk about Christmas miracles...!!