CLCollectiveCOCKTAILCollectiveCOCKTAICOCKTAILCOLLECTIVECOCKTAILCOLLECTIVECOCKTAILCOLLECTIVECOCKTAILCOLLECTIVE
Podcast

Wyoming Whiskey With David Defazio

If you’ve been searching for a Bourbon that is a bit brighter, while still majestic, then Wyoming Whiskey might just be the liquid you’re looking for.

By: Tiff Christie|November 11,2021

When you think of Wyoming, you probably think of towering mountain peaks, wild rivers, and wide-open plains. It is a land of National Parks, of prairies and of cowboys. It is big sky country.

But near the centre of the state, near a little town called Kirby, this land is also gaining a reputation for bourbon. And while this liquid will seem familiar, it is not your typical Kentucky bourbon, but instead of liquid that reflects its environment.

It is a whiskey that’s true to the land from which it comes forged from the dry summer heat and sub-zero winters. It is a whiskey that reflects the plains, the skies, and a pioneering spirit.

To understand more about the barrels and the liquid they create. We talked to David Defazio from Wyoming Whiskey.

For more information on Wyoming Whiskey, go to wyomingwhiskey.com or connect with the brand on Instagram 

PIN IT

Read Full Transcript

Tiff:
When you think of Wyoming, you probably think of towering mountain peaks, wild rivers, and wide-open plains. It is a land of national parks, of prairies and of cowboys. It is big sky country.

But near the centre of the state, near a little town called Kirby, this land is also gaining a reputation for bourbon. And while this liquid will seem familiar, it is not your typical Kentucky bourbon, but instead of liquid that reflects its environment.

It is a whiskey that's true to the land from which it comes forged from the dry summer heat and sub-zero winters. It is a whiskey that reflects the plains, the skies, and a pioneering spirit.

To understand more about the barrels and the liquid they create. We talked to David DeFazio from Wyoming Whiskey.

Thank you for joining us, David.

David:
Well, thank you for the invitation.

Tiff:
Now you're a lawyer by trade and the founders, Kate and Brad Mead are ranches. How did you all end up in whiskey?

David:
Well, they are ranchers. Brad is actually a fourth-generation cattle rancher here in the state, but they're also attorneys. And they provided me with my first legal job back in the fall of ’96. And one thing led to another, I ended up going on my own, but they were very much a second family to me. And in June of ‘06, Brad had invited me over to their office with a proposal, he had said over the phone. So walked into this old house here in Jackson, which as you could imagine, there aren't too many old things out here, it is the west, but it's this creaky old wooden house. And I walked into his office and Kate comes in behind me and closes the door and the suspense is killing me. It was my Catholic guilt. What did I do now? And Brad broke the tension by saying that he and Kate had decided they wanted to make bourbon. And so I laughed in his face because I think it's was just letting go of all of the nervousness I had and I said, you're serious. And he said I am. I said, well, how the hell do you make bourbon? And he said, well, that's for you to figure out. And that's how it all got started.

Tiff:
And that must've been quite a steep learning curve for you.

David:
Yeah, it was. I had no history in manufacturing. I had no formal training in whiskey making. Obviously, I had had plenty of Jack and Cokes in college. And my dad had introduced me to some finer bourbons and said, these are for sipping, not for shooting David. And Brad and I had developed a taste for wheated bourbons over the years. And I think that's ultimately what brought the two of us together on this endeavour.

Tiff:
What do you think actually was in their mind? What made them think that bourbon would be a good thing to produce?

David:
Well, the Mead family has a long history in this state. Brad's grandfather was a two-term US Senator and Governor of the state, Brad's brother just finished a couple of years ago, his second term as governor. And they had been primarily involved in cattle ranching and not much else and the law of course, but when they sold a piece of property here in Jackson in ‘03, I think, they wanted to diversify their interests. And Kate had originally suggested that they start a vineyard, which Brad said, I think it was his, this is his exact quote, “Well, I think that's a stupid idea”, because in Wyoming and you can't really grow too many varietals, but he said, you know, we have all the grain that we need to make bourbon. And he, and Katie agree, that was the way to go. And so this is one way to diversify and get into something that, you know, was at least a very strong interest of Brad's.

Tiff:
Now, obviously, you had the task of working out how it was all going to work. How did you go about it?

David:
You know, I kinda came out at the way I would come at any legal issue. It was, you know, identify that the issue or the problem and then just take it step-by-step. And what made the most sense at the time was to go get immersed into the bourbon culture and go to the Kentucky bourbon festival in the fall of ’06. That at least exposed us to it from a consumer's perspective. But then over the next many months, we had some meetings with some folks like Max Shapiro at Heaven Hill, Rob Sherman at Vendome Copper and Brass, and they started educating us on the nuts and bolts of what it would really take. And so it just was step by step by step, as we went, I'll tell you that we were dissuaded from undertaking this endeavour because Max Shapiro had said that it would be far more difficult and expensive than we could possibly imagine, but undeterred, we soldiered on.

Tiff:
Now, I imagine the landscape for bourbon distilleries would have been very different back then than it is now.

David:
Uh, you know, there was no craft distiller handbook. There was really only one or two other distilleries that we came to learn had started. So we, you know, we couldn't really take it off of a template of any sort. So luckily we were able to hire a gentleman by the name of Steve Nally. He had been with Maker's Mark for 33 years, and we pulled him and his wife out of retirement. If you were to look at Maker's Mark and you know, how they designed their distillery and their rack houses and whatnot, we just took that and sized it down tremendously, drawing upon the traditions of Kentucky with your column and then pot stiller, or doubler behind it. And just, you know, a 10th of the size of what they were. And that's how we got started.

Tiff:
So even though you’re a thousand miles away, there is a little bit of Kentucky in your DNA

David:
Without question. And I would say Steve Nally brought a lot of that to us. He brought through traditional distilling techniques that we use to this day. I actually lived in Kentucky when I was a kid, which adds nothing to the story, but I always liked throwing that in there. And I would say that besides honouring the traditions of Kentucky, we've been defiantly, not a Kentucky bourbon. And I don't say that with a chip on our shoulder or anything like that, but it's, we are a Wyoming whiskey. There are so many things that go into the name and, and what causes us to have our own distinct flavour profile, which, you know, we could probably get into here in a little bit, but what I'd like to think is we honour the traditions of the past and we build upon that in a new direction. And that's where we find ourselves today.

Tiff:
And did it end up being a lot more work and a lot more money than you thought it was going to be?

David:
Oh, without question. You know, there are things that are within your control and there are things that are outside of your control. And we made every mistake you could make. I like to say we stepped on every rake in the field, but we never stepped on the same rake twice. You’ve got to age your bourbon long enough. You know, you have to get it to a point of maturity where it's not just acceptable, but it's outstanding. And we released our first product too young. And it was our first distillate. When you start making anything, it's going to take you a little while to work out some of the kinks. And we most certainly could have improved everything. If we would just be a little more patient, maybe thrown out some of our first distillate to let Steve kind of get used to the system and then start barreling, as opposed to barreling the very first distillate that came off the still and expecting it to be fantastic, which it was not. So I would say there were little things like that that we could have, or maybe not so little things like that, that we could have improved upon, but there are things that are beyond our control, like distribution, and that's just an animal unto itself, that a little company named Wyoming Whiskey had no idea what we were up against when it came to figuring out how to get our product distributed across the country.

Tiff:
Yes, it's a difficult task even for the most seasoned player, I believe.

David:
It is. And we've learned a lot. I don't know how much you're aware of our recent partnership with Edrington, but Edrington, you know, who has Macallum, you know, they have their own struggles with making sure that they're getting distributed. Not nearly what we were dealing with, cause I will say now that we are part of the Edrington family, there has certainly been much more attention paid to our brand with all of our distributors. And I think that's just simply because we're riding on the coattails of Macallan, but everybody has their own struggles. And I think at the end of the day, it's the bottom line. You're making a distributor money, they’re going to pay you the attention and if you're not, you're nothing to them.

Tiff:
Well, I was trying to deal with 50 little countries in terms of their laws and regulations.

David:
I was just going to say that they each have their own rules and their own subtle or not so subtle nuances that you have to deal with. And, it's definitely a struggle, but I'm happy that Edrington is handling that for us. Now I can tell you that

Tiff:
The other thing that would have been different, I mean, Wyoming is a very different state to Kentucky setting up everything and the amount you're ageing and every part of the process would have been different.

David:
Yes. Everything right down to the boiling temperature of water at elevation. Steve was trying to figure out what was going on in the first few days of operating the still and the fermenters and the cooker and whatnot, and he finally recalled that water was going to boil at a different temperature. So even the most basic things like that had to be figured out, but I would say that the rest of it, isn't so much of a challenge as it is a point of differentiation for our spirits versus those from Kentucky or from any other place in the country, from an urban area, let's say, because I can't put a finger on exactly what it is that makes us different, but I could point to a number of different things that contribute. So yeah, there was a big learning curve. And at the end of the day, we didn't know exactly what it was going to taste like.

You know, we controlled the mash bill. We selected our yeast, which I think is a huge component of whiskey making in and of itself. We got our barrels from independent stave and we knew that there was a constant there. And then it was all about mother nature and what the environment was going to do to the whiskey, as it sat in these warehouses, in the middle of a Sage field with different rangeland grasses and whatnot. And it was fascinating to be tasting this whiskey every couple of months in the beginning and seeing it mature and then ultimately get to where it is today.

Tiff:
Now you are a state of extremes, both in terms of landscape and also climate. How do you think that has changed the liquid that you produce?

David:
My answer to this is going to be speculation, I'll just say that in advance, but I am relatively confident in it. And that is, we know that whiskey does not age when it gets below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. And so with about six months of the year, those barrels are sitting in a state of hibernation pretty much. And so there's very little happening in that barrel during that six month period of time, something may be happening, but not what we're looking for. But the remaining six months of the year, we have tremendous temperature swings, both on a daily basis and annually, I would say the most extreme temperature swing in a given day outside of the warehouse could be 50 degrees Fahrenheit within the warehouse. It's probably 20 degrees and internally with each barrel, I've never taken the measurements myself, but it's pretty profound on a daily basis.

And then over the, of the year, you know, the temperature swings in that warehouse will be a hundred degrees Fahrenheit. And you just don't find that, you know, in any other place, I'm not saying this to boast about it, but it's just the realities of our maturation situation. And as a result, our whiskey is what it is. Comes across as a very smooth, easy-drinking bourbon that never seems to drink to prove we could have a bonded product like outryder or double cask. And you would never think it's a hundred proof whiskey, same for our barrel strength could come at 124 proof, but no one would ever think that they were drinking something at that high of a proof. It just, that seems to be one of the characteristics of our whiskey for sure. And a lot of that is that attributable to the way that it is maturing - massive temperature swings, the fact that it's very arid. I can't tell you for certain, but all of those factors and forces add up to what has become Wyoming Whiskey.

Tiff:
If people are used to tasting something that is more in a Kentucky style. How will they find your liquid different?

David:
No, that's a great question. Yeah. I think it's a very good question because again, we are a traditional bourbon. Our mash bill is 68% corn, 20% wheat, 12% barley, all of those grains are grown within a hundred miles of our distillery at the farm, non-GMO stuff. And we use two different yeasts, which we pitched together, which is not commonly done in the industry. So that sets up the answer here to your question. And I would say that you would find Wyoming whiskey to be on the light to medium side as far as body. And I think Kentucky bourbons generally would be medium to heavier generally. And everybody's different of course. And I think that if I could use the word brighter. It just seems to all around be a brighter spirit, not to in any way denigrate what Kentucky does cause I love Kentucky bourbons as well, but it's a very, very approachable bourbon that we commonly hear from women, for example, who don't like whiskey, we'll try Wyoming whiskey and say, oh, I can actually drink this. This is good. And other folks who have not been traditional bourbon drinkers, we'll try our small batch and say, I can get into this. And so when I say it's brighter, it just doesn't have, maybe it's not as old because a lot of Kentucky bourbons are in the eight to 10-year range. Our base spirit is at five with some of our specialities getting up into the eight and nine years of age, but it's just not burdened by all of that age maybe. And I know that's kind of a strange response, but it's, it's very approachable. It's very smooth, which is an overly used word in the industry, unfortunately. And it doesn't seem to bite you nearly as bad as some of the spirits you might find coming out of Kentucky,

Tiff:
Now let's talk about some of your products. You've just released your 2021 single barrel bourbon. What is it about these barrels?

David:
These barrels are the top 1% of all of the barrels that we will sample through in a given harvest season. What's interesting is when our barrels go into hibernation, they take on very different flavour profiles and some of them are not necessarily great. So we don't harvest any barrels during the winter and early spring. We wait until those barrels get up to an internal temperature above 50 degrees or so before we even start playing around with them. So during the summer season, Nancy Fraley comes in and Nancy is a, an industry expert, superhero, cape-wearing … her palate is beyond anything I've ever seen in my life. And when she samples through these barrels, she will identify those that are truly spectacular, that have the balance that you're looking for that have the depth and the length that you're looking for in a truly super bourbon.

And each year, you know, we don't have quotas. We don't say, well, Nancy, you have to find X number of barrels for our single barrel program. Instead, she tells us how many we have. And this year was actually a light year. We didn't have, we didn't find as many barrels as we were hoping to find. And it's not because the overall quality of our barrels was any better or worse. It's just, we didn't find as many as we had been hoping for short by a couple of barrels, each of these barrels has a different flavour profile. They have an overall excellence about them, which warrants putting them in the brown label, but the flavour profiles of each could be vastly different because what we found in our warehouses is the base of our warehouse is let's say on a typical summer day, it'll be 95 degrees.

Those barrels in the bottom of the warehouse are going to have more of a traditional caramel, orange, vanilla flavour profile, which is, I would say what our base flavour profile is. And then as you work your way up the warehouse, it adds complexity until you get to the top where you're getting spicier notes. And if you were to pull a barrel from the top of our warehouse, you might even think that he was made with rye because it does have some spice notes to it that people often confuse with rye. So the barrels that have been released this year for the single barrel program are all very different. And if you are someone looking for a spicy barrel, you may find one of those, or you might find one that is much softer, and that is going to have that caramel, orange, vanilla flavour profile to it. At the end of the day, it's not individual flavour profile of each gets the overall excellence of the barrel that qualifies it for the program.

Tiff:
It's interesting. When you talk about the flavour being different, depending on where the barrels are racked, have you ever thought of doing a Solera system?

David:
We do a bit of a Solera system when we do our batching. So right now you and I are talking about our single barrel, but if we talk about our small batch, which is our flagship product, those are 45 barrel batches and Nancy selects barrels and builds them with a pyramid profile. The base of the pyramid comes from the bottom two layers of the warehouse, that would be our A flavour profile, I should say, maybe two to three and sometimes even inching into the fourth layer, our B flavour profile being the fourth and fifth-ish, and then the C flavour profile, the spicy being the top sixth layer. So, I would say of the 45 barrels go into each batch. We're looking at about twenty-five to 30 barrels from the A flavour profile, 10 or so of the B and then five or so of the C.

And then we do a very slow reduction process. As we bring them down from barrel proof down to 88. We then we'll leave some of that behind in the blending tank as seed whiskey, so to speak, for the next batch that comes in. So we're trying to maintain continuity and consistency with the flavour profile of our small-batch, so that when you pick up a bottle of Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch, you're going to be getting something that you have come to expect and appreciate from past bottles, so with that very much consistency is key. The same thing with our Double Cask, which is our Sherry finished Pedro Jimenez, Sherry finished bourbon. We take that same small-batch base, put it into Pedro Jimenez casks and monitor it very closely because you can very easily over mature with that second barrel. A quick side note, the very first time we started playing around with this, where these brand new Pedro Jimenez barrels and on the eighth day they were perfect. And on the ninth day, they were far too tannic and we couldn't release them. So you have to pay very close attention to it.

Yeah and that's the first use of the barrel. The second use, you have a little more room to move around and as far as timing and whatnot, but a very valuable lesson learned there. But with Single Barrel, obviously, consistency is not what you're looking for. You're looking for those unique variants and whatnot that are just superb in their own way. Same with our Private Stock Program, which is our private barrel program for retailers or individuals, and then Barrel Strength, which is really at the pinnacle of all of our products. We might find one of those barrels once a year, and that's a product that just has anything and everything that you would be looking for in a perfect barrel of bourbon. And that sells for, you know, anywhere around the $500 per bottle range. So that's all of our wheated bourbon profiles. And then I know you wanted to get to talking about Outryder at some point, and I don't mean to jump the gun on that. So just let me know when you'd like for me to get into that.

Tiff:
Well, before we leave the single barrel, you mentioned that it is a wheated bourbon. Why did you choose that road rather than a rye base?

David:
Brad and I always gravitated towards wheated bourbons when we were, you know, I'd be invited over for a birthday party or a barbecue or holidays or whatnot. And we always seem to be grabbing maker's mark or some of the other products you'd be familiar with. And when we got going on this, we had to answer some pretty basic questions and, you know, are you going to do a rye or a wheated bourbon. It was one of the first ones. And when we found Steve coming from Maker's Mark, the answer was pretty easy. It was we're going to do a wheated bourbon because Steve's mind that was the only bourbon worth making. And we tended to agree with him. We weren't going to fight him on it. And we liked the softer profile. We weren't looking for something that was particularly spicy and definitely offers that, that softness.

I mean, if you think about wheat toast versus rye toast on a very basic level, very different flavour profile, and it's going to have an effect on the ultimate product at the end, because of that, that spiciness you'd find with the rye. So we stayed away from that and I would say we've been very happy with what we landed on as far as our mash bill and the grain. I mean, the ingredients that we put in are as good as it gets. I mean, we are very close with the farmer who grows all of our grains and he is constantly tinkering with, you know, different types of corn hybrids that are going to give us the greatest starch yield and the winter wheat, you know, that we plant, which is very interesting on why he planted in the fall versus in the spring and all that. We're very confident that what we're putting into the bottle is as good as we can get. And it's local, you know, if you're going to be making a whiskey, that's called Wyoming Whiskey, you better be making it with Wyoming grains and Wyoming water and as many Wyoming things as you could possibly find. And we've done that

Tiff:
Now you mentioned the Outryder, which is particularly interesting because it is a bit more of a cocktail bourbon, but I believe it started as a bit of a mistake.

David:
I think, you know, I'm going to correct you on the word mistake and we'll do that in the punchline of this story. If you could humour me for a couple of minutes, I'll make the story as quickly as I can. When we got started, you know, like I said, on July 4th of ‘09, we started distilling it. Wasn't long after that, that in reading a number of the periodicals, the trade periodicals, I saw that there was a blip on the radar in regards to rye whiskey. So I approached Steve and I suggested that we make a rye and his immediate response was, ‘I don't want to make rye’ so well, why is that? He goes, because rye sucks, quote-unquote. And you know, this is the guy that's in the bourbon hall of fame and was with Makers for 33 years, so he's entitled to an opinion.

And I said, well, man, it doesn't really matter what you think or what I think, but America's starting to drink rye again. And if we want to get ahead of this, we got to plant some rye. We got to start distilling. We begin our maturation of it. He says I don't want to do it. Now, technically this guy worked for me, but it's tough to tell a guy with that type of credentials, what to do. So I did what any person in my position would do. And that's going to my ultimate boss and partner, Brad Mead. And I made him tell Steve to do it. So Steve was none too happy about being told that he had to make rye, but he did. We grew some winter rye up on the farm. And in November and December of 2011, he started fermenting and distilling, which on day one of fermenting, he called me, I'll spare you the words that were used. But he said that the distillery smelled horrible. The fermenters were overflowing because rye produces a very foamy product. And I said, Steve, I know you got this man, you know, call someone in the industry. You've got a great role at figuring it out. So he did. And he ended up making a hundred barrels of quote rye and 200 barrels of bourbon made with rye as the flavouring grain. It's that 20% yeast that used to be occupied by wheat. So after we laid down those 300 barrels, I never asked him to do it again. It was just far too difficult to get him to do it. And he was not happy about it. He made that known every time I saw him. And so I forgot about them and I candidly wrote them off as a loss. I figured they weren't going to be great.

And Steve left about three years later to go back to Kentucky, his family was calling him home and his wife was ready to get home. So they left and right when he left, we brought in Nancy Fraley and our new distiller Sam and I asked them to taste through those barrels. Not all of them, just a few, just to find out if it was worth anything. Sure enough. Nancy said, David, this is some of the best young rye I've ever had. I was shocked. And I said, well, what about the bourbon? She said it's also very, very good. So I said, all right, let's keep an eye on it. Next year, she came back, tastes through it again. And she said, David, I think, I think the stuff's ready. I think the ride is ready to be bottled. And I said, well, we made that mistake once. Let's wait until it's five years old at least, or give us a year to come up with, you know, marketing strategy and a name, et cetera. But I called Sam and I asked him, what's the mash bill of the rye. And he said, you're not going to believe this, but it's only 48% rye. And to be awry in the United States, it's gotta be at least 51% rye. So I said, do the math again, you gotta be wrong. He goes, I've done it six times. What do you want me to tell you? It's a rye. And I said, no, you know, you can't do that.

So panic set in candidly, we didn't have a rye whiskey. We had something that tasted phenomenal but did not fall into any really distinct category. And instead, it falls into this very unsexy, American straight whiskey category. So that did allow us a little bit of latitude when it came to what to do with it. And Brad and Nancy and Sam and I all huddled up and we decided that we should stretch the soup, so to speak. And instead of just using the almost dry barrels, let's combine the bourbon that we'd made with rye, with this almost rye to come up with a really spectacular product. So that's what we did. And it was a two to one ratio of bourbon barrels, to rye barrels, but we didn't have a name. Uh, I had said, we should call this the bastard batch and everyone within the company liked it with the exception of Kate who said over my dead body, are we putting that curse word on our bottle. And so that, uh, it, it, that names death was very quick. And then it was, well, what do we call it? Couldn't come up with anything. So I ultimately called Steve for some inspiration. And it had been a few years since we had spoken. So the traditional pleasantries are exchanged. We're laughing about some things. And then I finally get to the point at hand and that was, Hey man, we're having a hell of a time naming, you know, this, this rye that you made and it's really spectacular. And he's like, wow, I'm really happy for you. I said, man, why'd you only use 48% rye. And he said, cause I told you, I didn't want to make rye. Oh yeah. I mean, you could have heard my job bounce off my desk when he said that and I realised he had done it intentionally. And then the call ended somewhat abruptly after that. And I called Brad immediately and told them what I had just learned. And he couldn't believe it. He couldn't believe that Steve had defied us like that. So I wanted to call the whiskey Defiance, but there was already a defiant whiskey out there. And so Brad came up with the name Outryder and it basically is the, when you move cattle, outriders are the folks on the flanks that keep the strays back with the herd and keep bringing them back. And we thought that that was a nice parallel to what we had done with these barrels that had strayed away from what the plan was, but we'd brought them back in for something that was just fantastic.

Tiff:
That's very poetic actually. Now, if the liquid is not quite Rye, it's not quite a bourbon. What will people expect from it?

David:
It's a bridge, really. I think that's the best way I've ever described it as it has that a little touch of that rye spice on the palette, but it finishes real smoothly like a bourbon. And so the percentages that you would find it, once you do the blend, it was about 29% rye. And so it's not an overwhelming spice bomb that you get from a lot of this super high rye or, you know, really high rye, 95%, 80%, whatever. So it's not going to blow up in your face. Like a lot of those ryes do instead. It just has the right amount of that spice. And I think the product is balanced perfectly and it has continued to get older and older through the years. And so, you know, last year, what we released was just under nine years of age and every year is different and we've done tastings at the Edrington headquarters in New York City, where we had every iteration of it, every season of it. And by a show of hands, you'll find people like it about equally across the board where, you know, our five-year people loved, our six-year, skipped our seventh, loved the eighth, love the ninth. It just has subtle differences to it. It becomes smoother of course, but the flavours change each year. And so it's been a really fun product to watch mature. So at this point, we're almost out of our 2011 inventory. So we started making more of this five years ago. And so what we've done this year with what was released a couple of months ago, is we did a blending of our older rye, almost rye, sorry, with our younger true rye, put those in stainless, let it sit for a while and marry, then we put them back in barrels for this summer, the same thing with the bourbon. And then what we did is we, I should say, Nancy's the one who blended those together to create this season's Outryder. And it's just like all the other ones, it's just slightly different. And, but it's great. It's just fantastic. It's one of those products we never could have designed if we had to, but because of the mistake that like you had said, or the defiance of Steve, we've really come up with something that's really unique in the industry,

Tiff:
That's fabulous. Now, what drinks do you like to make with this

David:
On the Outryder front? I actually really enjoy sipping it over a cube of ice. I mean, it really is amazing. It's an amazing spirit by itself. When I want to put it in a cocktail, I'm definitely going to gravitate more towards a boozy cocktail, like in Manhattan because it'll hold up against anything and any type of a cocktail, it just got so much character to it. And it's at a hundred proof. So, you know, it's got enough alcohol in there to where you can put it in almost anything and it'll hold its own. But I would say I would gravitate towards the Manhattan over anything else,

Tiff:
Completely changed direction, you guys have done a lot of work with the National Park Foundation. Do you want to talk to us about that?

David (34:20):
Yes. Last year we had to shelve this initiative because of COVID originally we had planned to do an in-person event where we were going to auction off four bottles of whiskey that had individual images on them, all selected by Harrison Ford. And then we also had a product that was more readily available throughout the country. And the proceeds from the sale of those bottles and the auction ultimately funded the National Park Foundation. Basically we, we donated $200,000 and the reason why we had selected the National Park Foundation is because the national parks have played a very pivotal role, a very important role in the Mead family's history in my development as a, as a person, because of all of the opportunities that they offer, especially here in, in Wyoming, you have grand Teton National Park, which is not even five miles up the road.
You crest this hill and the Tetons are right there. One of the most majestic views you'll ever see. And then you've got Yellowstone, which is about an hour north, which is the first National Park and is one of the most spectacular places you can ever visit. I spent the weekend up there fishing. They're about to close the park for the winter. It's just spectacular. It's such a resource and a gem. It's been something that makes a lot of sense for us to be a part of and to contribute to. And so we started with the National Park Foundation and ultimately did the online auction and whatnot in order to raise money for them. And this next year, you're going to see us working with Yellowstone forever. We wanted to bring it more regional and back to our roots here in Wyoming and Yellowstone is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the creation of the park. And it just makes a lot of sense and is an honour to partner with one of their main charitable arms to do something that's going to be very unique to the park to us. And it establishes that connection between, you know, us personally, professionally, you know, and then philanthropically

Tiff:
And that's something to look forward to them.

David:
Absolutely.

Tiff:
Now the distillery has been going for 12 years. Has the experience been what you thought it would be?

David:
I don't think I knew what it, what to expect. So it's tough to say that it's been any different if you know what I mean. To use the law as an example, when you enter into a case or a piece of litigation, you have a pretty clear idea of where it's going to go. And then where the, you know, the persuasion points are going to need to be and whatnot, but you have a good idea of the framework of it. But when you start a business in an arena that you've had no experience and you just don't know what to expect, it's been, you know, so much learning more than anything. If I had to answer your question, I'd say it's been 50% of what I would have expected and 50% things that I never would have foreseen, spanning the gamut from never having to anticipate how difficult distribution could possibly be to interpersonal issues that you never expected coming, or supply chain problems in our, you know, COVID world that we're in. You know, we're, we're, we're out of glass right now. And so we're, we're going to do a quick fix and use a standard bottle for a short period of time until we get our, our custom bottles back online. I mean, you just never know what to expect, I guess, is the best answer.

Tiff:
Now, speaking of distribution, are you available in all 50 states?

David:
We are we're as you know, as we've already visited about, you know, the rules and the laws and whatnot are different everywhere. And many of the states that are control states and run by the state are very, you know, their gatekeeper function is really high and it takes a while to get listed in those states. So we might only be available by special order in a handful of states, but due to the distribution network that Edrington has so masterfully put together, we, if you are standing in Key West Florida or Anchorage, uh, you can order a case of Wyoming whiskey and you'll be able to get it pretty short order.

Tiff:
And are you thinking at any point of exporting?

David:
Yes. We've had this discussion in our board meetings and in many levels and the lure of it is pardon the pun, intoxicating, because the thought of having Wyoming whiskey available in downtown London or in Singapore, or, you know, you pick your city that you find the most exotic and cool. It's amazing to think about that. And I think you're going to see it happening in London here before too long, seeding it in a couple of the right pubs and, and whatnot. But what Edrington taught us was don't get ahead of yourself. We got to make sure that we have enough whiskey in the pipeline so that once we establish these relationships in these different markets around the world, that we can continue to fulfil our obligations to them because nothing's worse than getting that momentum going and then falling flat on your face and having to say, you know what? We don't have enough to supply it so sorry, you don't get another bite at that apple. Yeah. So at this point, we're being very measured in our approach to international distribution. The only city that you'll see us in right now is the only country you'll see us in right now with any meaningful volume is going to be Mexico. We've released it in a couple of the resorts there and in Mexico City and the pickup has been amazing. So I think that thirst for our product is there. I know it's there. We've, we've had plenty of requests from a number of European countries, Australia, Taiwan, you name it, but it's going to be a very slow, measured and strategic rollout, once we have enough of it to supply it.

Tiff:
What do you want people to take away from their experience with Wyoming Whiskey?

David:
I hope, well, number one, I just hope people like it. I mean, I hope that they sip any of our products. They say, wow, this is spectacular. And if that's the end of their inquiry about why I'm in whiskey, great, you, you, I'm glad you like what we're making. And it puts a smile on my face. Hopefully, it improves your day and that's it. But if a consumer is, has a desire to dig a little deeper into what they're drinking and where it comes from, I hope that they will see that there is nothing about Wyoming whiskey that's not in the wide open. There are no tricks. There's no hidden agenda. There's no hidden anything when it comes to our products, I can show you exactly where the corn is grown. I could show you our distillery, which is a real distillery. We're not just a branding company, that sourcing stuff from Indiana and, you know, putting a really pretty label on it. I can introduce you to our GM, Jason. I can introduce you to our whiskey store manager, Amanda, our social media person, Kim and everybody, you know, is real and working for this very authentic product that has a bunch of history in regards to the Mead family and is developing what I hope is a very authentic story in regards to a new business that stems from a traditional business in Kentucky, but it's just an extension of it in a, in a new place and it's being done. Right. You know, it's one of the first things that Brad said to me, the beginning of this endeavour, and that was David. We have to do this right? Because my family is very connected to this state and we can't leave anything to chance. We can't cut any corners. And at the time I didn't know what that meant, because I didn't know how to make whiskey, but once I started figuring it out, I was like, okay, we're not going to be sourcing, number one, that’s the first answer. Number two, we got to tell people exactly what's going into it, where it's coming from. And that means we have to grow it here in the state, the water, you know, you name it. And so I hope that when people look into it, they say, yeah, I feel really good about this product. It doesn't feel empty to me. It feels like, like Wyoming's in the bottle. It probably sounds a little trite or cheesy, but it's really what I hope people will take away from it is that this is a true Wyoming product. And I hope they love it. Now,

Tiff:
People want more information on Wyoming Whiskey. They can of course go to your website, which is wyomingwhiskey.com or connect with the brand via your socials.

David:
Yes. Yep. Our website was recently revamped and I think provides a lot of information for those looking for it. And if anybody wanted to dive a little deeper, they can engage us through our social channels or they could send me an email. My email's on the website and I'm very responsive. I like to be a hands-on founder and make sure that I'm getting back to people with some meaningful content.

Tiff:
Well, look, thank you, David, for taking the time to speak with us.

David:
Tiff, it’s been a pleasure.

You Might Also Like

See the latest on Youtube and Instagram

Follow and subscribe for videos, photos & more ... Follow Follow
Reading

Wyoming Whiskey With David Defazio

Share It! URL Copied
Up Next

26 Questions – Charles Joly