Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Encanto Pisco

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Encanto Pisco

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Encanto Pisco, started in 2010, is a brand made “from the heart” by three seasoned industry friends: award-winning distiller Carlos Ruben Romero-Gamero, bar owner Duggan McDonnell, and sommelier Walter Moore. The three men first met at McDonnell’s bar, Cantina, in San Francisco and with their knowledge in various aspects of the business (distillation, cocktail creation and wholesale), they created Encanto Pisco. Moore first experienced pisco in Peru in 2009. “I had already begun to do some consulting with spirits brands, but hadn't yet experienced pisco. It was a revelation for me. I wanted to get my hands into pisco and the beautiful grapes behind it.”

Pisco, a grape brandy made in Peru (and Chile), has a long history with San Francisco. Beginning in the mid-1800s, it was the spirit that fueled the Gold Rush as it arrived on ships from South America that were bringing labor and supplies. Pisco can be made from eight designated grapes. Once the wine is made, it is distilled to make a brandy using the solera system, as with sherry, and then the blending takes place. It is Encanto Pisco’s goal to make the best handcrafted artisanal pisco. Through long-standing relationships with growers and a detailed focus on the winemaking process, distillation and blending, every step of the process is hands-on. The result is a smooth, terroir-driven product.“As a sommelier, I wanted something sippable,” says Moore. “And as a bartender, Duggan wanted something mixable. Carlos wanted something brilliant that reflected his 32 years of experience as a distiller.”

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Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: FEW Spirits

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: FEW Spirits

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs is a mini-series that gleans firsthand insight and delves into the challenges, inspiration, lessons learned, and more, from a variety of spirits entrepreneurs.

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Paul Hletko has brewing in his blood. His grandfather was a brewer in the Czech Republic but lost his business in World War II, and, despite moving to the U.S., continued to fight to get his brewery back until he died in 2008. Hletko wanted to pay homage to his grandfather and, with a passion for whiskey and gin, opening a distillery seemed like a natural option.

Hletko started as a home brewer in his hometown of Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. While a brewing hobbyist, Hletko worked as a patent attorney and had also worked in the music business, doing everything from playing guitar to running a record label to designing custom guitar effects. He began to plan the distillery, and it took five years before it was operational. Hletko was juggling two businesses but knew it was time to exclusively focus on distilling spirits. 

“I was no longer able to do both and it was a real gut check,” he says. “The mind will tell you all sorts of things that it wants you to believe, like you need the money or that people will laugh at you or that you aren't good enough to do it or whatever it takes to keep you in your comfort zone. But I had to make a choice between doing what I wanted to do and doing what I had to do.” 

The shift from home brewer to commercial distiller occurred in 2011 when FEW Spirits opened its doors.

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Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Catoctin Creek

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Catoctin Creek

By: Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Becky Harris, a former chemical engineer, had been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years when her husband Scott had an idea to start distilling spirits. 

At that point, Scott had spent 20 years working in government contracts. When he told Becky about the idea, she thought he was crazy, so she decided to write a business plan to talk him out of it — and almost succeeded. Becky noted that there were less margins, higher taxes, and more regulations compared to other products they could produce. The husband-and-wife duo realized they could make it work only if they took their 20 years of savings and invest it into equipment, and if Becky would work for free. "If you are going to take a chance, it was as good a time as any," says Becky.

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Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Re:Find Handcrafted Spirits

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Re:Find Handcrafted Spirits

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Begin in the wine country with wine, add a passion for spirits and a drive for sustainability, and the result is Re:Find Distillery. Started in 2011 by Alex and Monica Villicana, Re:Find was born out of a crossover of these interests.

Alex Villicana has been a winemaker in Paso Robles since 1993. During his more than twenty years as a winemaker, he noticed that the winemaking process resulted in a lot of leftover juice. According to Villicana, it is not uncommon for producers of Rhône varietals (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre) to bleed a percentage of the free-run juice (resulting in rosé colored juice) from the red wine grapes before fermentation in order to concentrate the quality of the wine. As much as 30 to 40 percent of juice is lost when one bleeds out this fresh juice, resulting in the waste of a used byproduct from wineries

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Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Teeling Irish Whiskey

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Teeling Irish Whiskey

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs is a mini-series that gleans firsthand insight and delves into the challenges, inspiration, lessons learned, and more, from a variety of spirits entrepreneurs
 

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

The Teeling family has been in the whiskey business for 200 years and Irish whiskey is in the blood of brothers Stephen and Jack Teeling. But Teeling Irish Whiskey wasn’t launched until 2015.

Irish whiskey had been one of Ireland’s main products and the top selling spirit prior to Prohibition. During Prohibition, Irish whiskey saw a decline in exports from 60 percent of the world market to only one percent, says Stephen. To survive and recover from the 40-50 year implosion of the industry, Ireland created one company which ran as a monopoly for 50 years. This monopoly was purchased by Pernod Ricard in 1987.

Stephen and Jack’s father saw the opportunity for an independent distillery. He challenged the monopoly and set up the Cooley Distillery in the 1980s, the first new independent Irish distillery in 100 years. Stephen was 8 years old at the time, his older brother Jack was 12. 

 

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