Episode 16

September 20, 2023


Mersey Craft Spirits Founder Gavin Poole

Hosted by

Dr. Chase Horton
Mersey Craft Spirits Founder Gavin Poole
Discover Birmingham
Mersey Craft Spirits Founder Gavin Poole

Sep 20 2023 | 00:56:57


Show Notes

In this episode we talk with Gavin Poole, founder of Mersey Craft Spirits located right here in Birmingham. He specializes in Rye Whiskey and I can tell you from experince, it's VERY good! This is a really interesting episode and I hope you enjoy it.


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Episode Transcript

[00:00:13] Speaker A: Know, I can't let it down. This hope I feel older city, you're finding the podcast is working for you. [00:00:38] Speaker B: It's getting you a good bit of traction because it's all about Birmingham. People in the city share it like wildfire because you might talk about the place where they had breakfast this morning or something. They're like, oh, it's just something that we all have in common. So while a podcast about know there's a lot of competition there. There's a lot of podcasts about nutrition, but there really aren't any other podcasts. There may be one or two other podcasts about Birmingham. So if someone wants to hear about the city, we've become the go to. [00:01:12] Speaker A: That's brilliant. [00:01:13] Speaker B: Yeah, it's pretty cool. [00:01:13] Speaker A: That is awesome. [00:01:14] Speaker B: And it's just been fun to do. It's been a fun way for me to reach out to people who I may not have had another reason to reach out to and network and make new friends. And it's been cool to just connect with other people in the city who I wouldn't have met. [00:01:29] Speaker A: Great. [00:01:30] Speaker B: So, you know, for people who don't know you, tell us a little bit about yourself. [00:01:33] Speaker A: Sure. I live here in Birmingham. I've lived here for nine years. I was born in North Carolina, of all places. But my accent tells you I didn't grow up here. I grew up in South Africa. So South African parents moved back when I was really young, six months old, and grew up in South Africa. And then in 2001, January 2001, had an opportunity to move back to the US. I had worked in New York City in 1998 on a project and really enjoyed it. Loved the US, wanted to come back and live here. So we were able to come back 23 years ago and lived up in the Northeast for a long time in Boston at the start and then Long Island, New York, for 15 years. Lived in London for a little while in the middle of all of that. And then in 2014, I started coming to Birmingham for work. I'm an accountant and I worked for a healthcare company and started doing a project in Birmingham and loved it for a year. Commuted down here. And in 2015, I was able to move here with my family and brought our three kids and my wife and all the dogs and cats down. We thought we would stay here for four or five years, and here we are nine years later, and we have no plans to go anywhere else. Really love it. It's been really good to us. [00:02:59] Speaker B: You've lived in some of my favorite cities. I've spent a little bit of time and not any length of time, but I've been know trips to London and Boston, and I really love both of those cities because there's so much history there. I enjoyed walking around on I think they call it the Freedom Trail. Very touristy. [00:03:16] Speaker A: Sure. [00:03:16] Speaker B: But it's just cool to see like what's his name, sam Adams grave and Paul Revere's house and all that stuff along the way. So that was really cool to see. [00:03:26] Speaker A: They've done a good job in Boston now I think they spent over a decade reworking the highways and making downtown just way more accessible. So now you can really walk around, go to the Back Bay, you can go to the kind of old section and the north shore of Boston. It's great. Really cool. [00:03:42] Speaker B: Yeah. People from Europe, my best friends from England. And he always laughs at me when I talk about American history. And he's know because England has ancient history. So whenever we talk about history here, it almost is like yesterday compared to years ago. But what about South Africa? Is that like a very old country? [00:04:06] Speaker A: It is probably as old as the United States. It was established during by the trading routes. So the Dutch were big traders with India and they needed a resupply station. And so in the 16 hundreds, 17 hundreds, they started establishing a presence in the Cape. So down the bottom part of Africa. And that's how South Africa initially got going. Trading station, resupply station. And then they found gold and a lot of minerals, diamonds that gave the country its ability to create infrastructure and started getting settled in the 18 hundreds in a big way. So it's about the same age as the US. It has a really dynamic and interesting history. At the time that Europeans were settling in the south, there were a lot of Native African tribes in the area. They were growing. Everybody kind of grew into each other. The southern part of Africa started developing really rapidly. The northern part of Africa has a really different history to the southern part of Africa. So that makes it really interesting to understand. So I grew up in a little bit of a melting pot of cultures as well in South Africa, which was great. But you feel like a big fish in a small pond there and you really want to experience the rest of the world. So it was great to be able to come to the US and experience life in the US. And this large economy and this large population. It's a really different feeling and way of life. [00:05:49] Speaker C: More cash, more capital, and new customers for your business. That's where Moxie comes in. Moxie, Birmingham, is a growing community of small businesses helping one another thrive. As a Moxie member, you earn more revenue from brand new customers, not spend. [00:06:08] Speaker B: Your hard earned revenue on various expenses. [00:06:11] Speaker C: And even get a no interest, no payment line of credit, all within the Moxie network. As a Moxie member myself, I can. [00:06:20] Speaker B: Tell you that I choose to support. [00:06:22] Speaker C: Other businesses that also accept Moxie. In fact, I've discovered some of my very favorite restaurants, healthcare practitioners and home and auto service businesses through Moxie. [00:06:33] Speaker B: I'm talking Soho, Social, Heavenly donuts, nothing. [00:06:36] Speaker C: But cakes, just to name a few. Go to Moxieburmingham.com. That's moxeybham.com to learn more moxie. It's the smarter way to barter. [00:07:00] Speaker B: I want to ask you about some of the maybe the lighter side of moving to the south from a different country, because I'm sure that people have asked you some maybe questions that could be kind of funny. Like, for instance, my budy Adam, who's from England I told you about, we went to college together at Montevallo and he was dating a girl who was from Chilton County and she hadn't traveled, just her family hadn't met anyone from another country. So he went to Thanksgiving to meet the whole family one time and her cousin asked him, in just the most innocent and pure way, she asked him how long it took him to learn English. [00:07:44] Speaker A: Yeah, well, there are so many different Englishes in the US. There's so many different accents, and the same word can mean different things in different places. So that's been hilarious. I like to travel. I was lucky for work. I traveled all over the world. So I got to experience a bunch of different places. And thankfully, most folks speak English, but you start to understand that different words mean different things to different people. Living in the Northeast was fun, but it's fast and it's edgy. It's kind of hard to put your feet down there and feel like you have good roots. Coming to the south is so different. It's really welcoming. It's a pace of life that's way more enjoyable. I think it's a style of life that is also way more enjoyable. People are genuinely interested in you. They're generally friendly, curious. You have to relearn some language. You have to relearn what folks are saying, playing. Yeah, some of the accents are quite hard to understand, so you have to dial that in a little bit and get your ear going. But Birmingham, interestingly, is really similar to the city that my wife and I grew up in, which is Pretoria, South Africa. It's the same size, same number of people. That's also a hilly city, just like Birmingham is very leafy, very forested, lots of trees. So all that is very similar. Even the kind of general layout of the city with a concentrated central business district and then a lot of bedroom communities outside is so similar to what we grew up in. So that made moving to Birmingham a little bit like going home, but just in the US. So it was a pretty quick adaptation, I would say, coming from New York down to Birmingham. No sweat. [00:09:32] Speaker B: Interesting. So an accountant by day and then tell us about Mercy. [00:09:39] Speaker A: Yeah, I guess it's a long way that I got here, but the journey starts with me being an accountant and knowing distribution really well. So I worked for healthcare companies and before that, technology companies who were distributors of other people's products. So I had a fair amount of distribution experience and understood the business model and how it works. And then for about five or six years, I worked for a couple of really smart folks who built brands globally in the medical device field. And I learned from them how to build a brand, what's important around product development, what's important around messaging, all those kind of aspects as you want to build something. And then I had a time where I had finished up working for a large healthcare company, and I was doing some consulting projects and just honestly started brewing beer in my basement. And I got interested in the whole brewing culture and the whole brewing business. So I started researching what breweries were all about and quickly discovered that that's a really busy market. You have to move a lot of product to get your business model to work. But I happened to read an article about craft distilling, and they were talking about how craft distilling has been helped by craft brewing. It's helped people kind of unlock the idea that having something from a small batch with a unique flavor where the flavor might not be consistent, kind of brought curious people into the market. And so opening minds through craft brewing helped craft distilling become a thing. So although it was interesting and the opportunity was much larger, it's a really big market. And craft distilling was a much smaller piece of the overall distilling market than beer, craft brewing and the large beer companies. And at about the same time, there was a Distilling conference going on in Pittsburgh. So I booked a spot and I went up there and I spent a week at the Distilling conference learning how to distill, going to a bunch of seminars about businesses and how to set your business up and different ideas. Met an insane amount of people and came away from that Distilling conference with a bunch of knowledge, bunch of connections and many ideas. And everything that Mercy is today comes from that conference in early 2018. The product, the packaging, a lot of the distribution ideas. So my mind was really ticking over on the way home, and I started to put together the threads, so I figured I enjoy whiskey. Whiskey is a very busy market, though it is the second fastest growing spirits category in the US. Tequila is the fastest growing, but American whiskey is growing just behind that. So I started studying a little bit the whiskey market, and I found rye whiskey is a fast emerging category. And I just happen to really like ryes as well. And there's something about rye whiskey that appeals to me. The rye grain is a really rugged grain. You throw it on the ground, it'll grow. It's not as sensitive as corn is. And that's why a little bit rye whiskey is a thing, because rye grows really well in Canada, and it grows really well in the Northeast, where corn struggles a little bit so it's a hardier grain. [00:13:12] Speaker B: So just for context, for me, because I don't know much about different liquors and spirits, what are some common rye whiskeys that people might recognize the names of? [00:13:25] Speaker A: There are several. So Whistle Pig is probably the first focused rye. I've heard of that brand out there, high west is what inspired me. High west make bourbons and ryes, but the High West double rye is the kind of main inspiration for me. Making mercy rye whiskey. Then you have Old Forester makes a really good so rye is more of a category. So you have bourbons, and then you have ryes, and then you have single malts. [00:13:55] Speaker B: I see. [00:13:56] Speaker A: And then you can have a little bit more generic American whiskeys, which are blended from different mash bills. What's interesting about rye is it's made the same way that bourbon is made. The process is exactly the same, but the ingredients are different. So a bourbon needs to have more than 51% of corn in its grain recipe that goes into the mash bill that starts the creation of the bourbon. Okay. Rye needs to have at least 51% of rye grain in that original mash bill. So that's how you start, and that's the biggest difference between the two types of whiskeys. At the end of the day, you get a really different flavor. So when you have a starting mash bill that is more bourbon sorry, that's more corn than rye, you're going to have a more sweet flavor because the sweetness comes from the corn. Rye is a more spicy flavor. So the way you make whiskeys is you start with a beer. So you're going to start with grains, and that's a really important part of the process. You're going to select your grains, and then you're going to boil those grains. And the reason you're boiling the grains is you want to extract the sugars. Okay. You're getting different types of sugars from different types of grains. Yeah. [00:15:14] Speaker B: I didn't know that it started with beer. That's interesting. [00:15:16] Speaker A: Yeah, it's a beer. So you're going after your type of sugar that you want, so you select your grains for that. [00:15:24] Speaker B: When you say type of sugar, what are some of the types of sugar that you might get? [00:15:28] Speaker A: Yeah, you're going to go that's technical, and I'll probably get it wrong, but you're going to go for different types of fructose or glucose, and then the flavor of the rye sugars is going to be slightly different to the flavor of the corn sugars that you extract. And then the next part of the nuance is the yeast that you will use to ferment that mash bill. So once you have the sugars, you now need to create alcohol, and alcohol is going to come from the fermentation process. When you add the yeast to the sugar, it's going to go through its chemical reaction process, and there are a bunch of different yeasts as well. So you experiment with different yeasts in different sugars. [00:16:08] Speaker B: This sounds like chemistry. [00:16:09] Speaker A: It's all chemistry. Yes. As an accountant going into this, it's fantastic because it's a science process, it. [00:16:17] Speaker B: Seems like it would be a good fit for you with your background. This actually reminds me of the episode that I recorded at the end of last week. Are you a coffee drinker? Yes, Baba Java. Here in Hoover, they have really, really good coffee, and it's all specialty coffee. And I learned there's a big difference between specialty coffee and commodity coffee. Coffee is graded. The beans are graded on a scale of 10 to 100. Anything 80 and above is considered specialty because the bean has higher quality. It has different flavors, different notes. And they were talking about their brewing process, and there was so much more that goes into it than I would have ever imagined. And it sounds just like what you're talking about. It's chemistry. [00:16:58] Speaker A: It's chemistry, and you select your process. And what's fun about craft spirits, craft beer, and I think specialty coffee is you experiment a little bit. You're working with smaller batches. You want to create unique flavors, and so you have fun with that process. So you select your yeast, and then the yeast ferments. And once it's fully fermented, you have beer. So you could stop there, and you'd have a pretty awful tasting beer. But then you go through a distillation process, and that's where more science kicks in. And the idea of the distillation process is to extract as much of the alcohol from the beer as you can. In that process, you're going to bring water up with it. And so the distillation process is heat the beer. And the science is that alcohol will turn to vapor before water does. And so that what causes the alcohol to rise up out of the beer. But in that rising, it takes some water with it, and that's where flavor profile comes from. Depending on how much water you bring with, how quickly you distill it, how quickly you evaporate, it will give you different flavors. [00:18:08] Speaker B: So did this all start in your basement? [00:18:11] Speaker A: We can't really say. [00:18:13] Speaker B: That okay, right? Just kidding, guys. [00:18:17] Speaker A: So in theory, I went and did this at that distillation course in Pittsburgh. But you can see how the science works. And it's fun because you start to see the evaporation or the vaporization of the alcohol as it turns from a liquid into a vapor, and then it runs up a distillation column. And then your job then is to cool it down so that it turns back into a liquid form, but it's come out of the beer. And that's when you get vodka almost that's coming out of the beer. So it's a very pure alcohol spirit. Vodka is going to come from potatoes, so you start with a different grain. But when we're making whiskey, we'll be working with corn, barley, or rye extracting up, coming out and that's a pure alcohol spirit. Some folks will call it White Dog, and that's whiskey before it goes into a barrel. And then for us, for bourbon or for rye or for single malt, you want to put that into a barrel. And the barrel is the next part of the unique flavor creation. So for it to be bourbon or rye, it has to go into a new charred white oak barrel. So it can't be has to be white oak. Has to be white oak, yeah. And it has to be charred, so it has to be burnt on the inside. [00:19:33] Speaker B: So just out of curiosity, if you used a different type of wood in the barrel, how would the outcome differ? [00:19:40] Speaker A: So you would not be allowed to call it a bourbon or a rye for a branding point of view. So then you'd need to call it a whiskey, an American whiskey. You'd have a slightly different flavor, probably because different woods will have different reactions with the white dog, with the clean spirit. And that's a really important part of the flavor creation. It's what turns it from being transparent and clear into having the brown, the deep brown vanilla, honey colors will come from the interaction with the wood. So different woods and different charring will also give you different flavors. And then the length of time that you leave in the barrel will also give you a different flavor profile because then it has more time to interact with the wood. [00:20:22] Speaker B: It sounds like if you tweak any of these steps along the way, then it's going to have a pretty big difference in the outcome. How was the first batch that you ever made? Was that close to the way that you liked it? Or was it just a disaster? Or did you get it right the first time? How'd that go? [00:20:38] Speaker A: Yeah, so whiskey is a long game, so it's quite interesting. You have an idea of what you want to create and then you create it and then you wait. So the way I created Mercy was I met a really good Distiller at that conference, and his specialty is making whiskey for people. So he has an operation in North Carolina. In Statesville, North Carolina? So it's about an hour north of Charlote. He has very, very good equipment and his grains all get sourced from the county around the farm where he has his distillery. So it's a bit of an organic, very local process. And he and I spoke and I had an idea of what I wanted to make. And together we came up with what's called the Mash bill, the different designs of the different grains, mixing them in certain ways. So I had enough money to make ten barrels in the first tranche that got made in early 2018, and then honestly just laid it down and waited. And then I made a few more barrels. I made another 30 barrels in early 2019 and then just waited. [00:21:44] Speaker B: How long are we waiting here now? [00:21:46] Speaker A: At four years. [00:21:47] Speaker B: No kidding. [00:21:48] Speaker A: Four years? [00:21:48] Speaker B: So you really meant you wait. I was thinking maybe a few weeks. [00:21:52] Speaker A: No, you wait a long time. So you're putting that clear spirit into a 52 gallon barrel. And so all of that spirit needs to interact with the wood to get its smoothness, to take care of the methanol, which is the very sharp taste that you get in pure alcohol that has to be extracted out. And the wood helps you do that. And then you want to extract the flavor profiles from the wood. So your vanilla caramel, sometimes you get a bit of cinnamon, sometimes you get a bit of dried fruit. And that's all coming from the interaction with the wood. So this was honestly line up in North Carolina, and I was doing my finance job down here in Birmingham. And then in December 2021, the distillery contacted me and they said, have we just drew some samples from your barrels, and we think the whiskey is in prime shape. It was about the youngest part of the whiskey then was just coming up to four years old. So it was three years, ten months old. And then the original batch was four years plus old. So I was very excited. So we got a couple of samples sent down to Birmingham, and I have two different mash bills. So pretty much two different beers, two sets of different whiskeys that I created. And the idea was to have the different whiskeys, age them at different lengths and then blend them together. [00:23:17] Speaker B: And what is that length? [00:23:19] Speaker A: So one whiskey is like three years ten months old, and the other whiskey is four years and ten months old. So there's a year between them, and then the way it blends together is really fun. So rye whiskey by itself is normally quite spicy. So if you have a rye beer, what they call a mash bill, that's 95% rye whiskey and 5% barley. Those are the grains that you start with. Okay, that's going to be a very spicy, not a very complex flavor coming at you. And some folks really enjoy that kind of whiskey, but most folks enjoy something with a more complex profile and perhaps a little bit more sweet in it, which is closer to a bourbon. [00:24:01] Speaker B: Is that kind of like the difference between let me back up. The difference between craft bourbon whiskey, rye, is that kind of similar? Between the difference between a Bud Light and like a craft beer that you would get at a brewery? [00:24:14] Speaker A: That's right. So you're experimenting with different flavors? Way different, yeah, different grains. So I have one set of whiskey is 95 rye, 5% barley, just a very traditional rye, and that's aged three years and ten months. The other barrels, I think that's where the unique flavor comes from. They're a different set of grain bills. That's 51% rye, 39% corn, 10% barley. So you have corn in there, and that brings a lot of sweet flavor into the whiskey. And that's aged four years in ten months. So it's actually aged longer than the 95 five rye. So then I blend them together, and when I do that, I get spiciness from the 95 rye, but then I get a lot of sweet flavors coming through from the 51 rye, 39 corn mash bill, and it's aged longer, and so that gives it more prominence in the flavor profile. So it's a great complex flavor, and it's bringing a lot of people along because there are many folks who enjoy bourbons and may not enjoy ryes, but when they sample a double rye, which is a double rye is what this is called, because it's a blend of two different rye whiskeys. Okay. Really like it. So it's getting a lot of positive reaction. It goes really well in cocktails because it has the spicy flavor to it, but it also stands out because it has the sweet coming through from the bourbon. So it's just a great blend, and I'm really happy with it. Actually. When you were asking how do I think it turned out after making it, this turned out better than I thought it was going to be at the end of the day. And I think it's because that original mash bill is just aged a year longer than the second mash bill, and that's giving a lot of depth and a lot of character, which is great to see. [00:26:00] Speaker B: When it comes to choosing ingredients for the mash, the corn, and the other grains, does it matter where you source that is corn corn, or is that something that you look into and choose white corn over yellow corn, or does that play a role? [00:26:15] Speaker A: I think it does. I think everything that you put in has an impact at the end of the day. So if you're choosing high quality grains, if you're choosing a little bit more local, a little bit more organic grains, you're going to have a different flavor to if you're choosing mass production corn. Sure. So, yeah, we think there's a difference based on what's coming through. [00:26:36] Speaker B: That reminds me of a conversation I had with a guest who he's an in home chef, and he doesn't work for just one family. He has a business called date night dining, where he'll come to your house for maybe an anniversary or something. You hire him, he comes, and he brings all the ingredients, and he cooks an amazing meal for you and your family. And he was schooling me about fine dining, and he was reiterating how important it is that you start with a quality ingredient. And it's not about masking the flavor of the food with sauces and things like that. It's about choosing and starting with a really good quality ingredient and then bringing out the natural flavors of that ingredient. That's what fine dining is all about. Sounds like it's got some similarities between brewing or distilling rather. That you start with a really quality ingredient and you'll end up with a more quality product, it sounds like. [00:27:23] Speaker A: I think so there's an idea or a concept called terroir, which is French, it means from the earth. And it's really prevalent in the wine industry, especially on red wines. And the idea is that the quality of your wine is going to be a product of everything. It came from your environment. So you're starting off with the soil that feed the vines that create the grapes. You're impacted by the weather, you're impacted by any chemicals or anything that you use on your vine. [00:27:53] Speaker B: That's a big one. [00:27:54] Speaker A: You're impacted by the quality of wood that you age your wine in. You're impacted by the humidity and everything else that your wine is aging in, altitude, everything, all that stuff, wind. And so it's a concept that everything you create is just highly impacted based on where it comes from. And that's picking up steam in the distilling industry as well. And we embrace it at Mercy because we think it has a big difference in the quality of the product that Mercy is. Mercy's grains come from the farms in the surrounding areas of the distillery. And then the fun fact is the spent grains, once the beer is cooked and once it's fermented, you're left with tons and tons of oatmeal, pretty much. And so what are you going to do with that? So at Southern Distilling, what they do is they pump it back into trucks and take it out and feed the cattle herds in the surrounding farm. So it's a nice closed loop. You kind of feel good that that's going back out into the cattle. And then the whiskey is aged on the farm up in North Carolina as well. So in their old rick house and susceptible to all the weather patterns of central North Carolina, which is great. And that also has an impact. So you'll hear a lot of, I guess, bourbon and whiskey aficionados will be able to tell a barrel based on which part of the warehouse it was in. Wow. And they feel that if you're high up or low down or in the middle, if you're in the northern corner or the southern corner, you'll end up with a different product. And probably so because it's experiencing different temperatures, maybe different humidity. It's all sensitive to everything that's around it. [00:29:38] Speaker B: Well, just the fact that you pay attention to these kinds of things, I think speaks to why you got it right the first time. They say measure twice, cut once. It sounds like you put so much time and thought and intention into preparing and sourcing ingredients that that makes more sense as to why it wouldn't have taken you a lot of different times to get it right. [00:29:59] Speaker A: That's right. And it was a long. Time coming. There were a lot of times while it was aging, I was wondering, what am I doing here? Where am I going with this? [00:30:07] Speaker B: Yeah, the waiting would absolutely kill me, especially in today's culture of instant gratification. Harvest the fruits of your labor immediately. So for you to wait years before you even got to see how it was going to turn out, that's a whole different ballgame. So I was curious about, we were talking about how the waiting between when you initiated the whole process versus when you got to actually taste your first barrel the first time. How exciting was that? [00:30:36] Speaker A: So we get in the mail, get 2750 mil bottles. One bottle is the 95 five rye, and then the other bottle is the 51 rye, 39 corn, all at barrel strength. So that means that the alcohol has not been diluted down. So it's about 116 proof, 117 proof in each barrel. So when you take a sip of each one, it's hot because it's at barrel strength. The 95 five rye was very, very spicy. There was a lot of sweetness in the 51 39 corn mash bill. So I was just super excited because the baby is here. The color was a deep, deep honey color. [00:31:24] Speaker B: So was this just you sitting down by yourself, tasting it, or did you have a party? How'd you do that? [00:31:30] Speaker A: Yeah, so the first time was me and somebody who I was working with to start putting Mercy together. We sat down in my dining room table and we said, okay, what have we got? And we tasted a little bit from each bottle, and we realized, okay, we have an awesome ingredient here. How should we blend this? So we came up with nine different blending ideas, which were, okay, let's mix these two mash bills in three different ways, and then let's try different proof levels, because I wasn't sure if high proof was going to work or low proof would be better. So we had nine different options. There three times three. And we threw a party and invited a whole range of people, some folks who are whiskey lovers and deep enthusiasts and really knowledgeable, more knowledgeable than I am, and just your everyday social drinkers, and invited them all to this party. I live in Liberty Park. So we had it at a place up in Liberty Park and lined up all the different samples. So there were ten samples to taste. Nine of them were Mercy, and then one was a shelf brand. [00:32:39] Speaker B: Like a control. [00:32:40] Speaker A: That was our control. Exactly. Yeah. And so we asked everybody to fill out the tasting sheets, flavor profiles, and rank what they liked. So that's why my first product is called recipe number six, because it was sample number six. Option number six that we felt was the best. It was higher proof. So 91 proof, it was made up of two thirds of the 95 five rye and one third of the 51 39 corn. And that so we have a lot of spiciness in there, but a lot of sweet coming through on the corn. It's a great blend. I was very excited to get everybody's input, everybody's profiles. It was interesting to see who liked what. Some folks liked lower proof, but I felt that at a higher proof, the flavors come through a lot better. And that's because you're putting in less water. So water will dilute down the alcohol, but at the same time, it dilutes down the flavors a little bit. [00:33:38] Speaker B: I see. [00:33:38] Speaker A: So with a higher proof, you're going to get more flavors, but you're going to get more burn on the tongue as well. So you're not appealing to as wider market as you may want, but I think you want to appeal to the market that's going to enjoy that type of rye whiskey, that type of deeper, more sophisticated flavor profile coming through. So the kind of lessons learned through that was higher proof works. The next batch that I produce will be produced in January, and at that time, these original barrels are going to be six years old, so they would have been in for two more years. And I think we'll have even deeper flavors coming out. But I want to produce that at what's called barrel strength. So we're not going to dilute that down, just going to be taking it out of the barrel. [00:34:26] Speaker B: It was not for the faint of heart. [00:34:27] Speaker A: No, it'll be hot. It'll be still. Two thirds 95, five rye, one third 51 rye, 39 corn. So I want to keep that blend because I think it's a great blend, but we won't dilute it down. And then recipe number six, what we have today, at 91 proof, I'll keep producing that. So then we'll have two products. One will be a more premium six year old barrel strength whiskey, and the other one will be a 91 proof, but the same blend, more for everyday drinking. So I'm excited for that. And we'll be bringing that out in January, february of 2024. [00:35:03] Speaker B: Very good. I also wanted to ask you about mercy as a brand. Where did that come from? What's the origin story there? [00:35:11] Speaker A: It's an homage to my family. So I grew up in a family business, truck makers. The history even before that was my great grandfather. He was a blacksmith, and I guess he was a ferrier doing his blacksmith thing. And then he started building ox wagons, and then ox wagons became trucks. And so the family business just evolved into that. And I was privileged enough to grow up in that, in the in the loved it. So when I created this whiskey brand, I wanted to bring the family history along the journey. And the story of mercy is it's a ship that sailed from Liverpool in England to the southern hemisphere in the 1860s. It was called the queen of the mersey. And the Mersey is a river that flows through the city of Liverpool and Liverpool, lives and breathes the Mersey River. Everything that happens there is around the river. We believe that my great great grandparents sailed on the Mersey. They were Scottish and they sailed in the 1860s from Scotland to New Zealand, probably on the Mersey. And it was a ship that took three months to do its journey. So we get frustrated in a 16 hours flight these days. It took them three months. They would come around the Cape of Good Hopes at the bottom of South Africa and then into the Southern Indian Ocean, all the way over to New Zealand. And the Mersey docked in the South Island of New Zealand in the mid 1860s. So to me, that was a great way to bring my family history along the way. That was great exploration. A lot of courage to emigrate back in those days. [00:36:57] Speaker B: Yeah, it must have been. [00:36:57] Speaker A: You have to kind of come to a new land, lay things down for the first time and find your way. It was just very exciting to put that together. The ship on the bottle is an image of the actual Queen of the Mercy. And what Mercy is, I try and incorporate a lot of spirit from that voyage. So adventure, inspiration, courage, finding your way. And when preparing the products and thinking about what comes next, I try to incorporate what it must have been like to get on that ship and sail for three months and start a new life somewhere else. We did a little bit immigrating from South Africa back to the US, so we have an understanding, a little bit of what that's like to move over. And, yes, it's been a lot of fun and I think folks enjoy the story of it. And bringing the family history along as well. Has had a good reception. [00:37:50] Speaker B: Yeah, I'm glad that you shared that. Speaking of, I haven't even seen the label yet. Yeah, I want to see the ship you're talking about. [00:38:00] Speaker A: Here's a bottle for you in its gorgeous packaging. Oh, man, thank you so much. I have a sample bottle here that we can take a look at. So picture of the ship up over here. So it's a three master sailboat. That's why it took so long to come around. Would have about 61 to 65 passengers on board. All of them families were mostly families emigrating from the UK. Coming down to it would go to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. [00:38:33] Speaker B: It looks like the type of ship where the captain would have a parrot on his shoulder kind of thing. [00:38:38] Speaker A: So on one of the voyages, there was a mutiny, a kind of good old fashioned mutiny over rum. The captain had locked the rum away. Passengers got pretty mad, so they tried to stage a mutiny. They broke into the ship store and stole the rum. They got put in irons and when they landed in New Zealand, they got handed over to the police. Wow. Kind of your traditional voyage with chaos. [00:38:59] Speaker B: Hey, don't keep the people away from their rum, especially on a three month voyage. [00:39:03] Speaker A: That's right. Yeah. [00:39:06] Speaker B: Oh, man, look at this. [00:39:07] Speaker A: There you go. [00:39:08] Speaker B: That's so cool. The bootlegger batch. So each batch has a different name, is that it? [00:39:15] Speaker A: No, I put that label on there for you for today. The regular bottle won't have anything on. [00:39:20] Speaker B: It, but that's great, man. [00:39:22] Speaker A: Thank you. [00:39:22] Speaker B: This is really cool. I'm going to have trouble actually opening and drinking this. I think this is going to be more of one that I hold on to. [00:39:28] Speaker A: Thank you. Yeah, you're welcome. Yeah, put that on the bar and we'll get you some more ones that are drinkable. [00:39:33] Speaker B: Sounds good. [00:39:34] Speaker A: Yeah. So on the label we have a couple of things that are important. We have the small batch 2000 bottles created from the first dump of barrels, dumped, nine barrels. Terroir. We were talking about terroir earlier. So we actually have that on the label because it's important to Mercy that we're very conscious about where the product comes from. From the first set of grains to where the bottles come from the capsules, how it was aged, the whole works. Recipe number six, we spoke about that, that was a 6th sample. And it's a straight rye whiskey. So if whiskey is aged more than two years, you can call it straight. That was the kind of minimum benchmark that you want to have for good whiskey. So it's a straight rye whiskey. [00:40:20] Speaker B: Very nice. What I'm going to do is the next episode that I record that's not in the morning, I'm going to have a friend on, we'll sample this and we'll give a solid amateur review. Keep in mind, I do not have a strong palate for this, but I'll absolutely give it my honest feedback and yeah, I'm excited to try that out. Thank you. [00:40:41] Speaker A: You're very welcome. Very welcome. It's good sipping on ice, but it's really, really good in cocktails, too. So rye whiskey and Manhattans go hand in hand together. They're kind of created together, but it goes really well in an old fashioned. Now it's summer, so it's hot. So the cocktails that go great in the summers are whiskey sours. And then our take on the Alabama Slammer. The Alabama Slammer is traditionally made with Southern Comfort, but if you take that out and you put Mercy rye whiskey. [00:41:12] Speaker B: In there like an elevated that's right, that's right. [00:41:15] Speaker A: And we take out the slow gin and put in tangeray orange. Mix that up with some amaretto and orange juice and you will have a Birmingham Slammer. Really refreshing. Good way to enjoy the whiskey. And the rye comes through there. [00:41:28] Speaker B: I like it. Yeah, that sounds good. [00:41:30] Speaker A: Yeah. [00:41:31] Speaker B: So whenever I would drink whiskey in college, for instance, you go to a bar, our go to was like whiskey and Diet Coke just totally covering up the flavor. And I think the reason for that is because just your average whiskey that you might grab from the store, you need to cover up the flavor. But this is something, I feel like that when you drink it just on ice or maybe with a little water, you actually have a chance to taste the flavors that go into it. Kind of like the difference between like we were talking about specialty coffee versus commodity coffee, where you would want to put some cream and sugar to cover up that ashy flavor. So it sounds like this is with it being more quality, is one that you'd actually want to taste and just drink straight very much. [00:42:12] Speaker A: So it's the small batch, slowly created. Enjoy the flavors, spend the time seeing what you can pull out of the palate. And what you get on the first sip might be different to what you get on the second sip. And I think that's part of why whiskey is enjoying a resurgence is that there is so much flavor profile and so much different flavor profile that you can get from different whiskeys these days. And folks are plugging back into that. [00:42:36] Speaker B: Yeah. And drinking it for the flavor and the taste instead of just drinking it like I used to and just drinking it because you're on a mission, you're going to go out and have a drink and just chug or take a shot. But as far as people getting their hands on this, is it available online or is there a place they can come purchase or how can people get their hands on it? [00:42:59] Speaker A: So I started selling in Birmingham. It was the first place I sold through the Alabama ABC stores. So all of their ABC stores in Birmingham will carry excellent. And now you can buy it all through the state. So all the way from Huntsville down to Mobile, it's carried in all the ABC Select stores. I have a partnership with Buzzed and they'll deliver to your house. That's where you can buy it online in Birmingham@buz.com. And pretty soon, in about a month, it will be available for sale over the internet to 45 of the 50 states. Not Alabama, but you'll be able to buy it all around the country. [00:43:36] Speaker B: Well, you can get delivered through Buzz. That's awesome. Having it delivered right to your door, you can't beat, right? [00:43:42] Speaker A: That's right. No, it's great and it's doing really well. It's been a great local reception to it. Folks have enjoyed the story. They've enjoyed the fact that it's produced here in Birmingham. So what I didn't mention is that while it's made in North Carolina, when the barrels are ready to be bottled, we bring them down to Birmingham, to the Dread River Distillery, downtown Birmingham. Dred river have fantastic equipment, fantastic people. They really know what they're doing. And so the barrels are blended there and then really slowly proofed down and then bottled. And we distribute from the Dread River Distillery downtown Birmingham. So you can buy it there as well, if you like. [00:44:21] Speaker B: Very nice. [00:44:29] Speaker C: More cash, more capital and new customers for your business. That's where Moxie comes in. Moxie, Birmingham is a growing community of small businesses helping one another thrive. As a Moxie member, you earn more revenue from brand new customers, not spend. [00:44:47] Speaker B: Your hard earned revenue on various expenses. [00:44:50] Speaker C: And even get a no interest, no payment line of credit, all within the Moxie network. As a Moxie member myself, I can. [00:44:59] Speaker B: Tell you that I choose to support. [00:45:01] Speaker C: Other businesses that also accept Moxie. In fact, I've discovered some of my very favorite restaurants, healthcare practitioners and home and auto service businesses through Moxie. [00:45:13] Speaker B: I'm talking Soho, Social, Heavenly Donuts, nothing. [00:45:16] Speaker C: But cakes, just to name a few. Go to Moxieburmingham.com. That's moxeybham.com to learn more moxie. It's the smarter way to barter. [00:45:39] Speaker B: Before we started recording, you were telling me that there are really only, what, five small batch private distillers in the state. And we actually have a friend in common, Jeff Irons. Shout out to Jeff, my buddy Harrison's dad, and his is Irons One, I think. And they're out of Huntsville, and I don't know that they're available in stores. I think they only sell it online. [00:46:01] Speaker A: I'm pretty sure that's right. Yeah. I think you can get it up at the distillery in Huntsville. As. Yeah. And then we have Dread River, who's our local distillery here in Birmingham. And we have John Emerald, who's a great distillery down in Opalika area. And then there's Detlings Distilling as well, so also operating out of central Alabama. And then there's a couple of brands like Mercy. We have sweet home spirits operating out of Leeds, close to us here in Birmingham. And we have Judge Roy Bean operating out of Mobile. [00:46:35] Speaker B: Judge Roy Bean. [00:46:36] Speaker A: Judge Roy Bean. [00:46:37] Speaker B: That's a funny name. [00:46:38] Speaker A: Yeah. Make a great bourbon. And then we have Clyde Mays. Clyde Mays is probably the most popular whiskey. It's titled after Clyde Mays, who was a bootlegger here in Alabama, but that's a much larger brand sold throughout the whole country right now. And they're busy building a really large distillery in Troy, and I think their aspiration is in a couple of years, this will actually be made here in Alabama. [00:47:07] Speaker B: I had a guest on who actually I want to give you a copy of his book. He gave me a couple to give as gifts. I want to give you a copy of Alabama Short. Really, really excellent. I just had him on the episode last week named Sean Wright, and he wrote a book about just some really memorable cool stories from Birmingham and Alabama's history. And one of those is know over in Avondale how they have the big statue of the elephant. Fancy, fancy the elephant. Part of that story is that she had to take medication for whatever reason. And the only way she would take it is with about two or three pints of whiskey and that she would wash down her medication with whiskey. But this was during Prohibition, so they would get the whiskey through what the police had confiscated from distillers. So I just imagine the handler of fancy would sometimes sneak a little bit and he'd be found stumbling around in the streets. And I just thought that was so fun. But have you studied about Prohibition and any stories from around that time? I think it's just something that is part of our history that I don't really think about or know much about. But I think it's a fascinating time. [00:48:21] Speaker A: It was an interesting time. I think one little known fact is that during Prohibition, jack Daniels Distillery wanted to get their whiskey out of their town, out of Lynchburg, because folks knew there was a lot of whiskey stored there, and they felt it was at risk during this time when people were trying to hunt it. So they actually stored a lot of their whiskey during Prohibition in Birmingham. And the original warehouse, the original building is still there. It's on Second Avenue North. And if you look at the building, you can kind of still see a little bit of the old riding, really, from that time up on the wall. [00:48:57] Speaker B: I used to live on Second Avenue North. What's the building? [00:49:00] Speaker A: It's Second Avenue and I think 24th street. 24th or 25th street. Okay, I'll take a photo and I'll send it to you. [00:49:09] Speaker B: Yeah, I'd love to see that. [00:49:10] Speaker A: So Birmingham has a little bit of a history during a Prohibition. There were a lot of country stills out here in Alabama. I think folks still stumble on old stills, like true good bootlegging stuff. NASCAR. NASCAR comes from bootlegging. And a lot of that is all kind of rooted here in Alabama, in Mississippi, in Georgia area. So we have strong tradition of that around us. [00:49:37] Speaker B: Absolutely. Let's see, where should we go from here? This will be edited out. This is one of those times where I have questions. Was trying to think of which way I want to go next. Anything you want me to bring up? [00:49:50] Speaker A: I can tell you a couple of bars and restaurants that carry it if. [00:49:53] Speaker B: You want, so you can get it online. You can have it delivered, obviously, in all the ABC Select stores. Are there any bars or restaurants that carry it right now? [00:50:07] Speaker A: Yeah, so Watkins Branch in Mountain Brook, a really, really good quality bourbon bar. A big fan of theirs because they were the first bar to pick Mercy up. Nice. I was in there having dinner one night and started chatting to the bar folks and told them about Mercy, and they went out and bought it the next day, and it's done really well there. So that's the first bar to carry Mercy, and I'm very grateful to those folks helping me get it up on the map. Helen Carrier. Downtown Birmingham, bistro 218, Boca. And slowly getting more and more of the downtown restaurants to carry it. [00:50:40] Speaker B: I'll have to talk to my budy Chewy about getting you an audio. Audios? [00:50:44] Speaker A: Would love to be an audio. [00:50:45] Speaker B: Yeah, he was on an episode. He's a really good friend. I'll see if I can connect you guys. [00:50:48] Speaker A: That would be think, you know, it's a locally produced whiskey. It's good. Wholesome organic grains, terroir. I think it does really well in high end bars and restaurants like, so that would be great. The folks at Soho Social and all of their restaurants have picked it up now as well, so you can get it there. Love soho social Mudtown. Cajun steamer. So slowly, slowly, the word is getting out. [00:51:11] Speaker B: It's in a good amount of places so far. [00:51:13] Speaker A: Yeah. I spent last week, I was out in Tuscaloosa. I have five or six restaurants out there about to pick it up. I was out in Auburn opalika area. I have five or six restaurants out there going to pick it up as well. So just a great reception. Folks are really interested when a local producer walks in and the quality of the whiskey is good enough that they get excited about carrying it themselves as well. So it's great. Good packaging, good whiskey, and being a local person seems to really work. [00:51:38] Speaker B: Yeah. Bars, restaurant owners pick this up. Let's get mercy and everyone in Birmingham. Let's do it. [00:51:43] Speaker A: Good deal. Thank you so much. [00:51:45] Speaker B: Absolutely. Well, anything else you want to talk. [00:51:48] Speaker A: About while you're on that's? A lot we covered. [00:51:51] Speaker B: Actually, I did have another question. So when it comes to tasting spirits, kind of like wine, there's kind of a way you slosh it around and smell it. And is there anything like that when you're actually if you really want to taste a bourbon or a rye the right way, do you just take a tiny sip or how do you do that? [00:52:12] Speaker A: So one interesting thing is that your nostrils alternate in which one's working and which one's not working. What? [00:52:20] Speaker B: Really? [00:52:21] Speaker A: Yeah. Strange thing, but every 30 minutes your nostril switches. [00:52:24] Speaker B: You're kidding. [00:52:25] Speaker A: So what I would recommend is if you want to taste some, if you really want to get the flavors, use a kind of wide glass, wide open glass. So you can get a lot of aeration coming through different styles, like tasting it in different ways. A lot of folks will enjoy tasting it on ice. I recommend that when you have a high proof whiskey, just cool it down a little bit. Put a little bit of water in there through the ice. Some folks will taste it neat too. They're going to get a very pure flavor that way. Coming through. First smell. Figure out which nostril is working. So smell with your left, smell with your right. You'll know right away, because you'll have a very neutral smell. And then if your left nostril is not working, and then your right nostril, if that was the one that's working, it'll pop. They alternate every 30 minutes. [00:53:12] Speaker B: That's blowing my mind. I've never heard that in my life. So interesting. [00:53:15] Speaker A: Somebody told me that at a wine tasting a little while ago, and I thought they were joking. And I tried it out and was like, oh, this is real. When you're smelling, open your mouth a little bit so that the air flows all the way through. And so that's going to be your first hint, is going to be smelling the whiskey. And then when you sip it, you'll find your flavors will come from the front of your tongue, the back of your tongue, and the back of your cheeks. [00:53:40] Speaker B: Okay. [00:53:41] Speaker A: So get the whiskey on there for mercy. The first one will be a little bit of a burn because it's a higher proof, so you'll probably get more of the flavors coming through on the second sip. And then just everybody gets different flavors and just try to pick out what it is that you're tasting. But it's as simple as that. Figure out which nostrils work in. Have a wide open glass, and make sure you're getting some on the front of the tongue and the back of the tongue and the back of your cheeks and see what comes out. [00:54:06] Speaker B: Okay, I'll do that. Do you have any favorite restaurants that you frequent in town? Helen sounds like it might be one of them. [00:54:13] Speaker A: Yeah, Helen is great. [00:54:14] Speaker B: So good. [00:54:15] Speaker A: Cayo Coco. Fantastic. Love that place. Yeah. Watkins branch have great food. A really good bourbon bar, but supported by really excellent food as well. There's so much good food in Birmingham that we rotate around a lot, going different places, different styles. I actually really enjoy fish market as well. Really excellent quality fish. Yeah, it's all good. I could probably keep going for a long time. [00:54:42] Speaker B: One that I'm always promoting is haven't. [00:54:47] Speaker A: I have not eaten there yet. [00:54:49] Speaker B: I know Colby the owner, but he unfortunately is not sponsoring the podcast yet. But I mentioned it almost every episode, so it's time for you to step up. But yeah, no, I really am a huge fan. They have excellent Asian fusion style food. So that's one to definitely check out if you great, great. [00:55:05] Speaker A: Well, we'll put that on the list. We'll hit that soon. [00:55:08] Speaker B: And as far know, all those are, like, I would say, slightly upscale, but some of the good lunch spots. Actually, I think I'm wearing a shirt ted's right now. I went to Ted's for lunch the other day. Yes, I really enjoy, like, a meat and three kind of like, southern soul food type cooking. So Ted's is going to be top, and then Nikki's West would be another really good lunch. Kind of like cafeteria style. [00:55:32] Speaker A: Love Nikki's West. [00:55:33] Speaker B: Yeah, me too. They serve at least at one point they were serving like 1500 meals a day. [00:55:39] Speaker A: Yeah. Wow. I never realized this much. Another great one that I love is Bright Star. [00:55:45] Speaker B: Oh, I always forget about Brightstar. [00:55:47] Speaker A: Really recommend them. It's really, really good Mediterranean style food. So day job. We had our board meeting here in Birmingham recently. A lot of folks flew in from all around the country and we served Bright Star for lunch. Really, really good. Wholesome, authentic. [00:56:02] Speaker B: It's such a it's it's gotta be one of the oldest restaurants in the Is, I think. [00:56:09] Speaker A: It is. And still going. It's good stuff. Yeah. [00:56:13] Speaker B: Well, I guess we can go ahead and wrap up if there's nothing else you want to mention. [00:56:17] Speaker A: Yeah, that's great. Thank you so much, Chase. [00:56:19] Speaker B: Yes, Gavin. Thank you for coming on, man. I really look forward to diving in and trying this out. [00:56:23] Speaker A: Good stuff. Yeah. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think. [00:56:25] Speaker B: I absolutely will. [00:56:26] Speaker A: Good deal. Cheers. It though. I can't let it down this hope I feel all the cities made me cry out.

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