Last Updated on May 10, 2023 by mark
Gareth Moore is the CEO of Virginia Distillery, continuing the work of his father George with the production of American Single Malt. Additionally, Moore serves as Principal at Adelphi Capital, a middle-market merchant banking business in DC. He is also President of the Virginia Distillers Association and sits on the DISCUS Craft Advisory Council and other boards. Moore holds a BA from Boston College and an MBA from Georgetown University.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Gareth is the CEO of Virginia Distillery Co.
- The company was founded by Gareth’s father, who had a passion for single malts despite being Irish
- The Virginia Highland Whiskey series is their primary product made by blending American silver malt with Scottish single malt
- Labeling the exact blending ratio is challenging due to the blending process
- Marketing experts advised against releasing unaged whiskey as it may be perceived as moonshine
- Weather and humidity can have a positive effect on aging whiskey
- Challenges in ramping up production include building the distillery, fine-tuning stills, and aging patience
- Courage and Conviction American Single Malt launched in April 2020 during the global pandemic
- Hospitality plays a role in reinforcing the brand experience
- Focus on providing unique and hands-on experience for visitors
- Challenges with control state regulations, but the progress made with commission structure
In this episode with Gareth Moore
In this episode with Gareth Moore, Gareth describes the challenges of ramping up production and distribution while building a distillery, fine-tuning skills, and navigating supply chains despite launching a new product during the pandemic. How did Gareth Moore’s Virginia Distillery pivot and continuedly to be successful during and after the global pandemic?
Gareth Moore is the CEO of Virginia Distillery Co., Gareth shares the fascinating legacy of his father, who founded the company with a passion for single malts and a desire to create the next great American whiskey.
In today’s episode of the Legends Behind The Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks is joined by Gareth Moore, Gareth is the CEO of Virginia Distillery Co., and he shares the fascinating legacy of his father, who founded the company with a passion for single malts and a desire to create the next great American whiskey
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Drew Thomas Hendricks on LinkedIn
- Barrels Ahead
- Gareth Moore on LinkedIn
- Virginia Distillery
- Virginia Highland Whiskey series
- Laird & Company
- Balcone’s Distilling
- American Single Malt
- Mash And Grape
- Virginia ABC
- American Single Malt Commission
- Malahat Spirits Co.
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.
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[00:00:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Drew Thomas Hendricks here. I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft Podcast. On this show, I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry. Today I’ve got a very special episode. We are going deep into the Virginia Distillery Association and the Virginia Distillery with Gareth Moore. But before I formally introduce him, gotta outta the sponsor message.
Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. Barrels Ahead. We work with you to implement a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy, one that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and connects you with your ideal customers.
In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their stories to unleash their revenue. Go to barrels ahead.com today to learn more today. I’m super excited to talk with Gareth Moore. Gareth is the CEO of the Virginia Distillery Co. Welcome to the show.
[00:01:04] Gareth Moore: Thanks very much, Drew. Appreciate you having me.
[00:01:05] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, thank you so much for being on. So, Gareth, talk to me about the Virginia Distillery Co.
[00:01:11] Gareth Moore: I mean, I could talk about it all day. yeah. So maybe you tell me where to start, or maybe that’s
[00:01:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: a way to start. Yeah. Let’s see how So really, it’s a really family legacy on how it began from whatever.
[00:01:20] Gareth Moore: That’s right. Yeah.
[00:01:22] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Talk to me about your dad, George Moore
[00:01:23] Gareth Moore: Yeah, absolutely. So, let’s see. Dr. George G. Moore, he didn’t like being called the doctor. He had a Ph.D., right? So, you know, he wasn’t a medical doctor, econometrics. and then he had another one that he earned that was my least favorite book in the NBA program.
Yeah, yeah. No, it’s one that, people steer away from. Maybe, maybe there wasn’t a lot of,you know, competition in the category. So, dad went for econometrics, but, and that’s actually what brought him over here. So he was, an Irish immigrant along with my mother. I’m the product of a mixed marriage.
My mother was from, the north, Catholic in Northern Ireland. And my father is a Catholic in the Republic. They met, during the troubles. and dad got a scholarship to George Washington in what, 1972? first, he did his DBA, you mentioned, your MBA, but back in the day they used to do a doctorate in business administration.
Oh, really? Yeah, they don’t do that anymore. It’s very rare. And then, yeah, got his Ph.D. mom came out and joined him a few years, later. And like many people, they stuck around and dad was a technology guy, and, you know, big in data and analytics, all sorts of fun stuff, lived out the American dream.
Mm-hmm. which was, you know, great to grow up actually seeing that. I mean, people hear about the American dream of, you know, immigrants coming with a few hundred bucks in their pockets. Yeah. And, you know, building businesses, building families, and living well. And it was great to be a firsthand witness to that.
And so, you know, after a successful career of building companies, selling them, in 2011, he exited, the biggest company that he had founded. And somewhat as a retirement project, he decided he wanted to go out and create the next great American whiskey. and despite being Irish, he had a passion for single malts, which, you know, there are a few in Ireland, but, you know, they’ve always been more associated with Scotland and, you know, the marketing people will ask me, well, you know, could we make ’em Scottish? Or, could you make your whiskey Irish? But, you know, I mean, people from California can like, whiskey from Kentucky, and people from Virginia can like, you know, wine from California, right? Absolutely. You don’t necessarily have to like your own thing. So yeah, dad got off to the races in, late 2011. got, some land, got a big Scottish distillery system, started construction, and then about, 18 months into it, took a heart attack, passed suddenly. And, dad and I have been working on various projects together.
My background’s in finance and we’ve been doing, you know, investments and, tech startups and, you know, various technology-oriented things. But we weren’t working on the distillery together. it was just, you know, a project that he had, his passion project. Yeah, yeah, exactly. He knew very little about it.
In fact, I was under the impression that it was operational because there was a blended product that they were working on with the brand. And, you know, whiskey was going into the barrels. Mm-hmm. And, you know, I had only ever been to distilleries, you know, as a tour with dad in Scotland, a random trip, something like that.
So, all of that is to say that, when he passed I was, very, very, very naive. About, the industry, about the process, about fundamentally how difficult, it would be to build a distillery. Yeah. It sounded like, hey, whiskey, that’s easy, right? You know Mm-hmm technology and finance, that’s very serious and difficult stuff, and you know, how hard can whiskey be? I know like the drinking portion of the competition, right? But that’s probably the hardest part. and, you know.
[00:04:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: The next morning is the hardest part.
[00:04:28] Gareth Moore: Yeah, yeah. No, that’s when the narrator just says, you know, and Gareth was very wrong. And so nine years later, instead of being very, very, very naive, I’m just, very naive. I dropped, one or two of the varies. And yeah, we’ve got it going. And so in, 2013, there was, the shell of the building and of course the stills, you know, the building’s built around the stills.
Mm-hmm. And I was under the impression that you know, where’s the on button? let’s go. But turns out there’s a lot of other things, you know, all your pipes and valves and the mill and the boiler system, the chiller system. Oh. and we built a visitor center so we could start bringing, folks onto the site to see what we’re doing.
[00:05:10] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Of course, there’s the warehouses, then the warehouses get bigger, then you have new warehouses, then you have vatting houses, then you have bottling houses. So it’s been quite the journey since, 2013. But, when you took it over, or when you came on board in 2013?
Is your dad just tucking it away, aging it because you’ve got it, can’t just really release it?
[00:05:29] Gareth Moore: No. So it wasn’t even, I mean, the distillery wasn’t operational Oh. At that time. Okay, so he was working on a brand that would be, imported from Scotland and then aged in, Port Wine Cask from Virginia.
Oh. And that’s what became our, Virginia Highland Whiskey series, which we still have on the market. I think we just in the last six months, passed where it’s now like 48% of our sales, and our American Cinema Mall. It is now the majority. But yeah, so at that time it was really just kind of a, well, I guess you would call that a non-distilling producer, type, project.
hundred percent. And knowing that we would get there. Yeah. hundred percent potential. Exactly. Exactly. But, you know, we ran with that product and what we ended up doing was over time, as we had our own whiskey that we laid down starting in 2015, that’s when our first distillations happened.
We would have, you know, one or two-year-old whiskey that we’d start blending in with the Scottish Single Malt. and in the early days, it was a thimble fold and then, you know, 5%, 10%. And as our whiskey aged, we started including more and more of it. And now, we’re about 50-50, in terms of our own American silver malt produced in the US that’s blended into the Scottish Single Malt.
and then aged in, port wine casts. That’s the primary product. We also do a cider finish as well.
[00:06:42] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Ooh, the cider finish, is that in? How do you finish in cider?
[00:06:46] Gareth Moore: Yeah, that one’s a little more complicated than port primarily because it’s hard to find barrel-aged cider. And it also tends, barrel-aged cider tends to be more of a dry cider, right? Mm-hmm. So, you know, kind of, more of like the champagne style. versus the, you know, what I think some of the major producers have done where it’s sweeter and, you know, much, much more fruit forward versus the kind of the subtle apple tastes.
[00:07:07] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Or like, back there’s a lot of ciders. I drank a lot of cider. You can get a lot of sours going on there that I couldn’t imagine going into that.
[00:07:15] Gareth Moore: That’s right. That’s right. And so we’ve actually had some sweeter, ciders that we’ve aged, our whiskeys in and it’s really a blend of different types, you know, some of the sweets, some of the dry, that creates really interesting flavors that aren’t like, you know, kind of kick you with the teeth, Jolly Rancher, apple taste, right? It’s a lot more subtle than that. Mm-hmm. you know that there are apples there, but you know, you’re not getting apples thrown at you.
[00:07:37] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. You wanna reminisce? You don’t wanna like, you don’t wanna be like an apple jack or something.
[00:07:41] Gareth Moore: Exactly. Exactly. But we’ve actually used some applejack barrels cause like, 10 or 50 miles up the road from us in Central Virginia is where Lairds, does their, brandy distillation. They do the aging, blending, and everything up in New Jersey, but their, apple facility is very close to us.
[00:07:59] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No, I had no idea.
[00:08:00] Gareth Moore: We borrow some barrels from time to time, so.
[00:08:02] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s cool. Cool. Yeah. So I didn’t know that. So your, scotch is really a, well not scotch, but your important one’s really an international blend.
[00:08:11] Gareth Moore: Yeah. Yeah. And so that makes it difficult to put in a category, obviously.
Mm-hmm it’s kind of a specialty blend. but yeah, it’s an American a hundred percent malt, and then Scottish, a hundred percent malt. Of course, together, we can’t call them, single malts. But, you know, it blended a hundred percent malt product, that then does a secondary maturation finish, at our place in Virginia.
[00:08:31] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What about the labeling laws on that? Can you put that a certain percentage comes from Scotland, or how do you?
[00:08:37] Gareth Moore: Yeah, you know, now if we did that, we would have to, be very careful about exactly how we did that. Mm-hmm. And really the Virginia Highland Whiskey product line, we now call it VHWthere’s an international organization that did not want us to use the word highland. So we just call it VHW now. But labeling it has always been a little bit challenging, you’d asked, you know, could we give the exact, blending ratio? Well, that product line is really how we internally got our own kind of competency and capacity in blending and each of the different tasks that we’re filling, you know, maybe if we filled them in the springtime, we had 60/40 and Okay. Going down through the summer, we had some of the older stocks, so we were 50/50. Ultimately when the blend is happening, we very quickly lose track of Yeah, exactly the ratio of what went in.
And so we could show you everything that went in, but then if you just saw the process of, okay, we’re dumping these tasks. Okay, then we have something vatted. Okay, well then we’re gonna take that, move it over to here. Mm-hmm. Add this portion. Okay. Then we’re gonna bottle that, but we’re gonna leave, you know, a third of it, ready for the next batch.
Okay. And then something else gets, so, I mean, we thought about that and you know, again, I hope the marketing people never listen to these podcasts, but the marketing people, the marketing people said, yeah, that’d be great. That’d be great if we could say exactly what the proportion is.
Mm-hmm. But we wouldn’t honestly be able to say, with any specificity exactly what any batch is and what the proportions, are. And then of course, you don’t wanna get in trouble with the TTP of saying, oh, it’s exactly 50/50 when, it’s 55/45, or something like that.
[00:10:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So you can speak in generalities, but what a great go-to-market strategy, especially for a young distillery, cuz there is that gap when you’re waiting for your whiskey to age.
Out here, we have some craft producers that are selling, white whiskey, which is Yeah, yeah.
[00:10:25] Gareth Moore: Well, you know, to be honest, that was part of our plan. I mean, we had a bottle, that was all ready to go, Virginia barley spirit and, you know, we thought this was gonna be great early revenue, you know, straight off the still.
Mm-hmm. And, again, back to the marketing folks, right? they very wisely. a young woman who was our first marketing director, spent the first six months she was with us, trying to convince me. Not to release that product and mm-hmm. She was successful and she was definitely right.
We had this idea of Virginia barley spirit. It’s gonna be a single malt, but a hundred percent unaged. And she said, yeah, you know, people are gonna think of that as moonshine, you know, we’re here in Central Virginia. It’s not gonna be the fine single malt that you think it’s so.
[00:11:04] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I know we have enough moonshine, it is an acquired taste. I’m slowly acquiring the taste for unaged whiskey.
[00:11:09] Gareth Moore: There you go. There you go. And good luck with that acquisition.
[00:11:13] Drew Thomas Hendricks: The other way is just kind of putting a whiskey into these micro barrels where they can imitate six years of age with, in like six months.
[00:11:21] Gareth Moore: Yeah. Yeah. So you know, I don’t like to say that I’m a traditionalist in any way, but I do like to listen to experts and, you know, consultants that we hire, right? You know, if we’re looking for, great advice and we have these great mentors in Scotland that, you know, have the first century of experience in making whiskey. And you know, normally they tell me like when they’re getting on a flight, but I feel like if we use micro barrels like they wouldn’t tell me and they’d come and like, you know, yank me outta my bed in the middle of the night
But, yeah, our smallest barrels are smallest barrels are 200 liters. So those are the former bourbon barrels and we have hogsheads. We have plenty of these big, 500 liters sherry bots.
[00:11:57] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, oh wow. I have nothing against the smaller barrels, but you can definitely, I can definitely taste it.
[00:12:02] Gareth Moore: Yeah. And, you know, there’s a place, a time, and a place for everything, right? Mm-hmm. I mean, where we are in Central Virginia, it’s, not dissimilar from Central Kentucky in terms of the climate, you know, the heat and humidity it gets. I mean, about a month ago it was, pretty miserable here, right?
You know, you’re deep in the nineties we’d get well past the hundreds and then, you know, the humidity gets to like 187%. I don’t even know how that’s possible, but it just feels like it’s unpleasant. And then the winters, you know, still a few months away here, but it gets pretty chilly.
And then we get a couple of feet of snow on the ground and then very dry. Yeah. And so, you know, you compare that kind of, you know, very dynamic climate to climates in Scotland or Ireland or even those certain areas that they’re aging whiskey in Japan. And they tend to be a lot more milder, you know, day to day and season to season, you just don’t have those same massive swings.
Last month I was visiting my mom in Ireland and, you know, it’s whether you’re going or in August or whether you’re going in January, your suitcase kind of looks the same. Yeah. always hope it’s gonna be like really warm or you’ll see some. Mm-hmm. But it’s always somewhere in the middle. So we’re able to get a good amount of maturation in a relatively short period of time, using larger barrels just due to the climate.
[00:13:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And then the weather and the humidity, I would think it would actually have a positive effect on the aging.
[00:13:19] Gareth Moore: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.
[00:13:21] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So they send their whiskey around the globe so it can travel around the equator a few times to smooth it out.
[00:13:27] Gareth Moore: Yeah. Yeah, exactly, you know, I mean, one of the ways, I explain it to folks who aren’t, you know, in the industry is, you know, a lot of people have a back deck of their house. I mean, certainly mm-hmm, out east, you know, you have a pine or oak deck and you know, in the winter it gets really loose, you know, screws kind of pop up and it kind of seems like it might fall apart. But, you know, once summer comes back, it tightens up again. Oh yeah. So if you think about that same kind of phenomenon happening in the cask you have in the winter, it’s you know, everything’s tightening up, it’s squeezing things into the barrel or into the contents.
Mm-hmm. And then, you know, back in the summer as it’s, you know, expanding, it’s pulling stuff back into the wood. Mm-hmm. That’s when you don’t necessarily wanna dump it, right? Because a lot of the good stuff is inside the world. Oh, it’s been, oh, and so we’d like to think that the best time is, you know, kind of spring after you’ve kind of started to warm up and squeezed the stays back together gotten that, it’s almost like a tea bag, right? Squeeze the last little bit, out of, what’s left there.
[00:14:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s very interesting. Yeah, I can definitely testify to the wood expanding, we’re down in San Diego and it’s never humid here, but we’ve had a really humid, and none of our doors close right now.
All there. Exactly. There it is, we’ve all kind of expanded and nothing quite fits in our house right now.
[00:14:40] Gareth Moore: Yep, that’s exactly the same with the barrels.
[00:14:43] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Mm-hmm. Oh, interesting. And if you think about barrels, you’re right. Yeah. The whiskey just goes right up into it. That’s fantastic.
So talk to me about American single malt?
[00:14:52] Gareth Moore: Yeah. So, you know, American Single Malt is really all we produce out of our stills. We’ve historically been blending it within the imported products, but the product that we released, just two years ago, is our own American single malt.
It’s really what we’re all about, and getting a category as a formal designation by TTB, really meant a lot to us, because, you know, we’re kind of stuck in the other category of whiskey, right? Mm-hmm. We’re not bourbon, we’re not rye. Mm-hmm. We’re in other, and you kind of get lost in the fold there of different blended whiskeys and corn whiskeys, and quinoa whiskeys, wheat whiskeys, all sorts of, you know,
[00:15:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I don’t think I’ve heard that. I haven’t had that one yet.
[00:15:29] Gareth Moore: I’ve had it, moving right along. Yeah, we kind of get lost in there and so, you know, internationally, malt whiskey is sold a lot more than mm-hmm you know, what we would think of as whiskey was, you know, bourbon and rye. Mm-hmm. And so, that definition of single malt was really put there, not by, you know, guys like me and other producers like, you know, Wesland and Seattle or mm-hmm.
Let’s see westward, in Portland you have, Stranahans outta Denver. You have Balconies in Texas. We all got together.
[00:15:59] Drew Thomas Hendricks: You gotta mentioned Malahat, my favorite down in San Diego.
[00:16:02] Gareth Moore: There you go. There you go. Yeah. Well, I mean, there are huge volumes of single mall producers. Yeah. But we got together, back in 2016 and, you know, like in these small industries, small guys have to work together and, you know, a rising tide lifts all of our boats. Mm-hmm. And we recognized that needed to have a category, that was defined just like, you know, we had with bourbon or Rye or, you know, any sort of, product out there. Mm-hmm. and so yeah, we worked with the TTB and we really just wanted to have the consumer expectation that was set by Scotland, Ireland, Japan, and so on.
That what does, single mean? Well, it means that it’s distilled entirely from one distillery, right? It’s not a blend of different types of styles. It’s a certain style, malt is malted barley. Mm-hmm. You can malt other drains, but, malted barley is the expectation, and then America, that’s the easy part, just has to be, you know, mashed distilled, and matured, in the United States of America.
Mm-hmm. And that’s American Single Malt, really. so, yeah. Yeah.
[00:17:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Is there any age requirements on it or?
[00:17:02] Gareth Moore: No. So there are some other requirements, but they’re all within the existing, classification, that TTB has for whiskeys and so, let’s see, matured in oak casts not exceeding 700 liters.
We had nothing against, you know, 800 liters. It’s just that it was, you know, already in the regulations to be whiskey, distilled no more than 160 proof. And then bottled at 80 proof or more. and so those were things that just already existed in the regs. And it would be just process-wise, it would be like we’d be peeling back the category of whiskey if we didn’t have those as part of it.
So yeah, those are kind of the ancillary portions of the definition. but the core parts are just, you know, a hundred percent malted barley distilled entirely from one distillery. And, that’s made here in the US.
[00:17:46] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s very, very interesting. For some reason, I don’t know, I always listen to single malt and I think it’s gotta be a single type of malted barley, but it’s really.
[00:17:54] Gareth Moore: Yeah, you know, we’ve gotten that too, or a single type of any sort of, malt, right? Cause you can malt lots of different grains. Yeah. And there is an existing definition that goes way, way back, of a malt whiskey that just has to be 51% of any type of malted grain. Okay. And you can malt a lot of things.
You can malt rye. I know there are folks that are malting rye out there, you can malt wheat and I mean, I’m sure if you work hard and believe in yourself, you could probably malt quinoa. I don’t know. I don’t, I just,
[00:18:22] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I gotta research that.
[00:18:23] Gareth Moore: Yeah. Yeah. but that was part of the challenge was that you know, in the US, the definition for malt was, you know, anything that was malted.
but, you know, the US didn’t really build Malt whiskey, right? You know, the Scotts primarily did. And they set that expectation that, when you say malt, you mean malted barley. So yeah, and that’s what the vast majority of producers out there out there had been doing.
So it wasn’t terribly difficult to get a group together to advocate for that definition with the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau. And I think what, there’s well over 200 products on the shelf, that are American single malts, by over a hundred producers. Wow. So I mean, it’s a nascent category and certainly in volumes, it’s still quite small. but I think it’s a great place for innovation, you know, a lot of different, areas between bourbon, rye, and even, you know, vodkas, tequilas, everything else, have been explored. But I think, having something that the rest of the world has, you know, kind of owned for a while bringing it to the US and making it our own is, I don’t know part of a great American tradition, right? Oh, that’s we’re a nation of immigrants and, you know, when you think about those great things that folks bring from the old country, you know, people in the old country would say, no, that’s not real. That’s not authentic. Well, it is authentic, I mean, it’s something that somebody brought to the US and made their own, you know, whether, you know, pizza, well, a heck of a lot more, popular in the new world here, right? I mean, it’s where tomatoes are from and so on. Oh, yeah. frankfurters and hamburgers and, you know, those might seem like ancient things when, you know, you’d say, oh, the 1800s, coming to the turn of the centuries when you had all this immigration. But one example I like to give is, you know, if, 20 years ago or maybe 25 years ago, if we said, hey, there’s some, you know, guys on the West coast that are eating fish raw and they’re putting some rice around it, you know, sounds crazy.
But now, you know, I can order sushi to be here in 20 minutes in Charlottesville, Virginia, but it’s not gonna be exactly, you know, what they’re gonna be serving in Tokyo, right? It’s not a copy of something that came over from the old world, I mean, you know, we had cream cheese and you know, we make it our own, right? The Philadelphia roll would get you in trouble in Tokyo, but it’s delicious here. And so it’s that kind of model that I think about for American single malts that, you know, we’re not trying to just recreate something. It’s not Scotch that’s made here in the US. It’s something that we make for ourselves to our own flavors to our own likes and make it our own.
[00:20:42] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, talking about flavors, I know it is an impossible question to answer, but you can talk about your particular house style. You’ve got Scotch and I can, I kind of have a mental, image of all the bottles of Scotch I drank, and then some of the Irish malts and then Japanese. Where would you see American Malt fitting in?
[00:20:59] Gareth Moore: Yeah. Well, you know, it’s an interesting question because, you know, the US is so, so large and diverse that there really isn’t, you know, a house style for the country that I think would really define it. I mean, you know, we think of Scotland, even though it’s a much smaller, area and just the massive history and.
And heritage that they have there means that they have distinct styles like, you know, an Isla where it’s gonna be, you know, extremely fruity and smokey, you know, Highlands, where it’s gonna be a little lighter and, you know, fruity side, some of the, you know, Campbelltown or Lowlands and so on that have their own style.
And so I think similar in the US, there’s gonna be distinct regional styles. particularly in the way that you know, things are aged. Because if you’re aging, you know, in a kind of, you know, call it a bourbon-like climate in Virginia, it’s gonna be very different than if you had even the same display.
Which obviously is gonna be slightly different, but if you aged it in Texas or, you know, mile high in Denver, or you know, in a rainy Pacific Northwest. So I think, you know, there’s not quite a house style yet, but I think some of the big differences would be, with some other producers, not necessarily Virginia Distillery Company, there’s a lot of use of new wood, right?
So bourbon and Rye would have a lot of first-use new oak. For aging, which gives it a lot more of the wood, and a little less of the grain. And you know, by law in Scotland and Ireland you can’t use new wood. It has to be used and so, you know, that’s kind something somewhat unique to the US again, with my business, we use used wood cuz we’re a little more traditional, but, you know, doing it in a different type of climate makes it a little different than you get anywhere.
[00:22:31] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sure. so courage and conviction in your American single malt’s, right in flavor profile, where does that fit?
So I would say that that’s, again, more on the traditional side, but if you’re comparing it to, something you’re used to liking a Scotch it would be definitely a lot more fruit-forward. And there are really two places that come from. Number one, we use two different types of yeast.
One that’s traditional more for alcohol production, another that is really focused on, this kind of tropical fruit Esther products. that’s kind of the magic, that we put in there. And then the other part is from our casks. We use three different types of casks primarily. About half are former bourbon barrels, and 25% are what we call our covet casks. They’re in the industry known as STR or Shave, Toast, Re-Char. That’s a red wine cast that’s been broken down and kind of refurbished. And then the last 25% are various types of sherry. Those are those 500 liters, you know, Mega Sherry Butts.
And so a lot of fruit in our flavor. And I think that would kind of be our house style is very fruit-forward whiskey.
Oh, very good. Now, as far as, so nine years into this, of production, have you ramped up, and the challenges you face ramping up and then distributing this?
[00:23:46] Gareth Moore: Yeah, you know, it’s like each stage gets a little harder, you know, building the distillery out, you know, that was a challenge. Cause I didn’t have any sort of background in engineering or construction and or whiskey making at large. And so, you know, fine-tuning the stills exactly to these specifications that, you know, our mentors had put together for us.
That seemed like, you know, once we’ve gotten there, you know, that’s the hard part. And, again, I was wrong then it’s the aging, you know, the patients and the size of our stills, we have 10,000-liter stills and they’re pot stills. So it’s a process, they’re really, really hard to run slow, right? So you can’t half-fill them, right? Or quarter fills them, you know, there’s a certain batch. And then once you start doing that, you can’t do one a week, right? You know, it’s at four a week, it’s like the minimal efficiency. And we’re doing, right now, we’re doing anywhere between six and nine, mashes, a week.
Oh. because it’s just that much more efficient. and so what I’m getting to is, really since we started in 2015, we’ve been producing, a large volume, knowing that it was gonna take, you know, four or five, six years, to age, and, you know, you’re kind of looking all through the horizon of, you know, how much volume you need at those future dates.
And then of course when you do that, you have to build the road from here to there. And getting out to distribution. So we used the Virginia Highland Whiskey product line kind of cutting our teeth and getting some initial distribution and understanding of how it all worked. And that was, what from 2014 through, 2019.
And then we went, you know, for much more expanded distribution, once we launched Courage and Conviction, the American Single Malt. And
[00:25:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: When was that one?
[00:25:25] Gareth Moore: Well, it was perfect timing, you know, you have this great foresight of launching a brand where, you know, takes probably 18 months in advance.
We picked out the timeline cause you gotta get your glass, you gotta get all the marketing stuff together. You gotta get design, you gotta get supply chain going, you gotta get things filled. And I think we were probably filling bottles in January of 19, you know, getting ’em out to distributors in January and February of 19.
And then, yeah, the goal was to get ’em on the shelves, by April of 20. And, yeah, then the weirdest thing happened. There was this entire global pandemic, I don’t know if you guys heard about it, but it really freaked us out. so we launched in April of 2020, which was Oh wow, you know, at that time just seemed like the world was collapsing, and then it was the worst possible time. But yeah,
[00:26:11] Drew Thomas Hendricks: You know, I caught the last flight outta Ireland before they shut down the country.
[00:26:15] Gareth Moore: Oh, wow. Yeah, like March, I think the last,
[00:26:17] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I was on a full distillery tour right there. yeah, right before the pandemic really hit Ireland and yeah, that’s my pre-pandemic.
[00:26:24] Gareth Moore: Awesome. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Almost got not the worst place to be stuck though, right?
[00:26:29] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No. Oh, it was fantastic. There were so many brands launched right at that time.
[00:26:34] Gareth Moore: I know, I know. Well, I mean, you kind of go back and you think, okay, well shoot, you know, all these brands, new distilleries were coming online, but what we were right then to have, you know, 3, 4, 5-year-old whiskey and I was launching around 2020.
But you know, better to be lucky than to be smart, right? And or to be Irish, better than being smart cause it actually ended up being a bit of a tailwind for us, because, you know, folks were staying at home, not going to the on-premise. And they were going, you know, in March and early, April, they were doing pantry stocking and everybody going for, you know, 1 75 liters of, you know, vodka if they’re near a store. But as things went on, you know, people started looking into discovery brands. They were, you know, looking for new things for entertaining at home, e-commerce and, directing consumer shipping very quickly, you know, became popular and we were right to place right time.
[00:27:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Were you selling online pre-pandemic?
[00:27:26] Gareth Moore: No, no. I mean, a lot of the online selling was the result of, you know, like emergency regulatory orders. So in Virginia, we made the big push, to get, we’re in a control state, right? Where everything has to go through the state.
Oh yeah. I spent my morning this morning at Virginia ABC, headquarters, and. it wasn’t legal to shift until I think it was April 5th. So I mean, that shows you how quickly they turned around, to say, Hey, we’re gonna allow you to shift just inside the state. and then, you know, in other states, things changed and so we worked with different, you know, e-com partners and, you know, various ways that we could, you know, direct from our website to other folks, where they could ship within their state.
And, it worked. So, a lot of those things became permanent, after the pandemic. So, we’re still able to do direct-to-consumer shipping in Virginia. So one of those nice little things along with hand sanitizer happened, during the pandemic for distilleries.
[00:28:16] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh yeah. Did you guys start distilling hand sanitizer distributed?
[00:28:19] Gareth Moore: We did, I mean, I was one of those folks that were like in pure panic mode in the front end, right? So, my wife and I were expecting our, third son, during that time. And, you know, nobody knew what was going on at the front end.
And so it was just nerve-wracking. And, you know, I would drive down to the distillery every morning and you know, would be, geez, it wasn’t until like later in April, but people started wearing masks. I have this great photo where it’s a bunch of guys on the bottling line. and we’re filling these like 200ml, sample bottles of our hand sanitizer, you know, we got our FBA emergency authorization and, you know, it was like an Avery label that we printed with like, you know, whatever the FDA wanted to put on there. And we’re all sitting there, you know, like maybe using our elbows to touch each other because that brings faces closer to one another.
No masks, right? Cause we didn’t know at the time, but yeah, I mean, 2020, I mean the smell of our own hand sanitizer. You weren’t allowed to put any additives into it, like any fragrances. And so it just smelled like, you know, malt whiskey, you know, Amazon deliveries, you know, you spray them down, you know, you get the Instacart, you’d spray that down, you know, I’d spray myself down. I’d come home, I don’t know if you had this experience at the front end of the pandemic, but, you know, like just that paranoia. I would come home and of course, you know, pregnant wife, I would strip down in the garage and throw my clothes into like, you know, a trash bag and then go down, you know, my older kids would have a great laugh and I’d go straight to the shower. And then, you know, just be scrubbing everywhere. But
[00:29:50] Drew Thomas Hendricks: My brother-in-law that’s the way he entered the pandemic. Just the full,
[00:29:54] Gareth Moore: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve recovered since then, you know? Okay. Like, we’re fine, but on the front end, I was a panicker.
[00:29:59] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, we never got it, but yeah, we were, yeah.
It’s just my wife and me that live here, so we didn’t have any kids to worry about, so we were, yeah, we were a little just sheltered in place.
[00:30:09] Gareth Moore: Yeah. Yeah. No, I had to go to the distillery and, you know, if I didn’t go there, it’d be hard to get the other guys to show up too, right? So long as we were there, it was a nice thing to be able to make hand sanitizer cause I think. , you know, I mean, it’s a crazy time. Nobody knows what’s going on and like the distillers and, you know, bottling, staff and so on, you know, we had to shut down our visitor center, hey, visitor center staff, come help bottle. And, you know, the world, you know, is potentially falling apart around us.
And, people think, oh, why are we just making whiskey? Well shoot, it’s pretty meaningful to be able to make hand sanitizer at the same time, so, yeah.
[00:30:43] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No, it was great the way it was all retooled. So I mean, benefits in hindsight, online sales, it was the biggest boom that the industry could have gotten for like actually direct consumer.
[00:30:53] Gareth Moore: Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, that stuff was all, trending in that direction and I imagine we, probably would’ve ended up in the same place over, over 10 years. It just kind of took, you know, that 10-year regulatory path and condensed it down into, you know, in some cases a few weeks, and then for the permanent stuff, a few years, so yeah, yeah. No, the industry definitely got kind of modernized a bit just as a result of the pandemic.
[00:31:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. So the visitor center’s up and running again, you’re,
[00:31:18] Gareth Moore: It is, yeah. Yeah. It’s great too, it’s great to see. Yeah. took a while to get things back and running from, you know, wanting to focus on production, right? And, you know, we’re pretty remote, and having people walk around on tours did make some folks nervous. And so it was good to kind of keep it just our small group. I mean, we wore masks, for the longest time. And geez, it was only like four or five, six months ago you know, close quarters in like the bottling house that we took the masks off but yeah, I mean, you could tell people were getting, you know, nostalgic for days when, you know, they could have friends and family come through and show off what they do. And so, it’s been great to have the visitor center back open and I remember, I remember the first few weekends, you know, after like, it was like 18 months that we were shut down. The first few weekends, or even like a Friday afternoon, you know, we’d be talking just the staff and then, you know, you’d see some random people walking around. It’s like, well, who the hell is that? Like, oh, no, no, no. We have a visitor center, people just walk through nowadays it’s like, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Okay. Be nice to them, don’t tell ’em they’re trespassing. So, yeah. No, it’s great to be back up and running.
[00:32:19] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. As far as hospitality in general, like going forward, what role does it place most of your emphasis on, the experience at the place, or how do you use hospitality to reinforce your brand, I guess is the question?
[00:32:31] Gareth Moore: Yeah, yeah. No, that’s a good question, and so we have a lot of other agribusinesses as they’re called, you know, breweries, wineries, cideries, pretty near us, and, you know, when folks come through, we’re not in a major population center, and so we don’t have people that are gonna be, you know, passing through to, you know, relax after work or, you know, repeat visitors.
When people are coming to visit, they’re going to a good distance, you know, they’re on one of those, tour buses or, you know, they have a designated driver to go to a handful of places. And so we’re really trying to give, you know, an experience, right? Something that they haven’t seen before, something that’s a little more, you know, touch and feel and actually go up and, walk through the distillery.
Don’t touch the things that say hot, don’t touch. But, you know, the other things you can touch. and that’s something that’s kind of different, I think from wineries where you, it’s only really harvesting season that you’re gonna be, going through the production facility and people like to see, you know, the big copper pot stills and yeah. feel ’em still being hot and get those smells that, you know, they can have on a tour, those same smells that my entire life smelled like during the pandemic with.
But yeah, we like to make it as hands-on as possible and get people to, you know, hey, smell what the mash, you know, smells like when on the front end. Here’s what, it’s during fermentation and you taste what something straight off the stills, is like, I think the biggest sensory thing is, going into the warehouses where, you know, suddenly this kind, right when you open the door, you get this huge hit of, oh yeah. The aging whiskeys, you know, everybody says, Ooh, that is the angel share, it must be so great. It’s like, yes, all those lost profits going right out the door makes me feel great. It must have been somebody like me that was like, yeah, yeah, just call it the angel share it’ll make you feel better.
[00:34:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: As we’re kind of wrapping down here, you’re also president of the Virginia Distillers Association or past president?
[00:34:15] Gareth Moore: You know, I’m the past president now. Yeah. I actually had ABC this morning and saw the new president. I ran it for five years, from 16 to 21, and we got some great things done, you know, just like I was talking about the American Single Malt Commission you know, a group of small producers recognizes pretty quickly that, power in numbers and, a rising tide, lifts all boats. And so, Virginia has a ton of producers. That’s one of our little secrets.
We have more DSPs, so more distilleries than either Kentucky or Tennessee. Wow. It’s just so, they’re much smaller, right? Yeah. So we don’t have, you know, mega distilleries out there. It’s, you know, smaller groups. And it is particularly challenging in, in a control state, and that it’s fairly new, right?
I mean, it’s one of the last 10 or 15 years that craft distilleries have been growing. And so there are a lot of just, you know, simple things like, I mean, in the beginning, it was having a distillery store where we’re actually allowed to do tastings itself. Yeah. as an agent of the ABC.
And then, you know, over time, simple things like, you know, being,
[00:35:11] Drew Thomas Hendricks: How does that work? You’re allowed to sell outta your distillery or no?
[00:35:15] Gareth Moore: Yeah, yeah, we are. And so basically if you buy a hat or like a t-shirt or something like that, that’s just like a regular retail transaction. But if you wanna buy a bottle, then technically you’re buying it not from us.
You’re buying it from the state, and there’s this entire strange set of economics where you don’t have two different, have the liquid. Some people do, some people do, and now we’re able to integrate them. Okay. But it is something like that because the funds then go to different places.
And so we take a hundred percent of the retail and send it to Richmond, and then after a few weeks, they send us back the wholesale portion. And so it was very challenging because, you know, even though the product didn’t leave, you know, a couple of hundred-yard radius from where it was, you know, distilled and, bottled and consumed, you know, we were paying the state for our own product.
So that was another one of the things we were able to do with the Distillers Association, is we got this commission structure where they gave us an extra 20% back, making it a little more viable, as a business to have a distillery store. And yeah, things have worked out, great in the state, and you know, as we get a little bigger, it’s nice to see, you know, not just our brands, but also, you know, other Virginia brands grow well within Virginia and then definitely outside Virginia as well.
[00:36:27] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I was looking at yours and I guess the distillery tour that you have on the association site looks pretty interesting.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Spirits Trail, I mean, obviously wine in the US is much bigger, west Coast. But, Virginia is actually the fifth-largest wine-producing state. we’re right behind New York. Yeah, we’ve had a few Virginia wine producers on this show. A lot of challenges with the humidity. I think they, that’s right. Yeah. We wrestle with it a little, a little more with the grapes, and the more
[00:36:53] Gareth Moore: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s a completely different animal there. I mean, being able to distill something is one thing, but being able to farm, I don’t think I would be a very good farmer.
No, I was also worried about that during the pandemic too. I was like, I’m gonna be a horrible farmer if it comes down to it.
[00:37:07] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Return to the ground. So it’s, yeah. As we’re wrapping down, and you were kind of thrown into the distillery in 2013. Yeah. Now, nine years later, you’re CEO what keeps you motivated and what do you look forward most to this world?
[00:37:23] Gareth Moore: But that sounds like an obvious question, but I don’t think I’ve been asked it in a good while. You know, I mean, the first thing that comes to mind is just, maybe sounds obvious, but what keeps me going is just like the next stage, right? You know, starting with, okay, let’s get construction done.
Okay, let’s get the distillation done. Okay, let’s get things in the warehouse. Okay. Let’s get this brand out. And so it’s almost like, you know, one foot after the other, and so there’s always the next stage to go. And so, you know, I think right now, I mean, great where we are right now, we have an awesome product on the shelf, you know, consumers have been, you know, it’s gotten great reviews, expanding distribution, and so, I mean, I think what keeps me going now is going to that next stage of continuing to expand distribution. We have a lot of inventory, plenty to share. And so, you know, we just last year went into Texas this year, going into California this year we also started going to Asia as well.
And so, you know, the next thing is really taking all those years of hard work, of obviously not just me, a whole ton of people and being able to share it with the world. cause we’re really proud of. And, could be, you know, that’s I think what keeps me going is just whatever’s next.
[00:38:27] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So building a great company is a great motivator and a great dream. Like there’s only so much I’m helping activate my father’s dream. You have to, yeah and it sounds like you have.
[00:38:38] Gareth Moore: Yeah. you know, I mean, to be dead honest, I mean, I think my dad would be more happy about building a business, right? Then building a whiskey business or a data business or a, you know, telecom business or whatever, right? That being able to take something and get a group of people together and make something bigger than themselves. It’s really fulfilling and, you know, I saw my dad do that, a couple of times over, growing up. And I think whether it was whiskey or whether it was, you know, wine or whether it was, you know, televisions, you know, being able to build something and enjoy the journey, though it is, is really what it’s all about.
[00:39:11] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Absolutely super gratifying. So, yeah. Yeah. Where can people find out more about you and, the Virginia Distillery Co.?
[00:39:19] Gareth Moore: Yeah, yeah, we got our website to vadistillery.com, obviously all the same, social handles, VA distillery, and, we’re available in 27 states. You can get a shift in most places. and, yeah, our website has a great, whiskey finder where you can either find it, at a local, retailer or on-premise, or if not, you can order it on e-com.
[00:39:38] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Awesome. Well, Garreth, thank you so much for joining us today.
[00:39:41] Gareth Moore: Thank you. Thank you, Drew. Appreciate it.
[00:39:43] Drew Thomas Hendricks: You have a great day.
[00:39:45] Gareth Moore: You too.