Disclaimer: this is a long blog post!
So what happened? For about six months you saw us everywhere. I was hitting it every day on twitter, instagram, Facebook, youtube, and this blog on the whisky holler. Then the online content just DROPPED. Well, here is the truth: I think that I was taking this business down the wrong path. There were a couple things that really pushed me to put all of this on a hold. I'm going to cover the first one in this post. The first was the crushing financial/time drain from promotions. You see, everybody wants to trade their space for your dollars. We did whiskey fest, sugar rush, grand openings, tastings, and the list goes on. Some of it costs money, and some of it cost me my time. My hopes on all of this was that it would translate into sales, and for a brand that already has a marketing budget that would be correct. However, we are an unknown and wherever we went we were just interesting and that was about it. Interesting doesn't sell young whisky in the long run and for the most part all I managed to do was give away a lot of whisky. It was fun, but didn't really create a return on investment- and it cost me a lot of time. I mash, distill, barrel, bottle, sell, account, and somehow manage to help my wife with out with our two young daughters. My cash flow is basically nil. This endeavor has been on my own dime and credit so at the end of the day, my profits from sales cover putting up whisky in barrels as well as payroll, excise taxes, and my personal mortgage payment. After we got the building, rick house, equipment, and barrels set up, there wasn't a hell of a lot left. I met with some "investors", but what they were after was different from what I was after. Here is what I'm getting at: young whisky sucks. A big sorry to all of my fellow craft/micro distillers (seriously, I feel your pain). I started selling whisky that was less than a year and it wasn't anything that I really liked to drink. I decided it was wrong. I haven't distributed (wholesale) any aged whisky since April because it wasn't ready. I tried advanced aging techniques, and it was good, but it wasn't phenomenal. I know in my heart of hearts, and my pallet confirms, that there is nothing better than OLD whisky. The only problem here is that we started distilling in July 2016. The MINIMUM age of good whisky, and ask any true afficionado, is four years. It just takes that much time in the oak. Period. You can't cheat father time. There is no short cut for fantastic whisky. I'll say it again: THERE IS NO SHORT CUT FOR FANTASTIC WHISKY.
Also, let me be frank. That thirty to fifty dollar bottle of craft whisky is a rip off in some ways. Look, I'm not saying that they are actively trying to cheat you, but they really can't afford to sell it for any less than that. They have the same problems that I do. They need to sell in order to keep their doors open and time is money. So what is sitting on the shelf from a lot of small producers is whisky that is under two years old. It's brown and has a lot of the characteristics of great whisky but doesn't have the complexity that comes from good ole fashioned time. I've decided to not push out whisky that isn't ready. If I'm going to charge thirty dollars for a bottle of whisky, it's going to be worth forty. I believe that you should always try to give more- always. Call it an old fashioned background, stupid, stubborn, or whatever you want, but I want to be in the reorder business, not the sales business.
I'm now back on Active Duty in the Army. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the Army. I have deep, deep respect for the military, serving my country, and absolutely love serving my Soldiers through leadership. The Army has taken me from a nobody hillbilly from the Missouri Ozarks to a Captain in the Army commanding Soldiers and responsible for millions of dollars of equipment. However, all I really want to do is make whisky here in the Ozarks. These are my true loves. I could write pages and pages on both of these subjects but I'll save you for now. In the end, I need to feed this business. I have corn to purchase, and a business loan to pay for. In three years, this business loan will be paid for and more whisky made. Provided I have survived another four years of active military service and haven't been killed by a mortar round in Afghanistan, I will have five year old whisky ready to sell. I think its a good tradeoff.
That is how much I believe in what I'm doing. I have had a few detractors tell me that I'm quitting. No, it isn't quitting. This is hard. I'm leaving a log cabin with a live spring sitting on 30 beautiful acres in the ozarks. I love my family and being able to see my mom whenever I want. I love barbecues on the 4th of July and going fishing. I love not shaving. I love going over to my neighbors and watching them practice roping calves. I love going to my neighbors and getting fresh milk from (still warm, fresh from the udder). I'm trading this to put a bottle of five year old whisky on the shelf. I'm not quitting, I'm digging in. I'm taking the hard right over the misunderstood wrong. I spent most of my first daughters life deployed. I missed first words, first steps, the first bite of ice-cream, and a lot of firsts in desert heat. I'll probably miss a few firsts in the coming years. What I'm getting at is that this is the hard right. White Mule Distillery is going to take it so that you can literally sip on the very best of the Ozarks. I hope you think that it's worth what it costs you.