As I mentioned in previous blog posts, young whisky sucks. Even if you start with a 159 proof, near grain neutral spirit, you'll find that with less than six months that it's harsh. Harsh is probably a kind word. I think one of my louder than life uncles used the term wildcat piss for young whisky (moonshine). Between a year and 2 years you have color, vanilla, oak, and hints of caramel, but that is just about where the complexity stops and branding begins.
Let's take Ole Smoky Charred Moonshine, which is grain neutral spirit aged in oak barrels for 3-4 months. It's a heapin helpin of good ole fashioned Americana on the surface. Founded by college friends and situated at the foot of the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg Tennessee, it sounds like the American dream come true. The bottle (if a mason jar could be called such) just states that it is bottled by Ole Smoky. That means that the liquor could probably come from Indiana or nearby Kentucky. It tastes like oak and rubbing alcohol. Seriously. I don't think I would even disinfect an open wound with it. However, with a few million, you can manage to get national distribution, marketing, POS displays, and celebrity or big brand endorsements (a la Harley-Davidson).
Personally, it pisses me off. Not because of the success; not because they didn't live on hotdogs and ramen while they were crafting a superb spirit. I root for all things that Ole smoky says it is. What pisses me off was that they didn't take the hard right. They didn't put the quality first, They didn't hunt down the best local ingredients. They don't sell what they make. What I'm getting at here is that it has never been a quality centric product. Perhaps the ma and pa kettle packaging will pay off and they will keep making money hand over fist. It's hard to say.
What this comes down to for me is that they didn't take the hard right and by God we will. I know that this sounds like a rant, and in a way it is. However, really I'm not complaining but instead just sharing my thought process of what I think a great brand should be doing. Really, I'm documenting this process of how Ozark Mountain Distilling is becoming one of the most valuable brands in the U.S. Yeah, I said it. Mark my words; we will be one of the most valuable brands in the U.S. I honestly don't know if we will be the most profitable, but by drawing this line in the sand I think we are doing what is right, what is ethical, and what will make the greatest product. Chances are, it's going to take years for this to happen. Look at Jim Beam, Jack Daniel's, Laphroaig, etc. These companies grew organically, over time, and grew because they made a great product. I'm patient. I don't care if it takes me until I'm 80. I only care that it happens. Think these other "craft" guys are looking a quarter century down the road? Probably not. It's a hard right and we are taking it.