Don Michael Distillery
A lot of hard work, testing, tasting and really making sure you have something special.
Founder - Don Michael Distillery, Peru
The inspiration was "Andean Whiskey," the whole idea of using Andean corn to make a bourbon style whiskey. Interestingly enough there are about 53 varieties of corn that originate in Peru, 60+ from Mexico and only 12 from north America. These types of corn that are only grown in the Andes Mountains are very distinct and result in a special kind of whiskey. With that in minds the branding just naturally carried over to Andean Cream and Andean Vodka.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, how did you get into the world of alcoholic beverages?
I started out by fabricating stills for myself and for others. I even built a distillery for a client in the jungle of Peru. In the end my wife and I came up with the idea to use Andean Corn to make a bourbon style whiskey. We shut down our construction company and dedicated ourselves full-time to working on the recipe. Five years later Black Whiskey is world renowned!
According to you, what makes a great spirit?
That's easy....one that I like to drink. I think people get hung up on price, brand and social influences and drink stuff they think they should. I drink what I like. I modeled the mash bill of our whiskey after wheated bourbons in the US because that is my preference. Our whiskey is 60% corn, 30% malted wheat and 10% malted barley. Let me finish off by saying don't cheat.......we don't add any fake flavors or color, everything we do is 100% by the book and done right.
What does your typical day look like?
LOL! My day begins at 5:00 am, my wife wants to kill me. 5:30AM workout with my wife, she still wants to kill me.
Things get better after that. We usually make it to the distillery early and stay late. My job has shifted from managing production and distilling to managing clients, customers and expanding markets. I miss the days of just being able to make whiskey.
Are you using any new technology? If so, what is it?
As it tuns out Black Corn is different and distinct from other corns, we have tried regular corn and the end product is nowhere near as good. On top of the corn we have developed a unique bacteria profile that we add to the end of the fermentation which gives our whiskey an amazingly special flavor and aroma.
But, what else do we do differently? Are you familiar with Lost Spirits or Cleveland Whiskey and accelerated aging techniques?
What we have done is incorporate information from a number of different patents, and another year of testing to create our own "reactor" that in combination with regular barrel aging turns our whiskey into something truly unique.
What excites you the most about your brand?
It's Awesome. More than that, we are working with the Peruvian Government to register ANDEAN WHISKEY as a new type of whiskey recognized worldwide. The same way one refers to Canadian Whiskey, or Japanese Whiskey, Andean Whiskey will be something people are looking out for! On top of that, the Andean Black Corn we use really is something special, no one in the world is making a whiskey like ours.
Are you working on something new right now? Maybe a new product?
Always! We will be rolling out some single barrel versions next year. We also have a bottle already designed for a Honey Whiskey.
What's your favorite way of drinking Black Whiskey?
So you're drinking this, what's playing on your speakers?
Rammstein, unless my wife is around.
If you were to drink one of your spirits with one person, dead or alive, which spirit would it be, who would it be with, and why? I think Ernest Hemingway......he was one of the greats in every sense of the word.
13. If you were to pick one drink to drink for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?
Sticking with my Old Fashioned. There are plenty of different whiskeys to use and lots of good variations.
Does social media play a huge role in your marketing? If so, what are some of the most successful strategies you've built?
Huge, social media is the advertising of today. We have tried radio, TV, billboards but there is nothing like social media. We have a company account with FB/IG and are posting at least 5 times a week on two different accounts - Black Whiskey Peru & Black Whiskey TX, this is coupled with paid advertising campaigns where we target certain demographic and specific stores throughout the country.
What have been the biggest challenges and achievements of your story so far?
The biggest challenge has been staying strong for three-plus years waiting on the whiskey to age to perfection. Years of hard work, cooking, fermenting, distilling and filling hundreds and hundreds of barrels. We finally had our first batch bottled and ready as money was running out, and sales were fantastic, then covid hit. Was rough. We managed, and in April this year we sent our first container to the USA. Then in June our second container to Taiwan. We are now preparing a third contain for the US and another shipment to Germany.
What are some of the challenges you've faced - from production to the retail shelf/bar back?
The Biggest Challenge is how are you going to get customers to buy your product once it gets placement?
I always talk about three key points, the first being presentation. Bottle, label, closure, what does the liquid in the bottle look like, is it an appealing color is it perfectly clear. Everything that a consumer wants to see even if they don't really realize it. The next thing is price, unfortunately pricing positions your product. In our case, our target pricing is between $50-60. This price point gives an unspoken implication of quality without being priced out a new buyers typical price range. Finally, product. Once you have been impactful enough to present your product and a consumer buys a bottle, the product itself must be excellent.
And how did you solve these challenges?
A lot of hard work and sleepless nights, and a lot of whiskey.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to other distilleries?
Don't cut corners, get certified. We are BPM certified, which is easy and HACCP certified which is a really big deal. There are only a couple of distilleries in South America that are HACCP certified. We will be working on ISO 9001 next.
What goes into developing a product?
A lot of hard work, testing, tasting and really making sure you have something special. Every one of our products is great. I'm not just saying that. Our sales and market penetration speak for themselves. We will never release a mediocre product just to make money. We do everything to the best of our ability, yes it costs a bit more, but in the end it's a reflection of who we are and our products are amazing.
According to you, what are some drinks trends we are set to see in the near future?
Whiskey in general is coming on strong all over the world but especially in the USA. People are really into trying new things, allocated bottles, barrel strength and single barrel versions. The whiskey market has become more dynamic and trendier.
And lastly, what have you been drinking lately?
Old Fashioneds mostly but I have been cheating too!