November 1, 2016: The #INwhiskeywhiskers Contest

It's that time of year for us Hoosiers. We're breaking out our sweaters, kicking off the dust from our boots, and getting out there with the rake.

November. Winter is coming. Might as well stop shaving.

But there's a bright spot this year: The Indiana Whiskey Company is giving away one of its Whiskituity® Memberships (of potentially infinite value, but priced at $350) to one lucky winner of our #INwhiskeywhiskers Contest.

How does it work? Just send us a picture of you with your most excellent facial hair. Mustaches, Chops, Beards, Goatees, Stylized Nose Hair, Ducktails, and Fu Manchus all qualify. Get us an image however you want to: over social media, by mail, or by coming by the distillery for us to admire personally. We'll select the top 5, then subject those images to a social media vote.

What's in it for you? A literal lifetime supply of Whiskey! If selected as our facial hair champion, you'll earn immediate membership into our Whiskituity program ( = Whiskey in Perpetuity, one bottle of our best Indiana Whiskey each year for as long as you're alive). Second and third place winners will each win an Indiana Whiskey Gift Pack (valued at around a billion dollars, but economically priced at $50). Fourth and fifth place winners get some really sweet Indiana Whiskey glassware.

You're probably growing out your face fuzz anyway for such excellent programs as "No Shave November", "Movember", or the like. Just go ahead and double dip while showing off just how excellent a face can look covered in glorious hair.

What's in it for us? Well, first, we want to see people excited about our whiskey and about what it means to be a Hoosier in the wintertime. Next, we want to build up some hype about the Whiskituity program - it's really a great deal for both of us and you can read more about it further down on the blog. Finally, we want to rekindle our social platforms a little. We could be better at telling people our story. And we believe there's no better way to tell our story than to share yours. You're what makes Indiana. So let's show off together.

Rules and Guidelines: Send us your images by the end of November. We'll select the top 5, then put them out for a vote. Winner is the picture with the most number of unique likes or updoots or whatever the social platforms these days use to say you think something is cool. Open to Hoosiers only. Born and bred Hoosiers who are operating outside the state to make the world safe for democracy are encouraged to enter (though we know uniform regulations prevent wild or faddish styles). We'll make it work. Winners will be announced the first week of December.

Good luck growing.

-cf

March 15, 2016: More Whiskey Coming Down

So, I just realized that my last post was about Caesar and now it's already the Ides of March. Yikes. We've been so busy making delicious whiskey that it's been hard to peek our heads out of the foxhole to update our friends and followers.

Our bad.

But what's good is that there's more whiskey coming your way. We have been mashing, distilling, and barrelling thousands of bottles of Indiana's finest. We've been playing around with cask strength, with wheat-forward mash bills, and exhausting our hands from putting all these labels on. 

We are doing our best not to run out again. Nobody knows more than I do how important that is.

-cf

January 5, 2016: A Lesson from Caesar

Nerd alert. But with Whiskey.

I had a great Latin teacher in High School. While I was a terrible student in almost every subject, the history and personalities of the Empire and the Republic still left a lasting impression on me. Plutarch's "Parallel Lives" had the best stories about Julius Caesar, and even though I didn't appreciate them then, they truly shaped me as I grew up.

This morning, as I was meeting with our Distributor and talking about what Indiana Whiskey meant and what our plans for the future were, I remembered the following story and almost laughed at how perfect it was.

In Plutarch's own (translated) words: "We are told that, as Caesar was crossing the Alps and passing by a barbarian village... his companions asked with mirth and laughter, "Can it be that here too there are ambitious strifes for office, struggles for primacy, and mutual jealousies...?

"Whereupon Caesar said to them in all seriousness:

"I would rather be First here than Second at Rome."

In much the same way, this distributor asked how we would think of competing in markets like Chicago, New York, and California. Those places like whiskeys with character and depth, and our Whiskey would hold its own against newer brands. He said sending our Whiskey out there would be a good way to grow the brand.

The light went on.

I would rather that Indiana Whiskey be my State's favorite whiskey than to be the 6th best-selling whiskey in America.

As of this writing, Tennessee's Brown-Forman beverages has that title. For now.

So we're not going to stop until we're on every shelf in Indiana. Attention citizens of Winchester, Bremen, Waterloo Town, Gary, Carmel, Evansville, and Dunkirk City: if you have a bar, restaurant, or liquor store, we're coming for you. And if you're lucky enough to live in Indiana, you're about to be rewarded with a new favorite Whiskey.

Happy New Year, everyone.

-cf

 

December 11, 2015: On the Verge of Our State's 200th Birthday

This time of year always makes me think a little harder about the things I'm grateful for. My wife and our two daughters stand out at the top of my list, followed by a host of friends, family, and neighbors that challenge me to be my best or to hear me out when I need an ear.

If you live here in Indiana, you know that good people are all around. But it's easy to get so caught up in the day-to-day and just forget where we're all coming from. 

Our State isn't an easy state to live in. We have hard winters (well... usually anyway), we work hard jobs, and we know that our bank accounts may never be as big as some of the folks in those coastal states.

But right now, I'm so grateful for it.

In the Army, I got to see plenty of places. I worked with soldiers from Egypt and Lebanon, from Estonia and Romania, and from Hong Kong and Indonesia. Stateside, I trained in Fort Benning, GA, Fort Lewis, WA, Ethan Allen Firing Range, VT, White Sands Missile Range, NM, and Fort Campbell, KY. Every one of those places had lots to offer and left me with great stories. But I wouldn't trade any of those places for Indiana.

And you don't even need to ask, I'm just going to tell you why.

In Infantry talk, we make a distinction between "soft" and "hard" targets. Whether it's inattention, a weak bearing, or unpreparedness, there are crucial elements missing in a soft target that make it easier to beat.

Army people also talk about values like selfless service, duty, and respect. Beyond words, they're what makes being a soldier worth it. But you don't have to be in uniform to know why that matters.

I am beyond proud to be where I am now because Indiana makes its people strong and attentive, humble and helpful, respectful and selfless.

Last year, we received e-mail stories and pictures of people who were out braving sub-zero temps just to shovel an old neighbor's driveway. We saw stories of National Guard soldiers rescuing people from power and gas outages. We saw our state troopers assisting disabled motorists. We saw the Center for the Homeless's amnesty program ignite when the nights got too cold. It happens every year, especially around this time when things get a little tougher. Hoosiers get together and beat the tough. It happens without fanfare or expectation of any reward. We even take it for granted.

We take it for granted because our fellow Hoosier is going to do the right thing, the hard thing, and make our way safe. Just like they've done for as long as we can remember.

200 Years Old. I can't wait to see how Indiana leads the way in the next 200.

-Charlie

June 24, 2015: An Article Worth Blushing About: Indiana Whiskey is Best
Guess who finally made it into centerfold territory? Of course not me. Don't be ridiculous. Our Whiskey!

Jason Horn, writing for Playboy Magazine, named our Just Whiskey Bourbon as the top spirit in Indiana. http://www.playboy.com/articles/best-spirit-distilled-in-each-of-the-50-states

Illustration by Sean Noyce

This, naturally, means worlds to us. Artisan distilling is still relatively new in our State, but there are already some excellent spirits producers out there. Indiana, thanks for putting us on the map.

-Charlie

February 1, 2015: A Party and a Bigger Building

It's been a crazy few months at Indiana Whiskey. Apparently, we needed to get bigger, since the demand for our whiskeys has outpaced our ability to make them. So, we did the only natural thing: we moved into a bigger space.

That sentence doesn't do it enough justice. Sure, the new building is right down the street from where we were. But it's not like that fact made moving any easier. My dad used to say "3 moves are as good as a fire". But he never had to move a 3,000lb copper tub. It would have been easier to just set it on fire to begin with.

Starting in November of 2014, we planned, cut, nailed, drilled, screwed, unscrewed, replanned, rescrewed, mudded, painted, transferred, and reignited a fantastic old industrial space on the west side of Downtown South Bend.

It was so worth it. We have literally twice the space, a 2" natural gas pipeline (thanks NIPSCO), and if you look closely, you'll see the thing that every distiller desires: preexisting floor drains. Add that to the safety features like high-temperature fire suppression and a rooftop vent stack, and we were good to go.

After putting in long hours with multiple teams, we were "almost" finished by the time the party started at the end of January. By "almost", I mean that 10 minutes before guests arrived, I was using a jigsaw (in my coat and tie) to make the final cutout on the bartop so it would fit around the huge metal pole that supports our ceiling. No problem (thanks to Robbie's Festool equipment). Mike had just finished adding the stain to the front hardwood plywood, and like magic, it all came together right when it needed to.

With the release (and conspicuous consumption) of our Just Whiskey Bourbon, I don't think people really cared as much about the bartop as I did.

The new building also boasts this fantastic lounge. Suzi Swartzendruber was the mastermind behind the layout. And if you ask her real nice, she may be willing to share how she turned some wonderful finds at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store into a stunning panel wall.

We're looking forward to having you over sometime soon.

Thanks for continuing to make us the Spirit of Indiana.

-Charlie

March 11, 2014: Iconic American Brands, Profits, and Future US Spending Power

I realize that the news of Suntory's purchase of Beam Brands is almost two months old now, but I had a few thoughts about that deal (and a few others) that I'm just getting around to writing down.

If you missed it, Businessweek had an article in January that you can read for back story. That news followed closely on the tails of a release I read on CNN Money about Italy's Fiat buying the final piece of Chrysler for $3.65 billion. Taken together, I believe it was a bad month for American companies and worse, for future US Spending Power.

Even if it's controversial, their Bourbon Whiskey is still delicious (Maker's Mark, Knob Creek, JB White Label)

Why my backlash?

Well, Vauhini Vara of the New Yorker suggests that Americans might disapprove of the sale because they feel uncomfortable with foreign owners controlling their food and drinks. From the sound of it, the author expects to see a group of xenophobic Mid-Westerners sharpening their pitchforks and warming up their feathering tar. Even though we Mid-Westerners make easy targets, I don't think that's the reason why I oppose a sale like this. 

He goes on to write some strong points: brands can be better positioned for profitability or international sales through foreign acquisition and that the profit motive can be sufficient to broaden brand horizons. But it's this line of thinking that touches on where I found my major objection to the acquisition. 

Vara later cites a review of Budweiser's purchase by Belgian InBev that I think illustrates it best:

Is it un-American? Yes. I think it is. But maybe not for the reasons he mentioned.

Adam Smith, Wages, and Profits

So, like most JB drinkers (or ex-JB drinkers), I'm a fan of their spin on American Mythology, the 200 year history of the Beam family, and the picturesque farmland where the Bourbons are made. But my question in evaluating this deal is "where does the money go"?

(...to be continued)

February 25, 2014: Whiskituity® Economics

In our crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo (here), we’re offering our annual Whiskey-for-Life program, the Whiskituity® for $325. The Monthly version is $3,500.  

I realize that’s a lot of money, but I think you’re getting a lot for it.

Right now, our young Silver Sweet Corn Whiskey retails for around $25. As our Straight and Bourbon Whiskeys become available in the future, they’ll likely retail for $30 or $32.50. An important thing to remember is that, as a Whiskituity® holder, you’ll always be entitled to the best Whiskey we have available for sale. Prefer our Straight Whiskey to our Bourbon? You got it. Want a few years of Silver Sweet Corn Whiskey? No problem.

To help illustrate the value of the program, here are three scenarios that describe what you can do with your money: buy a Whiskituity, buy Whiskey at retail each year, or invest it. Now, I understand that inflationary pressures erode the future value of money, but let’s assume that The Indiana Whiskey Company raised prices each year in lockstep with that rate (makes the math a lot easier, whether or not that’s exactly what will happen). The retail price reflected here would then be identical to “today’s dollars”. I used the 20-year Treasury bond rates published 2/3/14 from treasury.gov as the risk-free investment rate under the same time horizon.

Here's what I came up with:

Results? Well, it looks like there’s a clear win for the Whiskituity over retail once you get to year 11. Over the course of your drinking lifetime, you could very well spend 5 times as much as $325. Obviously, if you’re 21 right now, you have a pretty good shot at living more than 20 years. If you’re 40, do you see yourself drinking Whiskey past 60? I know I do.

Now, if you just invested your money at the risk-free rate, you’d come out $296 ahead. That looks good until you realize you haven’t enjoyed a single bottle of Whiskey in 20 years. That price, according to me, is way too high.

It’s a risk for us too.

Commodity prices are uncertain. In late 2012, Corn reached a peak of $6.75/bu. Today, it’s around $4.50/bu. If spikes like these occur in Corn, Wheat, Barley, LP or Natural Gas, our Whiskeys become more expensive to make per bottle, which means the price at retail would likely increase.

It could happen the other way too. Prices could drop from new farming technologies, better techniques, or weather conditions that improve crop yields.

Also, you could live to be 150 years old. Luckily, I probably won’t be around to worry about it at that point, but we still have to account for it.

So why would we offer it?

“if a deal is too good to be true” and all that…

Well, I think there are two big reasons to offer it: timing of cash flows and lifetime customers.

First, we expect our aged Whiskeys will be more profitable than our unaged Whiskey. We just have to wait a few years to sell them. So in a way, we’re using future profits to help subsidize current operations, and at a rate that’s more attractive than traditional bank loans or Preferred Stock.

Second, we’re able to get a customer for life. When I worked for MillerCoors, I was shocked to learn how much the company spent on advertising to new and existing customers. If we sell you a Whiskituity®, we’ll let the bottle each year speak for itself. Our guess is that you’ll want to tell everyone (read: gloat) about how much foresight you had when you invested your $325 with us.

In a nutshell

It's a $325 investment that lasts a lifetime. Whether you're getting it for yourself, your newborn son, a bride and groom, or one of your parents, it's going to be there for a long time.

-Charlie

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