Friday, February 18, 2011

Behind the Scenes with Prohibition Distillery

Established in 2009, Prohibition Distillery was founded by Brian Facquet and John Walsh, the descendant of the notorious Frankie Walsh, a member of the bootlegging street gang Egan's Rats. Although Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Prohibition Distillery still strives to capture the youthful, rebellious spirit of the speakeasies in the roaring twenties. We interviewed Brain Facquet, one of the founders of Prohibition Distillery, to give you a behind the scenes look at Bootlegger 21 and the history that inspired the brand.

What first inspired you to create Prohibition Distillery?

The idea first came out in passing when John Walsh was asked by his sister: "If you could build your own liquor company based on a historical time period, what would it be?". His immediate answer was “Prohibition Distillery and Bootlegger 21!”. After that, John reached out to me and we started to learn the trade. I guess our inspiration comes from our kids! We want to build something that we can be proud of and pass down to our next generation! I guess you can say it’s the American Dream!

What were some of the difficulties you encountered while creating Bootlegger 21?

Where do I start? We are always saying, “We will laugh about this someday!". We have had so many hurdles that you become used to your day being filled with adversity. This is an industry that is brand new to us, so we are continually learning. Both John and I really enjoy the challenge!

Bootlegger 21 is currently being produced in the Hudson Valley at Tuthilltown Spirits. Are there any future plans to move to your own distillery?

Our initial business plan was to build our own distillery, however it fell through due to dried up funding. Rather than pack it in, we started working with the guys up at Tuthilltown Spirits. The relationship is very unique and it allows John and I to be very involved in the production. We have been lucky, since every bottle our consumers drink was made by the two of us!

The Prohibition Distillery website states that "Support Wall Street and your local bartender: Buy a banker a drink." is your philosophy. Why was this chosen?

That was meant to be a joke, since the crisis on wall street was prominent when we launched our company. Unfortunately, we have been unable to update the website until recently, but the good news is that the "official" website will be going live very soon!

The ornate bottle and interesting label of Bootlegger 21 makes a strong statement about the brand. Is there any historical significance behind these choices?

Our label is based on the Federal prescription ticket for medicinal alcohol common during Prohibition, when patients could obtain their "medicine" from a pharmacy. We of course modified it to include 21, which celebrates the 21st Amendment and the repeal of Prohibition. The back of the bottle has an art deco drawing of a poppy flower, which was a common image during the period. Our inspiration for the bottle came from the shape and color of glass used during the era. I recently saw our bottle in an antique shop window in upstate New York, so I guess it passed the test. In case you were wondering, I did ask them to take it down!

Why was vodka the first release from Prohibition Distillery? Will there be any other spirits produced in the future? 

We had actually started out making a gin, but realized our vodka was pretty amazing on its own. In the future we will make other spirits, but for now we will focus on the quality and support of Bootlegger 21 New York Vodka.

Officially (not) prohibited in all fifty states, Bootlegger 21 offers a glimpse into the past, where spirits were produced in secret and enjoyed in password-protected establishments. Prohibition returns and this time, there's something to celebrate!

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

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