Month: July 2018

Share a Sip with Alex Castle 07.26.18

A conversation with Alex Castle

What’s it been like as a woman working in the spirits and distilling world?

I’ve been fortunate not to have too many struggles coming up as a female in a male-dominated industry, and to have had professors and colleagues who didn’t really see a difference. There are people along the way who definitely had issues with women in leadership or management positions, not necessarily just in this industry, but those were few and far between. Prior to coming to Old Dominick, my boss and I got along great from day one – he trusted me with everything that he’d trusted my male predecessor with. I have been very fortunate with my experience in this industry.

How did you decide this was what you wanted to do?

I was in high school. My plan, up until then, was to be a marine biologist. Well, freshman year of high school was the first time I ever took biology – and I realized it absolutely was not for me! It was horrible. I think it was the first time I ever failed an exam! I went home to my mom that day and told her, “Clearly I cannot do this. I need to switch gears.”

The next year I took chemistry and more advanced level math. Then physics, then more chemistry. And one day I was talking with my mom and I said, “I really like these subjects, but I don’t have the mentality to be a teacher. I’ll kill my students! So – what can I do with this?” And I guess she must’ve been reading articles – my brother was about to head off to college, and she knew I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do – because she immediately said, “Well, you could do chemical engineering.”

I thought, well, I don’t really know what that is – but it sounds like it incorporates everything. So I said, “What do you even do with that degree?” The first words out of her mouth? “You can be a brewmaster and make beer!”

Now mind you, my mom does not drink – especially not back then – so it took me by surprise a little bit and piqued my interest. And she kept going. “You don’t have to do just beer, you could be a master distiller and make whiskey, or a master vintner and make wine.” She continued and was listing off a few more options, but I have no clue what any of them were because I had stopped listening. There was something about that first title that was so intriguing to me.

I started off wanting to do beer, so when I was in college and I started looking for opportunities, I interviewed with Anheuser Busch and ended up with a small company in Lexington that had a craft brewery. What I didn’t know then – but I realize now my boss did know and influenced the choice to hire me – is that they were planning to add a distillery. I started hearing these conversations about the distillery project, but no one was telling me anything. Then one day the stills got delivered, and my first interaction was just cleaning them. Not the most fun or luxurious, but I absolutely loved it.

Finally, one day my boss asked me if I wanted to observe a distillation. We get there, and he’s frantic – he remembered that he had to take his kids to the dentist, so he can’t be there for the distillation. So immediately I’m disappointed, thinking I have to go back to the office and have a boring day. Instead, in five minutes, he walked me through what to do – so I spent the day unexpectedly running my first distillation.

I don’t think I stopped smiling once that entire day. I realized in that moment that beer wasn’t enough; I had to have that distillation element. From that point on, that was my focus – doing everything I had to do to get to where I am now.

 

 

The Taste: Where to find Old Dominick this week [07.19]

What do Mavis Staples, the Avett Brothers, Margo Price and Old Dominick have in common? Well, we all have pretty meaningful connections to Memphis, but we’ll also all be at Moon River Festival in Chattanooga September 8 and 9! You might’ve seen us share the news on Facebook or Instagram last week – we’re proud to be the official craft vodka of Moon River. The festival is completely sold out! If you’re one of the lucky ones who’s got a ticket, let us know with #MemphisToMoonRiver – we’ll have more to share about our plans in Chattanooga soon.

Did you catch our Instagram story from the #BringYourSoul Secret House Show in Nashville, featuring Talibah Safiya? We brought some Pure Memphis to the party and had a great time mixing up cocktails to complement the music. Here’s one of our favorite shots from the night of Talibah doing her thing.

From a house concert to the mother church: we’re also excited to share that the Americana at the Ryman series, happening Sunday evenings through August 19, will be spirited by Old Dominick! Look for featured cocktails at the shows and stay tuned to our social media accounts for a chance to win your way there.

Back at the Distillery: We’re getting geared up for the Pure Memphis Music Series fall season! The line-up will be announced next week. You’ll be able to purchase single tickets to shows ($20), but you’ll also have the option to buy a season ticket to save some cash ($100 for 6 shows) or add a VIP experience with cocktails and reserved seating ($125 for 6 shows). Each show will also have a nonprofit co-host, and $5 from your ticket will be donated back to that organization, including Memphis Slim House, Consortium MMT, The CLTV, Soulsville Foundation and Beale Street Caravan!

Share A Sip with Alex Castle 07.12.18

By now you’ve probably heard that we threw a little party at the Distillery a few weeks ago to celebrate the launch of a new line of Old Dominick spirits called R&D. If you missed it, here’s a taste:

R&D stands for research and development. The first two spirits we’ve released under the R&D heading are gins – Formula #6, an American Dry Gin, and Formula #10, a Southern Gin – but the idea is that the R&D label will be home to all sorts of spirits going forward. More than anything, it’s our home for experimentation. Every R&D release will be small batch, which means limited quantities of it will be available in the Old Dominick retail store at the Distillery and at bars and restaurants throughout Tennessee (Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga).

At the heart of R&D is a quest to know more and to challenge ourselves (and the rest of the spirits community) to be better, to be creative, to innovate. I am pretty much the polar opposite of a risk-taker in my personal life – but when I’m in the lab, I definitely am! The beauty of working in small batches is that the risk is a measured one. Our cookers hold 1,800 gallons, which is a very small quantity. If the risks you took paid off, you scale up. If they didn’t? You live, you learn, you move on to the next recipe or idea.

With these gins, I started with the flavors I like and tried to figure out how they could be translated. I’ve had fun playing with it and taking chances with a couple of different combinations. Some of them paid off, some of them didn’t – one of them really didn’t pay off! But that’s okay, because I’m trying to have fun with it. To me, that’s what’s going to make a good spirit, if you enjoy the process it takes to get there. If you really love doing it, the odds are you’ll really like the product in the end.

Have you had a chance to try either of the R&D series gins yet? If you have, we want to hear from you. Seriously – you’re part of the R&D team now! Head here to give us your feedback. And if you haven’t tried either one yet, you can pick up a bottle in the Old Dominick retail store while they last!

The Taste: Where to find Old Dominick this week [07.05]

If you’ve been watching our social media posts this week, you might’ve noticed there’s a new spirit in town.

Sunday night, we invited some friends to the Distillery to share the first sip of our new R&D Series, an experimental, small-batch product line that will be our home for innovation. The first two releases are gins – Formula #6, an American Dry Gin, and Formula #10, a Southern Gin – created in the lab at Old Dominick by our head distiller Alex Castle and her team.

Sunday’s event, called simply R&D, was a celebration of experimentation. We asked eight of Memphis’ finest bartenders to experiment with either R&D Series gin to build a cocktail inspired by a song from the Hi Records catalog. (Big thanks go to the Mitchell family for joining us on Sunday, and to Boo Mitchell for helping to select the songs – check out the playlist below to see what was in the mix.)

We invited a small group to join us to taste the gin, try the cocktails and share their feedback over eats and live music. Special thanks to our talented bartenders – Ben Williams, Bart Mallard, Q, Eric Martin, Morgan McKinney, Brad Pitts, David Hacking and Nick Lumpkin – and to the phenomenal Tia ‘Songbird’ Henderson, who serenaded us with Memphis soul.

The R&D Series gin will be available for purchase in the Old Dominick retail store at the Distillery, or you can try it in cocktails at bars and restaurants in Memphis and Nashville while it lasts.

All photos by Ben Powers / Red Deluxe

What else is up: we’ll be pouring Old Dominick cocktails at a super secret house show this weekend in Nashville with our girl Talibah Safiya. That’s all we can tell you – for now! – but if you keep an eye on our Instagram story you just might get a peek at the fun.