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Apr 26, 2019

You might have put time, money, blood, sweat and tears into building your brand, but at the end of the day it doesn’t belong to you.

That’s the perspective of Christian Krogstad and Thomas Mooney, the co-founders of Westward Whiskey, which helped establish the rapidly growing American single-malt whiskey category. As part of a wide-ranging conversation included in this episode, Krogstad and Mooney explained that consumers, via their palates and wallets, are Westward’s true owners.

“We share a belief that it’s Westward, not either of us, that should be famous,” Mooney said. “And that we want our whiskey to do the talking. Ultimately, brands belong to the people who enjoy them, not to the people who make the products.”

Originally founded as House Spirits Distillery in 2004, Westward was one of several brands in a broad portfolio that included Aviation Gin -- since acquired by actor Ryan Reynolds -- and others. Following an investment from Distill Ventures, the venture capital arm of beer and spirits conglomerate Diageo, in 2018, the Portland, Ore.-based company shifted its primary focus to Westward, a single-malt whiskey that draws inspiration from Oregon’s deep-rooted craft beer culture.

As part of our conversation, Krogstad and Mooney spoke about Westward’s origins and explained why it was important for them to develop a personal relationship prior to formalizing their professional one. They also discussed the company’s alignment with Distill Ventures and how they determined it was the right partner, what the notion of a “better whiskey” means to them and why compelling innovation means giving people something they “never realized they wanted.”

Show notes:

1:46: John at Kon, DragNet & a Whole Lotta Protein -- John and Mike returned to the studio after a week away from the office and discussed their trips to L.A. and Vermont, respectively. John also spoke about his experience at KombuchaKon, an annual trade show focused on the business of kombucha, where he presented on a panel and sampled a wide variety of products, including one from Iceland. He also explained the concern among KombuchaKon attendees in how some brands are marketing and promoting their products. Later, the hosts bantered about the development of the market for CBD in L.A. and chatted about a few notable products that came into the office over the past week.

19:25: Christian Krogstad/Thomas Mooney, Co-Founders, Westward Whiskey -- Krogstad and Mooney joined Taste Radio editor Ray Latif for an interview recorded at the Westward Whiskey distillery in Portland, Ore. Krogstad spoke about his background in craft brewing and how it led to him to launch a distillery and Mooney discussed how his experience with CPG conglomerates provided him with both a foundation and thirst for entrepreneurship. Later, they explained why partnership with a strategic investor has long been part of the company’s business strategy and how they developed a relationship with Distill Ventures long before its investment in Westward. They also spoke about Westward’s “beer-philic” approach to distilling and why a limited marketing budget means that they “can never be complacent in product development.”

Brands in this episode: Nutty Steph's, Alchemist Beer, Kombucha Iceland, GT’s Living Foods, Brew Dr. Kombucha, Humm Kombucha, Boochcraft, Dosist, Cha Cha Matcha, Smashpack, Muscle Milk, OWYN, Smarties, Protes, Lemon Perfect, Westward Whiskey, McMenamins, Fiji Water