This is Day 29 in my 30-day blogging journey.
If you don’t know the backstory, check out Day 1.
I’ve been a fan of the bourbon releases coming from Blue Run Spirits since they started in 2020. Many of their releases have been limited offerings although they do have some bottles that can be purchased year-round.
As of now, Blue Run Spirits cannot be purchased in the state of Ohio where I’m located, so I’ve had to resort to online purchasing to acquire them.
Along the way, I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with CEO Mike Montgomery and he took time out of his incredibly busy schedule to chat with me.
This is the first interview type blog I’ve done during this particular writing journey.
For those who may or may not know, can you tell me the origins of starting Blue Run Spirits (BRS)?
I was running my own public affairs company where I helped Fortune 500s and tech startups navigate turbulent public policy challenges. It was a good business, but largely unfulfilling and I had this insatiable entrepreneurial itch that I couldn’t figure out how to scratch. The idea that I was pouring my heart and soul – and most creative ideas – into other people’s companies, yet was disposable after the issue was solved was a problem that, well, needed solving. People say that it’s great to have your own business, and it is, but with a consulting firm the number of “bosses” I had equaled the number of clients on my roster. It was time for a change. Then, one day, Jesse McKnight called me and said someone wanted to sell him some barrels of bourbon, and “what should we do?” I thought about it and answered, “nothing.” It didn’t present as a real opportunity – a sustainable business opportunity. I’m a bourbon drinker, but never thought it would be possible to launch a company in the space given the barriers to entry. But I couldn’t get the idea out of my head despite saying no. A few weeks later I called Jesse and asked if he could get more than a few barrels, and if so are they any good. I told him that I’d be into it if we could approach this in a completely new way that eschewed much of the typical American whiskey playbook and embraced a new, more exciting path that would resonate with a much larger audience that more closely mirrored what is a diversifying consumer. And away we went….
While it’s not always advisable to judge a book by its cover, BRS boasts one of the nicest looking bottles on the market and having some variety to the brand’s butterfly doesn’t hurt either. What inspired the direction for both the shape of the bottle and the iconic butterfly?
Complete credit to Devon McKinney for the bottle and butterfly. The idea that we could present a new unique approach to bourbon inspired his work. The butterfly evokes a metamorphosis, or evolution, of the industry. He had the vision and he deserves to be recognized for the iconic packaging he created.
Those who don’t follow bourbon may not realize this but anyone looking to make a name in the bourbon industry essentially has two options: make their own distillate or source a distillate from other places. Why did you choose the latter and what’s been the guiding force behind flavor profiles and the geographic source of what ultimately goes into a bottle?
Initially, when we first started, sourced barrels were plentiful and of the highest quality. So we sourced as many barrels as Jim Rutledge (of Four Roses fame) signed off on. We also started distilling our own barrels as we wanted to continue to put the Rutledge magic into our barrels. We’ve taken a hybrid approach where we’ll source and distill. We also announced plans for our own distillery as the sourcing market has become extremely expensive and the supply just isn’t what it used to be.
In the short time that BRS has been on the market, you’ve gained some very impressive reviews. Many of your bottles were very limited in supply. If there was any BRS product that’s readily available which you think everyone needs to try at least once, what would it be?
I encourage people to try our High Rye bourbon. It was distilled by Jim Rutledge and it is, as far as I’m concerned, a dreamy pour. We are also releasing Reflection II this summer and infatuated with it already.
Last but not least, you do something that I’ve continued to praise you for and I’m not the only person who recognizes this accomplishment. When someone orders a bottle from BRS on the website, they’ll also receive a hand-written note of gratitude directly from you. How on earth do you keep up with the demand to be able to send those out and why did you choose to do that?
The lost art of the thank you note is alive and well in my world! It’s hard to keep up with and I’m a few thousand letters behind, but I set aside time to write 50 a day no matter what. It’s a skill I picked up from my time in politics and I’ve applied it here. People love it, but so do I because I can get to know our customers in a way that I wouldn’t otherwise. Most brands don’t take the time or even have the inclination to take this approach, but we want to deepen our relationships and turn customers into friends and friends into family. This is just one other way that the Blue Run experience is unique.
As a big fan of bourbon myself, it’s a brand that my wife and I always enjoy. While it may not be the entry point for those who don’t already have a fondness for it, if you’re looking for something unique and delicious for the bourbon lover in your life, I cannot possibly imagine you’d be disappointed by any of their offerings.
A very special Thank You to Mike for taking the time to chat with me!
Pictured below, an option from the newest limited runs of a Mother’s Day batch which were just released the week before this article was posted.