Today we’d like to introduce you to Justin Douglas.
Justin, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Simple Man Distillery makes farm-to-glass spirits made from crops grown right here in Georgia. It was a long road to get here though.
Working in corporate job required extensive travel. Where ever my travels took me, local farm-to-table restaurants highlighted a location’s soul. Craft beer from around an area sung its song. Something was missing though. Very few locations had a unique local liquor. Even fewer distillers focused on local farmers.
When my son was six, I asked him, “How can I be a better Dad?” He replied, “Be here.” That hurt. A lot. I sold the first home I ever bought to pursue the crazy dream of creating a farm-to-glass distillery. It also let me be with my family where I can coach my kids’ sports team or at least watch their games. Making a home cooked meal for them feels good too.
Every book regarding distilling was read. I went to most local Atlanta distilleries asking to work for them for free. Only one would allow me to help, but that was a rare occurrence. So, I went to distilling camps in Kentucky to learn the practical application of all this information I read.
Having this experience under my belt, I sought out Georgia farmers to make unique, amazing locally sourced liquor. This was problematic. Most farmers don’t have websites, Yelp pages, or even listings. The humility and dedication from farmers is admirable. They create the backbone of our country. We ended up going to a regional agricultural conference and networked to find a farmer that would be willing to help me in this adventure. The Dickey family, which owns a fifth-generation, family-owned peach orchard, were the first to take a chance on us. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them and am truly thankful.
Agriculture is Georgia’s largest industry. The farmer is the true hero in our backyard fighting the elements and risk. However, the farmer is not widely celebrated. We want to change that. Our products highlight Georgia agriculture across the state. We have mountains, Piedmont, plains and coastal regions that offer diverse agricultural products. What our Georgia farmers can grow is glorious. Every product we have comes from one farmer or another. You will be able to see the farmer you are helping by drinking our liquor. There is a town you are helping. You can even watch an interview from a link on our bottle to see who is growing the ingredients.
It is just the right thing to do.
Opening your own distillery can take years and a ton of money. Money that we don’t have. Some local distilleries have downtime and we started renting from some places to make products.
As more products are introduced, a home for our production is being sought. We just hope another door will open for us for that to happen.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Distilling is hard enough. Finding farmers to partner with is the hardest. Many farmers have beliefs that won’t let them partner with us. I respect that. Our business is not about the party though, but loving your neighbor to celebrate them and enjoy a true craft spirit. I can’t do quantity of libations anymore. We focus on quality.
Working with only fresh ingredients straight from the farm is tough as it requires immediate attention. My poor truck has almost died trying to haul fresh produce to my still to avoid spoilage.
Above all, Georgia also has some of the most alcohol industry job-killing laws in the nation. Alcohol producers could generate much more tax revenue for the state. We cannot sell our products online to create more demand and pay more taxes for the state. Distillers also cannot self distribute products and must rely on third-party distributors that will pay more attention to large brands owned in other states (or countries) that are often part of large multi-billion dollar empires. These large brands pay commission to distributor sales reps that local Georgia-based start-up brands cannot compete with.
To deny someone a living on what they make is criminal.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Simple Man Distillery – what should we know?
We bust our ass to be farm-to-glass.
We love our neighbors by highlighting the farmer’s efforts. For instance, the first product we made is the only vodka in the world made from peaches. Not FLAVORED, but our mash (the materials that are fermented and distilled) is FROM 300 gallons of fresh peach puree from Dickey Farms that we hauled across the state in my dad’s old pick up truck. Flavored vodka is sweet and uses syrups, extracts, sugars or even chemicals. Our vodka is not sweet and has just the faintest nose and finish of fresh peaches in a subtle, delicate balance. It is actually a sipping vodka!
We are releasing a Smoked Apple Brandy made from apples grown on Penland Orchards in Ellijay, GA this year. A few more spirits are in the works, too.
Utilizing the fruits of farmers’ labor to make unique, world-class spirits is so rewarding. There has been so much innovation in beer. Liquor is more traditional and we are going to blow people’s minds with our offerings. Georgia farmers are going to help us do it!
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
When you love your neighbor with your efforts, work is easy. Even dark days aren’t as dark as you know your efforts will help others. That fire is kept in our belly and hopefully, it spreads!
- Website: www.SimpleManDistillery.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/simplemandistillery/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SimpleManDistillery/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/SimpleManSpirit
Stout Owl Media
Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.