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Later this month, on April 29th, he plans to sell two products: an unaged corn whiskey (while the rest of the corn whiskey ages in barrels — essentially the process that turns moonshine into bourbon) and something called Papa Juan — a take on the Dominican Republic’s iconic mamajuana (traditionally a rum drink infused with native barks and spices), made with infused single malt whiskey and a touch of honey. “One of the benefits I have is smaller barrels,” he says. “Smaller barrels mean a shorter aging time, because it’s all about the spirit’s exposure to wood. A bigger operation with 50-gallon barrels would take much longer.”
But in the distilling game, the smaller the operation, the bigger the risk. Philly’s distilling scene boomed over the last decade, and fast-expansion and big investment played a big role in its success. Starting this small, to say the least, isn’t easy. But he’s hopeful: “I’m doing this with my savings. I’ve worked in finance, I know how to build a business, and I expect to grow quickly,” he says. “In two years, I’ll have to move out of my space and invest a couple hundred thousands for a full facility.”
But for now, he says, he plans to sell out of his Papa Juan every week. Because he believes in the product, of course, but also because for this to work, he has to.