A Startup Distillery Tale: 3 Simple Words, “Burn the Boats”

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As the legend goes, in February of 1519, Hernán Cortés and his band of 600 Spaniards, 11 ships and 16 horses left Cuba bound for what is now Mexico to take over the world’s richest treasure and conquer the Aztec Empire. As Cortés prepared his troops to head into battle, he uttered these three simple words, “Burn the boats!” Failure was not an option. There was no Plan B, no exit strategy, they were all in.

Cortés scuttling his own fleet off the coast of Veracruz in order to eliminate the possibility of retreat

Cortés scuttling his own fleet.

Starting a craft spirits distillery is similar. You’ll have a lot of supporters and a lot of doubters, some to your face and some behind your back. Once you decide to pull the trigger, you’re either all in, or bound for defeat. Here’s one distillers tale about being all in.

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The Tale of Nick and Geri Lefebre, Founders of Ethanolo¿y Distillation

This is the story of “[ˈeth-ä-nȯl-ä-jē\] (noun): The Science, & Art of Distillation™” as told by Nick.


“Jesus.  What a ride.   I will tell ya’ I never thought it would be this difficult, mentally and physically.  Six years ago, when writing the business plan, and the beginning stages of our branding strategy, I never knew how true our mission statement would prove to be.  Most notably the last two sentences.

‘Our mission is simple: Create something we are proud of. It starts with grain and fruit sourced from local farmers and ends with fermentation, distillation and maturation of spirits in-house.  The right way is never easy. Hell, nothing worthwhile is.’

Ethanolo¿y Distillation - Burn the Boats

Although the 100+ hour weeks now seam normal, it has been all worth it.  When you set out on a course, the destination seems just that, distant.  As you work incessantly, maniacally lament over details that no eye will see, and work yourself to the physical precipice, something concrete occurs.

Take an idea.  Just one, and leverage that idea against everything you have and know.  Past, present and future.  The finality.  The stupidity.  The potential.

When the Vikings landed on foreign beaches they burned their boats.  One physical act, had profound psychological consequences.  Commitment.  Dedication.  Motivation.  These nouns can’t explain the level of motivation one has when the only option is to prevail.

Sure, Geri and I could have hired a distiller, taken on investors, or hired consultants, thus ultimately letting someone else build our dream, distill our spirits, etc.  However, where is the fun in that?  Not everybody teaches themselves chemistry, microbiology, chemical engineering or studies, finance, marketing, design, and human psychology, as a means of understanding; as a means of executional perfection.  Not everybody understands that when your entire body aches in pain, and you have become an insomniac due to the copious thoughts that inoculate your internal dialog, that this struggle is the reward.

This could be my sadistic rationalization. For now, Geri and I will look back at our well charred boat, and smile.”

Much Love,
Nick


Ethanolo¿y Distillation is now open for business. The distillery and spirit house is located at 127 Ames St., Elk Rapids, MI. 

Ethanolo¿y Distillation - Sign Ready for Installation

Geri Lefebre with Ethanolo¿y Distillation sign ready for installation.

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