1: Any partners or individuals that should also be mentioned?
It is myself and my wife Asia Curtis that own the distillery
2: When did this project begin?
While on deployment in Afghanistan in 2013, the framework to start our own distillery began. I spent the majority of my down time in the machine shop talking, researching, and creating our business plan in-between jobs. When I left, I had business plans and a blueprint to construct our own unique distillery equipment. As soon as we hit US soil, we got to work.
3: What is your relation to the military and/or aircraft maintenance; any others?-Did military training help accomplish your dreams?
I first enlisted into active duty in 2004, by early 2005 I had finished tech school as a Aircraft Metals technician. I spent my first enlistment at Holloman AFB, NM working on the now retired Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk. After I finished my first enlistment I decided to continue my AF career as a reservist working on C-130’s at Peterson AFB,and still am a reservist to this day, although that may change due to the demands of owning a business. My military training most definitely helped me in two major ways. The first is my technical training, the Air Force taught me, machining, metal fabrication, and welding to include becoming a certified welder in seven different groupings of metal. I used this skill set to fabricate my own separated column still, made entirely of stainless steel, thus saving me over $100,000 compared to the commercially available equivalent. The second was the exposure the Air Force provided me to BS governmental paper work, inspections, and programs. To start a distillery there is a mountain of paperwork that must be accomplished, Federal, State, County, and City. This exposure to the way government works, the way questions are expected to be answered, and what to expect and how to field questions during inspections such as fire, HAZMAT, etc. were invaluable.
4: Why Colorado springs?
I am a Colorado native, born and raised. When I got a reserve position at Peterson after Active Duty, the wife and I decided to set down roots in Colorado Springs. The beautiful thing about opening up an alcohol manufacturing business in Colorado is that the laws are setup in favor of these types of business. Because many of the alcohol licenses are controlled by the state you live in, they are vastly different from state to state. We here in Colorado are one of the few who have the ability to hold both a manufacturing license and a wholesale license, meaning that we have the unique ability to rep our own products to liquor stores, bars, and restaurants. The manufacturing license also allows us to have our own tasting room where you can buy a bottle, have a taste, or purchase a cocktail made with our spirits.
5: Does your company give back in any way?
We have recently teamed up with a relatively new charity aimed at aiding our brothers and sisters returning with Traumatic Brain Injuries. Along with donating a percentage of our profits to this charity we, alongside a veteran owned brewery, are currently helping them with fundraising events. One such event in the works is a charity concert on the Air Force Academy, at the Falcons stadium.
6: What struggles did you overcome to reach your dream?
Mainly the cost of opening up your own business, when you go into business you have to add a zero to everything you expect to pay, for example if you expect to get an electrician in you house to do a job for $200 expect to pay $2000 for a commercial job. Most banks that you go to wont loan you any money for a non-
franchised business, because they have no guarantee on their return otherwise. Because we built such a solid business plan we did find a bank willing to loan a good sum of money to us. Other than that you must make it through the pile of paperwork required to start such a heavily regulated business.
7: Can people order your product online?
Not yet but we are working to try to find a company that can ship to as many states as possible. Other than that look for it at your Class Six, we are working on the paperwork to get it into the shelves on base, by law they must carry a percentage of products from veteran owned business.
8: What products do you have and are more coming?
Currently we have a P-51 Mustang Bourbon mash whiskey and a FG-1D Corsair Rum. We will have many more to follow such as an apple pie moonshine, rye whiskey, a vodka made from wheat, brandies, apple jack, just to name a few.
9: Any additional information you feel pertinent to the article?
All of our spirits will arrive as ingredients and leave as spirits, we will be 100% grain (or cane if it's rum) to glass distillery. The name comes from the fact that this whole thing started when myself and several other Air Force aircraft maintainers started experimenting with making moonshine in my garage a few years back. Everyone loved what I made. A few of the maintainers joked about going legit and opening a distillery. I laughed it off as a pipe dream until I was on a deployment to Afghanistan with an Army depot level rotary wing maintenance unit. When things got boring my army buddy and I put together a business plan and ran some numbers, satisfied with the feasibility we decided to go forward with it. He had to pull out for family issues but I still decided to go forward with it. Because the whole thing evolved around aircraft. One thing that choppers and fixed wings have in common is they both have a cockpit. So our whole distillery and spirits have an aircraft theme and names. Our bar is made from the tail of a C-45, which was a WWII era cargo trainer.