We spoke to the founder and the distiller behind San Diego’s well kept secret, the secret of great whiskey, you can almost say the Perfect Soul Whiskey. He gave us in the ins and outs into the industry and what it takes to be successful.
David, please tell us about yourself. How did you fall in love with whiskey?
DJ: I feel in love with excitement and the cool. To be honest I am a rum cat but whiskey out sells rum four or five to one in the states so I made a whiskey I enjoy. Inviting, tasty, smooth, no bite, goes down a little too easy in spite of being 100 proof. Apparently everyone else enjoys it as well, beautiful. I did however grow up on the European whiskeys and I, like a lot of people, developed a love for Jameson. If the fellas and I were drinking, it was Jameson and coke all day every day. As I matured my pallet I wanted a whiskey I could drink straight without a mix to wash it out. In turn I made the best small batch, single barrel, no need to touch it, I already did my part, it’s a whiskey you could drink. Fortunately for Perfect Soul, there are plenty of souls that agree.
What was your vision behind this project? What obstacles did you face when you initially conceived this idea?
DJ: Like any small business, you have to have the audacity, vision and ambition to do it. In my particular case I had been producing high in spirits for about a decade out of necessity. Before Perfect Soul was born I ran nightclubs and bars. In the nightclub scene as much as I would like to pretend the staff did not drink or party the reality is everyone in the building goes hard. Drinking partying whatever. The issue I had, is to many people were hungover, hurting and calling out the next day. I decided to produce a high-end rum and a high-end whiskey and put it behind my bars for my staff only. Was this ethical or right? I would say that is a perspective issue but I will tell you what did happen. No one was hungover and everyone showed up for work the next night ready rock and make money. When the laws on distilleries were loosened up a bit I literally just switched sides. A lot of the contacts I used to buy from I began to sell to. I know a lot of people have a dream and a cool story to go along with their distillery, brewery, winery but I kind of naturally progressed and fell into it. Nevertheless, it is a story.
That’s so interesting, thanks for being real with us David. What type of whiskey do you currently produce? Tell us about the expression.
DJ: We only do two things. A high-end rum and a high-end Whiskey. Our whiskey is a small batch, single barrel, char level three, smoky yet clean, touch of vanilla, a true Southern California Whiskey that is meant to be consumed neat with a steak, cigar and ideally somebody that makes you smile.
How do you stand out within such a vast craft distillery industry?
DJ: Quality, understanding and perspective. It is funny, nobody gave it a second thought when I said my background was in bars and night clubs and I have literally been studying liquor, people and money my entire adult life. Creating a grassroots following and a product buzz is my forte. Secondly but equally important, quality. We are the number one top shelf craft spirit out of San Diego and it is not even close. When we say small batch what we mean is we do twelve to eighteen bottles per batch. A lot more effort equals a lot more quality. While we are the most expensive craft spirit in San Diego we have found our niche on the top shelf of the majority of upscale bars and restaurants as well as the standard grocery and liquor outlet. I subscribe to the notion that once you know you can’t un-know, so let’s taste it.
Who is your role model in this business? Is there someone you admire?
DJ: While I have never subscribed to role models or mentors I am from the land of Stone Brewing, Ballets Point and Belching Beaver. I had a front row seat to the beginnings of some of the largest most successful breweries in the world. When I say a front row seat I mean I had a bar and a night club during the times that these breweries were in their infancy sending reps in looking for taps and deals. If I had to throw admiration on someone I would give a shout out to Tom Vogal the owner of Belching Beaver, one of the top five breweries out of San Diego. He has allowed me to sit in his office and quiz him on the industry, picking up tips left and right while we drink Perfect Soul Whiskey.
Does the climate and geographic location influence the flavor profile of your whiskey?
DJ: Yes. We all drink for different reasons and Perfect Soul is no exception. We only do two things and we do them well. We do a 100 proof rum and a 100 proof whiskey with zero bite, zero burn, zero pain and all California love. Born in Los Angeles, raised in San Diego, trust me when I say I have been a SoCal cat my entire life and that hometown west coast beach laid back Hollywood feel is blatant.
Can you tell us about your distilling setup and the kind of stills you use?
DJ: I have always done my best work with pot stills as I prefer to hold on to certain elements for taste. I like the amount of art and driving a pot still requires. The distillers that I have trained to work with me use taste, touch, smell and sound as opposed to temps and numbers. There is a way to do everything and I believe we have multiple senses for a reason. Science is a necessary base, as you must stay within sciences parameters, but at a certain point you must learn to drive. At a certain stage the artist side has to take over in order to hit the next level of this whiskey game.
What is the most important part of your job?
DJ: Motivation followed by vision and ambition.
What is your role and your day to day activities?
DJ: In the most literal sense anything and everything.
In your opinion, what makes a great dram?
DJ: Most importantly clean healthy cuts. Next a balanced mash. Aged, not over aged and clean. From there you are on the money already. Hit your notes and make it yours but there are bare minimums that are nonnegotiable when it comes to quality.
What was your first dram?
DJ: Jack followed closely by Jameson which I pledged allegiance to for years. I am an American so that is pretty much a standard story. My pallet opened up once I started to travel and was exposed to the global whiskey rum spirit game. Europe, Asia, New Zealand, South America, Central America and Canada are all huge contributors to this eclectic spirits narcotic.
So David, anything else you’d like to share with Tastethedram readers?
DJ: Sure. I am big subscriber to the notion that none of this “life” is real, so do whatever you want. I don’t push whiskey on anybody but if you are a whiskey soul, Perfect Soul Whiskey is your whiskey.
www.perfectsoulwhiskey.com– Perfect Soul Whiskey