Doc Porter’s is a grain to glass distillery in Charlotte, North Carolina’s South End. We had the pleasure to speak to Andrew Porter, the Co-Founder of Doc Porter’s Distillery. Andrew and his wife Liz Porter established the distillery in 2014, and have been making exceptional spirits to this day. They took us on a journey through spirit distillation, and we gladly followed them down the rabbit hole.
Andrew, please tell us a little about yourself.
AP: I’m a 29 year chemical engineer graduated from Clemson University and started Doc Porter’s Distillery with my wife Liz.
What led you to start your own business?
AP: I grew up home brewing with my dad and have always loved cooking. As I grew older this grew into a love for spirits and learning how they are made. After my wife and I got married, we wanted to build something for ourselves and a distillery seemed to bring together all of my passions. Luckily, my wife got behind the idea immediately and we took it from there one step at a time.
Please tell me how the distillery came about? Tell us about the name.
AP: Charlotte has a great eat/drink local movement, and we really thought a craft distillery would be well received in the community. The name was a tough one. We kicked around tons of names and when none of them stuck, we got back to basics and talked about things that were really important to us and our inspirations. I’ve always been really inspired by my grandfather who was a pioneer in his field of radiology, so we thought it would be fitting to honor him by naming our own pioneering adventure after him.
What exactly does your job entail?
AP: When my wife and I started back in November 2015, we did everything. We quickly realized we needed more and more help so we hired a salesperson and a distiller. With them running the day-to-day operations I deal mostly with operating the business, new product development, financials, reports and all the other non glamorous stuff that no one tells you about when your looking at starting a distillery.
What was your vision for Doc Porter’s Distillery. Was it a hobby or a business idea, or a mix of both perhaps?
AP: It was mostly a passion turned into a business. It’s definitely not a get rich quick business, but meeting people who enjoy our products so passionately makes it all worth it.
What whiskey expressions do you currently produce, and how are they all different?
AP: Right now we just have our North Carolina Single Barrel Bourbon available, but later this year we will release our Rye Whiskey, with a few other special release products in the works.
Talk for a minute about your choice of still – how did you know it would create the flavor profiles you were looking for?
AP: We use a column hybrid still which gives us flexibility to produce many different products (Vodka, Gin, Whiskey). We have tight control over the process and can directly influence the flavor of each product. Using a batch column hybrid still allows us to capture a very clean hearts cut full of flavor.
Walk us through the distillation process. From grain to glass? Is there a flavor profile you’re looking for before bottling the whiskey?
AP: We pride ourselves in using all North Carolina grains in all of our products. This gives a true NC taste. We chose a high-wheat blend for our Bourbon (60% Corn, 30% Wheat, 10% Malted Barley) to highlight the features of the great North Carolina Wheat. Toffees and Caramels. Using the smaller barrels we can help compliment those with darker notes of cocoas, cloves, plums and cherries. Filter Single Barrel Non-Chill filtered allows us to maximize the flavor in each bottle.
Do you believe now is the most exciting time for a whiskey lover?
AP: I think it’s starting to be, but in about 5 years the options and education levels of consumers will drive the industry and allow distilleries to make more abstract products. So I actually think the best is yet to come.
“I’ve always been really inspired by my grandfather who was a pioneer in his field of radiology, so we thought it would be fitting to honor him by naming our own pioneering adventure after him.” – Andrew Porter
Do you have any role models in this industry?
AP: Anybody who makes unique products. Leopold Bros, Corsair, Copper Fox, Headframe, St. George are always pushing the boundaries with new products and different ways to make them. They keep us motivated to try new things and test the market.
How do you expand your whiskey nationally? Any plans to do so?
AP: I think the days of easily expanding a craft brand national have come to an end. We don’t have the deep pockets for that kind of expansion. We rely on organic growth and focusing more on our products than on a marketing spend.
What are your hopes for the distillery 5 years from now?
AP: I hope that North Carolina laws continue to change to allow us to give our consumers what they want (cocktails, bottle sales, etc.) This will allow us to expand our product range and let our creativity shine.
Do you think that your product is distinctive? If so, what makes it distinctive from other whiskies on the market?
AP: Our product is truly one of a kind. It’s made 100% grain to glass in the state of North Carolina. We use 15 gallon barrels, so we are able to reduce the aging time and get a heavy influence from the barrel giving darker notes of cocoa, clove, toffee, and plum.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
AP: I think the craft distilling industry is in a tough spot where true distilleries (like us) are working hard, making great products, and building a base of die hard customers. It’s tough because some distilleries see an opportunity to exploit the market by purchasing spirits from large manufacturers and passing them off as their own. It not only devalues real craft products, but betrays our consumers trust. The outdated TTB labeling laws allow this unethical activity to go on un-noticed and it’s time for them to step in and protect the consumers by adjusting their labeling requirements to show all distillation entities involved in the making of a product. It is only fair for the consumers who know who actually made the product they are purchasing.
For more information on the distillery, please visit the links below: