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Life and Work with Whit Rigali

Today we’d like to introduce you to Whit Rigali.

Hi Whit, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
When I moved to California from Massachusetts in 2006, I picked up a job bartending in Mammoth Lakes. The first thing I noticed was how successful local craft beer was. Yet, there was no craft spirits. So I started taking classes and reading up on distilling. In 2008, I moved to Carlsbad to work at Hennessey’s Tavern and opened the Compass. I bought my first still in 2013. My future business partner Sam Chereskin and I began doing “essential oil” experiments. I would bartend at night and R&D during the day. We were lucky enough to be taken under the wing of another local distiller in 2015, where we cut our chops distilling at a commercial scale. In 2017 we released our first product, Misadventure Vodka and in 2019, we opened our own distillery in Vista, CA.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Any distiller can attest that nothing about owning a craft distillery is easy. We started off wanting to make whiskey and out in reused wine bottles. It turns out that it actually takes four years to make a four-year-old bourbon, which is not a great business model for two guys with very little money. Secondly, reusing wine bottles on a commercial scale requires money, equipment and infrastructure that again was out of our reach. At that point, we had two years of craft distilling experience and knowledge so we began looking into a way to make unaged spirits sustainably. During that time (2015), the Natural Resource Defense Council came out with a study explaining how 40% of the food we grow remains uneaten and ends up in the landfill. The second part of the study talked about the massive environmental impact of all these wasted resources. This was our light bulb moment. Instead of looking at this simply as food our waste. When you break it down to what it’s made from, starches and sugars, you have the building blocks to making alcohol. This thought leads us down a two-year R&D journey to finally coming out with our first product. Misadventure Vodka, the world’s first spirit to be made from surplus baked goods.

If we did not have roadblocks in our path, we would never have tried to make spirits from baked goods. Our struggles made and continue to make us who we are. And that is why we embrace the name “Misadventure.” We should all be celebrating the wisdom and lessons learned from the obstacles in all of our paths.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
As an artist, I used to work in installation art. For me, it was about the desire to make my audience learn and feel something about my subject, which often had some social commentary attached. In installation art, you use the entire space and the audience as part of the work. I was lucky enough to volunteer in sub-Sahara Africa when I was younger and my art often spoke about those experiences. Especially the culture shock of coming from a first to a third-world country. This experience galvanized my desire to help those around me.

My training as an artist taught me to look at the objects in the world not by their function but as tools that could be manipulated. This background translates greatly to our work as sustainable distillers. We are constantly looking for new ways of upcycling excess ingredients into something new.

If you had to, what characteristic of yours would you give the most credit to?
The ability to think outside the box. When the pandemic hit, we instantly lost all of our customers. So we had to take stock of what we had tried to use the tools around us to find a way to survive. Within ten days of the shutdown, we had a website up and were the first distillery in Southern California to offer hand sanitizer to the public.

Pricing:

  • Misadventure Vodka $27

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

Romi Rossel https://www.instagram.com/romirosselmedia

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