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Ep #12: Leonard Firestone

Firestone & Robertson Distilling

I’m not sure there’s a much better place to record a podcast live than a secret whiskey room showcasing a founder’s best whiskeys from around the world at a distillery that is located on a private golf course. Let’s just say this was a fun setting and the conversation lived up to the location. I met Leonard Firestone right when I launched Mizzen+Main. He was just launching TX Whiskey at that time as the first product of Firestone & Robertson, the company he started with his cofounder. While he was just launching that specific whiskey, the reality was it had already been in process for years because of the time it took to get all the appropriate pieces in place, then distill it, then put it in barrels, then bottle it! This conversation covered a wide range of topics that offer a lot to learn from, especially the courage and audacity that Leonard and his business partner Troy had with zero experience in the industry, the capital requirements, the lead times, and the difficulty of the spirits market. Imagine everything on the line, you haven’t even started selling your first product, and you start your second product line that will take several more years before you see a dime from it! That’s just what they did in pushing forward with TX Bourbon before they’d started to see sales from TX Whiskey. It’s no surprise, if you’ve met Leonard and Troy, that their Whiskey (and Bourbon) started getting wait lists from restaurants and retail locations and even thousands of people showing up to the distillery to get a chance to get one of the first bottles. Say hello on Twitter at @frdistilling, stop by their distillery located on a private golf course, or pick up a bottle wherever it’s sold. I’m not sure if I have to say this legally, but you must be 21 or older to listen to this? Maybe, maybe not. Check your local laws - then enjoy this conversation with Leonard Firestone.

Show Notes:

  • 06:50 - The origins of starting a distillery in Texas
  • 09:30 - A distillery located on a private golf course - a dream come true!
  • 13:00 - The extraordinary history of the golf course that now hosts Firestone & Robertson
  • 24:30 - The challenges of selling product that isn’t sold directly to the end customers due to laws and regulations
  • 32:00 - How absolutely essential the brand and the creative truly is - ideas and creativity will separate from the competition
  • 40:38 - “Men and Rubber” - the Firestone family history - book is out of print
  • 45:30 - Managing a business with different liquor laws from state to state and federal regulation
  • 58:53 - Explosive demand right out of the gate - not even the distributor anticipated it - presented unique hurdles with only 4 people in the company (one of which was a dog!)
  • 1:03:15 - My favorite success moment on this podcast - thousands of people showed up to get their hands on a bottle of TX Bourbon that had been in the process for years! Leonard describes this as “the coolest day” to have thousands of people come celebrate something five years in the making
  • 1:08:27 - “Pucker factor”
  • 1:14:10 - An unforgettable story with Leonard and President George H. W. Bush