Tim Welch of Petaluma’s Stillwater Spirits wins a North Bay Wine, Beer & Spirits Industry Award head distiller category
The winner of the head distiller category in North Bay Business Journal’s alcohol beverage industry awards says early on in the pandemic, the company produced sanitizer, much of it donated to others.
How did you get into the industry? And what has been your career track since?
Brendan Moylan hired me as an apprentice in 2011. We began making a number of products for clients as well as whisky for ourselves. After a few years as the whisky began to mature, we have put more and more focus on it.
How have you or your company influenced the industry in the last five years? What are key accomplishments?
We have worked with other micro distilleries helping get them off the ground over the years. We also have helped launch multiple craft spirit brands, the idea being that in the craft world we all help each other.
We have won over 40 gold medals as well as best in class awards and best in show and various prestigious competitions.
What changes have you noticed in your industry in the last five years, and how have you and/or your company moved to capitalize on or adjust to those changes?
We make a world class small batch whisky that won’t break the bank. We think of it as a “New World Whisky” that, based on our competitive achievements, a lot of larger distilleries would charge a lot more money for.
How has the pandemic affected your business? What has been the impact of restrictions on visitors, closure of restaurants and bars, surge in online shopping, and rise in digital consumer experiences and marketing?
At the onset of the pandemic, we shut down industry tastings completely, and are not open to the public. This policy is still in place. Our sales to restaurants and bars has been greatly affected. Retail sales has increased, but not enough to compensate overall.
How have you responded to the challenges and opportunities of the virus-influenced economic downturn? How much are these measures making up the difference in sales?
At the beginning of the pandemic, we started working with local breweries and distributors to procure beer as it expired at closed restaurants and the warehouses.
We reclaimed the alcohol from the beer and turned it into sanitation spray with the FDA and WHO requirements. We donated the majority of the sanitizer to local essential businesses.