Bespoken Spirits, a Silicon Valley liquor company that has developed a new data-driven process to accelerate the aging of whiskey and create specific flavors, announced today that it has launched a $ 2.6 million seed funding round Has. Investors include Clos de la Tech owner T.J. Derek Jeter from Rodgers and Baseball.
The company was co-founded by the former Bloom Energy. Blue Jeans and Mixpanel Manager Stu Aaron and another Bloom Energy graduate, Martin Janousek, whose name can be found on a number of Bloom Energy patents.
Bespoken isn't the first startup to embrace accelerated aging. This process seeks to minimize the time it takes for these spirits to age. This is usually done in wooden barrels. The company argues it's the first to combine this with a machine learning-based approach, despite calling its ACTivation technology.
“Instead of putting the mind in a barrel and passively waiting for nature to take its course, and just rolling the dice and seeing what happens, we're instead using our proprietary ACTivation technology – where A, C, and T. stand for aroma, color and taste – pour the keg into the spirit and actively control the process and chemical reactions in order to deliver tailor-made spirits of the highest quality – and this in just a few days and not decades. "
And while this technology is certainly very skeptical, especially in a company that normally prides itself on its artisanal approach, the company has won awards in a number of competitions. The team argues that traditional barrel aging is a wasteful process in which you lose 20 percent of the product through evaporation and which is difficult to replicate. And because it takes so long, it also creates financial challenges for newbies in this business – and it makes it difficult to innovate
As the co-founders told me, there are three pillars in their business: selling their own brand of spirits, maturing as a service for rectifiers and distillers, and making spirits for retailers, bars and restaurants. Initially, the team mainly focused on the latter two – and specifically on the maturation as a service business. At the moment, says Aaron, many craft distilleries are facing financial burdens and need to unlock their inventory and get their product to market faster – and perhaps at a better quality and therefore a higher price – than before.
There is also the existing market for rectifiers that take and mix existing products, at least in the US. They are also looking for ways to improve their processes and make them more reproducible.
Interestingly, many breweries are now also sitting on excess or expired beer because of the pandemic. "They realize they can recycle the beer – or maybe is a better word – instead of paying someone to dispose of and take the beer back by distilling it into whiskey," said Aaron. "But unfortunately, when a brewery distills beer to whiskey, it's usually not a very good whiskey. And that's where we come in. We can take this beer container, as many people call the initial distillation, and we can turn it into a top quality whiskey convert. "
Bespoken also works with some grocery chains, for example to create bespoke whiskeys for their house brands that match the look and taste of existing brands or offer completely new experiences.
The team collects a lot of data during the entire process and then has a tasting panel describe the product. Using this data and feeding it into its systems, the company can replicate the results or optimize them as needed without having to wait years for a barrel to mature.
"We are collecting all of this data – and some of the data we are collecting today we don't even know what we're going to use it for," said Janousek. Using his proprietary techniques, Bespoken often creates dozens of patterns for a new client and then helps them reduce them.
“I often describe our company as a cross between 23andme, Nespresso and impossible foods " Said Aaron. "We're like 23andme because we're trying again to match customers' preference for the recipe to the results. There is such a thing as big data, genome mapping. And we're like Nespresso because our machine takes alcohol and delivers pods and." Gives results even though we're obviously on an industrial scale and we're not. And it's like Impossible Foods because it redefines an ancient antiquated model to be completely different. "
The company plans to use the new funds to accelerate its market momentum and expand its technology. The house brand is currently available in California, Wisconsin, and New York.
"The company's ability to deliver both quality and variety caught my attention and made me invest," said T.J. Rogers. "In a short period of time they have already produced an incredible range of first-class spirits, from whiskey to rum, brandy and tequila – all independently validated in blind tastings and prestigious competitions."
Full disclaimer: the company sent me some samples. I'm not enough of a whiskey fanatic to review these, but I (responsibly) enjoyed them.