Urban Magazine Online did an article on one of our members
Check out the full article here
Meet Nilaja Young and Alisa Lawrence, the visionary owners whose shared passion for artisanal spirits have transformed their dream into a thriving reality, blending innovation with tradition in every bottle.
Let’s start with what led you to launch your own spirits distillery.
Alisa: It is truly a family story. Our cousin Rob founded the business around eight years ago. Under the premise of generational wealth and creating a family legacy, He asked who’s next in the family. He had run the business for five years. We took up the mantle during the pandemic while the world was kind of on hold. We decided why not do it. We packed up our families and moved from New York to New Hampshire and here we are three years later.
You all have achieved a grand level of triumph in just three years. What would you say has been the key to your success?
Nilaja: I would say our perseverance. When we decided to do this, we decided to go hard at it and make sure that nothing could stop us. We were going to persevere. We know we wanted to take it from being a mom-and-pop business to being something much bigger. So, with that in mind, we have just kept pushing forward.
Alisa: I think our respective backgrounds in sales, marketing, operations, management, and even security kind of prepared us for this. I think we all managed to bring our collective skill sets from our pre-pandemic lives and make this a success.
Describe the biggest challenge that you have faced since launching this endeavor.
Alisa: For me, it was the lack of knowledge about the industry. It’s one thing to walk into a liquor store and buy a bottle of something that you like or have known all of your life. The question is, how did it get there?
Nilaja: We had to learn how to do everything from scratch. We had to learn production, including the way things age in the barrel. It is very key to what we do.
Alisa: Those learning curves were huge, but I think we all, in our previous careers, have tackled things that were difficult. This was just another thing.
For those who don’t know, what are some of the different spirits that you offer?
Nilaja: We have our Ashuelot Vodka, Ashuelot Cucumber, Ashuelot Gin, Clark & Chesterfield™ American Single Malt Whiskey, Bourbon Whiskey, Maple Whiskey, Honey Whiskey, and Chocolate Whiskey. We also have our Kingfish Rum, Libation, and Monadnock Moonshine lines as well.
You also have your very own branded barbeque sauce, correct?
Alisa: Yes, that is made with our maple bourbon. We are very proud of our barbecue sauce. It is part of our Clark & Chesterfield line.
Being a Black-owned distillery, did you face any unique challenges due to race?
Alisa: It was very interesting for me because of the climate of the country when we came in during the pandemic. People were very much exposed to what was not happening. And what was not happening in the spirits industry was access. Over the span of two years, we have seen such an opening of the floodgates as far as access, inclusivity, and information specifically for spirit makers of color, women, and other marginal groups who were often denied access before. Surprisingly, we were often the major consumers of these products.
Nilaja: We now know that these kinds of opportunities are out there and it’s possible. It shows that we actually are capable of doing great things. We can run and scale a business. I am proud of what we have built. It’s an example of what we all can do when the opportunity allows.
In our culture, we often build these successful brands only to sell them. How do you plan to maintain family ownership through future generations?
Alisa: There are things that BIPOC or women owners had no idea about, for example, trusts. A lot of the time, they didn’t know how to execute a will properly. So, let’s start there. We are talking about the most basic levels of maintaining trust and putting money in the right vehicles to grow. At the very bottom of it all, the most important thing is teaching our children. We have three kids working next door right now. We are making sure they understand what this is and the importance of it all, and how to keep it and not just sell it all off when someone offers ten million dollars. You don’t have to sell all of it. You can sell a piece of it and still maintain majority ownership in perpetuity.