Mystic began as a way for company founders Jonathan Blitz and Michael Sinclair to pursue their passion for fine spirits. “We both love bourbon,” said Blitz. Sinclair, a former professional brewer, had discovered a unique and easy-to-drink Scotch liqueur when he was tracing his family’s roots on the coast of Scotland.
The pair decided to bring a version of the product to market. With his wife, Sinclair refined the recipe instead using American bourbon whiskey, and incorporating more exotic botanicals. “I knew they had created something really special, and I immediately wanted to share it with everyone,” Blitz said of his first taste of the result.
Blitz and Sinclair, who named their venture Barrister & Brewer after their professions, knew they needed help to get the business rolling. Luckily, they found a friend and mentor in Rimas Vilgalys at The Brothers Vilgalys Spirits Company in Durham. Vilgalys had a licensed facility, experience in obtaining approvals for the formulation and labeling of a new liquor, and he was happy to help. “Durham has been a great place for me to get started, so I wanted to pay that forward and help get Mystic off the ground,” Vilgalys said.
"Durham is such a vibrant start up community, and its food scene is just about the worst kept secret on earth," said Sam Poley, a retired chef who works for Durham's marketing agency. "Food entrepreneurs find a pretty welcoming crowd in Durham," Poley added.
Blitz and Sinclair have been humbled by the reception Triangle-wide, but apparently Durham has given them an exceptional welcome. "Frankly, we're kind of blown away by the reception in Durham. AlI I have to do is go into a restaurant and tell them I have a new, locally-made spirit, and they make a few minutes to speak with me. They are also usually willing to work with us to arrange a tasting so their customers can try it, too. That doesn't happen everywhere. Everyone has been incredibly supportive and helpful," Blitz said.
Blitz and Sinclair got their recipe federally approved, and the North Carolina ABC Commission indicated an interest in carrying the product in the state warehouse. “We’re working full-time to keep the ABC Stores in the Triangle stocked,” said Sinclair. The two are already working on approval for interstate sales, as well. “Now we’re working on building and audience by getting people to try it. We’d love for people to contact us on our Facebook page to give us ideas,” Blitz said. The company’s Facebook page will be where they announce tasting events, too. The product is currently available in Durham, Franklin, Onslow, Orange and some Wake county ABC stores.
“It’s amazing how willing people are to try something new and local, and how fast their friends become customers as well,” Blitz added. “We feel really lucky that people are enjoying the product. We’re going to make sure that we keep the same quality in every bottle.”
Check out the Durham Stuff website for other products made in Durham - a site on which Mystic will appear soon.