Airing between regular episodes of the VinePair Podcast, “Next Round” explores the ideas and innovations that are helping drinks businesses adapt in a time of unprecedented change. As the coronavirus crisis continues and new challenges arise, VP Pro is in your corner, supporting the drinks community for all the rounds to come. If you have a story or perspective to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this “Next Round,” VinePair Podcast host Zach Geballe speaks with Erik Liedholm, co-founder and master distiller at Wildwood Spirits Co. and wine director for John Howie Restaurant Group, about how the Seattle-based craft distillery is influenced by its home city’s love of coffee. The company offers gin, vodka, grappa, and whiskey, and is delving into the ways in which whiskey and coffee can combine.
Liedholm began distilling as a hobby, making grappa and moonshine in his backyard. Later, chef and restaurateur John Howie tasted Liedholm’s grappa, and the pair eventually decided to go into business together. Liedholm became certified as a master distiller with the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, and in 2014, he and Howie founded Wildwood Spirits Co.
The following year, The Wall Street Journal interviewed Liedholm alongside Andrew Linnemann, Starbucks vice president of global procurement, comparing the complexities of wine and coffee. Craig Russell, founder of Novus Coffee Imports (and former Starbucks vice president) saw the story and, knowing Leidholm had recently started Wildwood Spirits, reached out about collaborating. Wildwood and Novus have since collaborated on The Dark Door, a bourbon barrel-aged coffee, and a coffee-finished Irish-style whisky, set to launch next year, Liedholm says.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Liedholm says both the distillery and John Howie Restaurants have had to adapt to changing restrictions. Wildwood Spirits has pivoted its strategy to focus more on online retailing and shipping to consumers nationwide. The restaurants, following social distancing regulations, have reopened for indoor dining and curbside pickup.