Bespoken Spirits says it is using science to produce better whiskeys. Now, it has several million dollars to prove it can.
The Menlo Park, California-based startup, which uses a proprietary technology to rapidly produce custom whiskey, announced on Tuesday that it received $2.6 million in seed funding from semiconductor mogul T. J. Rodgers and baseball legend Derek Jeter.
The announcement comes as Covid-19 continues to upend the alcohol industry. With bars and restaurants closed or operating at limited capacity, some analysts predict a double-digit decline in global sales this year. A trade spat between the US and the European Union has also depressed whiskey sales.
“Bespoken Spirits brings a new era of opportunity to the industry, especially as it has been hit hard by COVID-19,” Stu Aaron, a co-founder of Bespoken, said in a statement.
While most whiskeys mature in oak barrels for at least five years — and some for 30 years or more — Bespoken Spirits, founded by Aaron and material scientist Martin Janousek, uses technology that extracts the key elements of the barrel that enhance aroma, color and taste in a matter of days, according to the company’s website.
The company says the technology also enables users to customize different flavor profiles for their whiskeys, and avoid a phenomenon called “angel’s share,” in which up to 10% of the spirit evaporates from the cask. Bespoken sells this technology, as well as a portfolio of custom spirits, to consumers.
Bespoken’s new investors have experience in the food and drink industry: Jeter is an investor and brand ambassador for nutritional food product company Performance Kitchen, and Rodgers is the owner and winemaker at Clos de La Tech winery in Santa Cruz, California.
“The company’s ability to deliver both quality and variety is what really caught my attention and made me want to invest,” Rodgers said in a press release. “In a short period of time, they’ve already produced an incredible range of top-notch spirits from whiskeys to rum, brandy and tequila.”
Aficionados seem to agree: Bespoken won eight awards at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and 10 awards at the American Distillery Institute’s 2020 Judging of Craft Spirits.
Despite the awards, it’ll be a tall order for Bespoken to win over whiskey purists. “I cannot fault people for wanting to bring something new to the forefront of the drinking world,” whiskey critic John Dover wrote in a review of the product. “I do hold umbrage with the shortcut-takers of the world who view the creative process as nothing more than an easy way to make a buck.”
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