by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson; video by Joe O'Neill
Adam Spiegel ’06 was working in finance when the Great Recession hit the markets in 2008. It was an unsettling time for any financial manager, but for Spiegel, just two years out of college, it also started him on a path to a more personally fulfilling career.
“I realized that I wanted to create a business with my own two hands, and create something authentic,” says Spiegel, who had become interested in startups while majoring in political science at Dickinson and had worked on entrepreneurial projects as an undergrad. “I wanted to create a legacy business.”
Today, Spiegel is the owner of Sonoma County Distilling Co., the only whiskey-focused distillery in his home state, California, that produces craft whiskey, aged in charred American oak, for discerning tastes. Since the company’s founding in 2010, Spiegel has gradually increased Sonoma County’s market to seven states and 15 countries, and he’s overseen all aspects of the production process, from grain to glass.
Spiegel shared the basics of what he’s learned along the way during an informal Alumni Weekend tasting that focused on what to look for in a whiskey—the spirit of choice for a long list of historic notables, from Lincoln to Churchill to Bogart, and for a fast-growing fan base around the world.
“It's been really awesome to come and check in with the college, to talk with people who went to Dickinson and show what I’ve done thus far,” Spiegel says, noting that, in keeping with brewmaster traditions, he expects to continue to hone his craft for years and decades to come. “We are making amazing whiskeys now, and I’m excited to see what [our whiskeys will] taste like in 10 years.”
Dickinsonians interested in purchasing Sonoma County Distilling Co. whiskey can get a 10 percent discount on online orders. Simply visit sonomacountydistilling.com/ and enter “Dickinson” (without quotation marks) as the discount code.
Published July 1, 2015