Owner/Distiller for Neeley Family Distillery
Getting involved in the bourbon industry truly has re-energized my life. I have this whole group of amazing new friends, people I would have never have met had it not been for bourbon. It's really pretty cool to think about what bourbon really means to me.
One of the real unique friendships is the one I have with Royce Neeley. On paper, it doesn't seem like it could be possible... a 27-year-old guy and 50-year-old man. One single, living in Kentucky and the other, married 26-years living in Missouri. A guy steeped in moonshine culture, and another raised by a St. Louis policeman.
The bond that can break down all barriers.
So, Royce and I initially met at an event held yearly at Limestone Branch Distillery. Steve Beam himself sent Royce in to be interviewed by me on my podcast, The Bourbon Daily. I enjoyed Royce's ability to tell a story, and his "matter-of-fact" approach to sharing his family history. Despite the fact it involved breaking the law, violence, heck, even murder, he wasn't bragging about it... nor was he embarrassed by it. He was simply stating fact.
Isn't that kind of what building a bourbon brand is? Sure, you can own the brand for a while, but your ultimate goal is to create a legacy to pass it along to your heirs.
Royce and I would go on to not only record that show, but dozens of others. He's a regular on the network and clearly not just one of my best bourbon friends, but my truly one of best friends.
Why do I like this guy some two-dozen years my junior? Well, we have this love for bourbon... not just the distilled spirit in terms of drinking it, but the history and appreciation for doing things in this business like they've always done. I take great pride in preserving the history of bourbon by talking people and Royce is doing the same thing with his company by making his bourbon in a traditional way that not only is different from most distilleries but it makes him less efficient and his job harder. That's okay, though, because that's what he wants to do... create a product that is not only reflective of him and his family before him, but the industry before him as well. I'm not sure there is anyone in the bourbon business today as committed as he is.
Plus, if you know Royce, you can't help but respect what he's doing. I think most people would think it's pretty cool to be a 20-something owning a distillery. It's so glamorous. Well, sure, there is this cool quotient to making bourbon. Mostly, though, it's hard work. I'm not kidding when I tell you many days for Royce are 5:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. He is giving up a lot to pursue his dream.
I feel that way sometimes. Cranking out the content that we do... podcasts, a daily podcast, an eMagazine, newsletters, clubs and more, it's not easy, but I do it because I work scared... scared of failure... scared of being forced to go back to a corporate job... a world I never fit in. Royce is doing the same thing. He's building a family legacy and he, his parents and those related to him are all-in on this thing and that cannot be easy. He's the right guy for the job, though. Hardworking, genuine and an all-around good guy. A person people want to be around.
He's going to find success... not because he's lucky or his timing was good, because he's working hard for it and creating a unique product by doing things the right way. If you haven't done so yet, head up to Sparta, Kentucky, and see what he's doing. He's changing the bourbon world... one barrel at a time.