Lars Williams first started his distilling journey by experimenting with what he saw as a gin made of foraged pin needles. But when sharing the spirit with a friend they told him that without using juniper berries it couldn’t really be called a gin. After more spirits testing, Lars would soon learn that his affinity for experimentation and unique ingredients would rule his brand out of traditional standards for spirits categories altogether.
On this episode of the Park Street Insider Podcast, Andres Correa sits down with Lars Williams, Co-Founder of EMPIRICAL, to unpack the rise of his brand. The two uncover why EMPIRICAL found its identity by throwing out the playbook for traditional spirits distilling to create a truly unique brand based on flavor.
EMPIRICAL is currently making waves in the industry as a brand that approaches spirits production unlike any other. The company has become one of the most disruptive brands in beverage alcohol through the way it sources unique ingredients and utilizes alternative technologies to produce products that don’t conform to any single category.
This conversation breaks down what it was like for Lars to build a brand as an outsider with no spirits industry experience. He’ll explain how his role running the test kitchen proper at restaurant Noma in Copenhagen translated to developing unique flavor profiles in his spirits. He’ll also share how he navigated the technical aspects of setting up a brand from a compliance perspective never having done this before.
They’ll also get into Lar’s vision for the brand in the future and what people can expect from EMPIRICAL in the coming years. Listeners will hear how staying true to his vision was vital to Lar’s brand-building journey.
0:01 – Introduction
4:50 – Defining EMPIRICAL
7:36 – EMPIRCAL’s Origins
9:40 – Coming into the spirits industry as an outsider
12:43 – Portfolio size and footprint
13:17 – Major brand-building milestones
15:50 – The creative process behind SOKA
20:07 – Experimentation
22:36 – Industry standards for sourcing ingredients
24:25 – U.S. market entry
26:25 – Route to market strategy
28:00 – Differences between U.S. and European markets
30:37 – Branding EMPIRICAL
33:12 – Opening a distillery in Brooklyn
38:21 – Compliance lessons when opening a distillery
36:22 – Key values as an entrepreneur
37:28 – Looking ahead
“Stick to your guns. If you’re starting a new brand there’s going to be a ton of people saying that the markets are saturated or are too many players. But I think there’s a lot of room for people who are trying to do something that is special, different, and high quality. I think it’s an exciting time to be in the spirits industry.”
In this episode you’ll hear from:
Lars Williams, Co-Founder, EMPIRICAL
Mentioned in this episode:
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