Richmond has very quickly become a haven for craft beer, with breweries taking up residence throughout the city, and especially in Scott’s Addition. In one such brewery is where the story of Belle Isle Moonshine began. Co-founders Vince Riggi and Brian Marks were enjoying the lively atmosphere and thought to themselves; how can we make a social space like this with a distillery? Vince said, “it really opened [their] eyes to what a location like that could create”. So, with that idea, they set off to find out what it would take to make their dream a reality. Originally, it was going to be Belle Isle Bourbon, however the aging process would take too long and space in the market was limited. The founders then set their sights on moonshine. Not only does Virginia have a rich history with it, (which you can read about on their website) but they noticed that unlike every other liquor, there was no premium label for moonshine. From there, Belle Isle Premium Moonshine was born.
Today the company is thriving. You can find their bottles on shelves at many of the top restaurants and bars in Richmond, and selling out of ABC stores. This up and coming company is moving fast, spreading from state to state and soon, you’re going to see their name everywhere. I was lucky enough to score a visit to their distillery to meet Vince and the rest of the team, and here’s what I learned:
Vince is a firefighter.
Not in the literal sense (although considering the flammability of alcohol, that career choice might not be out of the realm of possibility). No, Vince is a different kind of firefighter. When any kind of issue comes up, he’s on the front lines tamping out the flames before they become a bonfire. In his own words, his job is “unblocking people, helping [his] team move forward”.
You have to really love what you do.
This may sound obvious, but it’s something that causes a lot of startups to fail. Vince said it best, “unless you love the process and wake up excited to embrace the journey, you’re going to fail”. Tough words, but he continued, saying “you have to live in your business, and hire the right people”.
You don’t deserve anything.
This one sounds strange at first, but again, Vince explained it well. He said that “you don’t deserve anything; if you don’t get the investors, you have to think: what didn’t they see that we see?”.
Honey Habanero is their coolest flavor.
Cold Brew and Ruby Red might be delicious, but Honey Habanero takes them all out. As with all their ingredients, the peppers and honey are locally sourced. They say you can “taste the real”, so much so that they have to post a sign that says, ‘watch out, bees’ when they get their honey in. Just another day at the office. The idea for this flavor came when they asked Gregg Brooks, Head of Production, to create something that was out of the box for a festival they were going to. The flavor was wildly popular, there ended up being a 2 hour line just to taste it.
The team is where it counts.
Any small business requires founders with a vision, but they also need a dedicated team working behind them; and the team at Belle Isle Moonshine is the best. From their Head of Marketing who used to work for Governor McAuliffe, to their Director of Production who is a drummer in an ‘80’s yacht rock band called 3 Sheets to the Wind, you couldn’t ask for a cooler team, they can do it all. Not only that, but you can tell when you walk in there that they love what they do.
So when you’re out on the town this weekend, look for the Belle Isle Premium Moonshine label, and as always, drink responsibly.
Belle Isle Moonshine is a member of the StartUp Virginia high growth incubator in Richmond, Virginia.