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Order Owney’s Original NYC Rum And Discover Your Noble Experiment

Bridget Firtle is the Founder and Head Distiller of The Noble Experiment NYC, an all-female distillery in Brooklyn, NY.  After covering global alcoholic beverages as a securities analyst for four years, Bridget set out to create Owney’s NYC Rum - high quality, carefully made, high ester content rum without artificial colors or sweeteners.  Listed as a Top 10 American Rum by the Rum Journal and one of America’s Coolest Distilleries by Travel + Leisure, The Noble Experiment is proving to be a successful experiment for Bridget and her team.  Named Forbes and Zagat’s 30 Under 30 for Food & Wine, Bridget is bringing back the distilling industry and creating jobs in her hometown of Brooklyn, New York.  Find out what inspired her to create domestically distilled rum in her community and her advice for all trailblazing female entrepreneurs.

Click here to take a tour of the distillery and click here to purchase Owney’s Rum.

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Our vision to bring rum distilling back to NYC and giving up our traditional careers is what makes our venture noble.

Brooklyn Born + Bottled

What is The Noble Experiment NYC

The Noble Experiment NYC is a boutique rum distillery located in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York.  The name of the distillery was inspired from the Prohibition Era – which was the last time we had hand-made (albeit illicit) spirits in this city.  The term ‘The Noble Experiment’ was used as propaganda by the U.S. government to garner support for The Volstead Act.  We are very happy it turned out to be an experiment gone horribly wrong as we can now have the opportunity to embark on our own Noble Experiment.

Our vision to bring rum distilling back to NYC and giving up our traditional careers is what makes our venture noble.  We are the first exclusive rum distillery in New York City in about 92 years.  With a mission to expose the consumer and community to better made and unique rum, we can reclaim the spirit’s position in American-made alcohol.  Hopefully, as the business grows, we not only achieve the growth of a new concept and brand but we add to society by giving back to our communities through philanthropy and to the economy via tax receipts and job creation. 

Learn more about The Noble Experiment NYC

Hopefully we add to society by giving back to our communities through philanthropy and to the economy via tax receipts and job creation.

Why did you create Owney’s Rum as your first distilled spirit? 

Rum was America’s first spirit – the first (rum) distillery on record was located on present day Staten Island in the 1660s.  The United States has a rich, soulful history in rum distillation (and consumption) from the Sugar Act of 1764 and the American Revolution to rum-running off the shores of the eastern seaboard during Prohibition.  This history (and everything in between) was part of my inspiration for founding the distillery.

It’s one thing to bring rum back.  It’s another thing to create a totally unique spirit in terms of quality and taste profile.  Our mission behind Owney’s Rum is to distill a really carefully made, high ester content rum that has a lot of flavor and character without the use of artificial colors, sweetening agents, or barrel aging.  In fact there are only three one-of-a-kind ingredients that stand behind the final product – NYC filtered tap water + 100% all-natural/non-GMO/Grade A USA sugar cane molasses + proprietary yeast.  There is absolutely NOTHING added.  Using these ingredients, we focus heavily on fermentation.  By instituting a five-day, temperature controlled, cool fermentation we are able to curate a ton of flavor through a complex process called esterification.  Esterification is the chemical reaction that forms esters (acids + alcohol = esters).  Esters are responsible for most of the aroma and lots of the flavor in the final product – you get tropical fruit, banana, smoke, vanilla and many other notes from our successful fermentation.  We then use our pot-column hybrid still to implement a low rectification distillation of our fermented molasses in order to showcase the flavors we created through esterification.  This distillation level is quite unique as most white rum is stripped to a neutral level during continuous column distillation - similar to vodka.

I named our rum after Owen ‘Owney’ Madden who was a notorious gangster in NYC during Prohibition.  There are a plethora of stories surrounding this gentleman from being a heartthrob to a savage killer to taking 11 bullets in one shoot out and surviving!  Owney was a bootlegger and a speakeasy owner at both the famous Cotton and Stork Clubs.  Most endearing to us, he was a rum-runner.  Owney would smuggle loads of rum into the U.S. from the Caribbean through the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.  He had a large operation in Rockaway Beach, Queens, where I grew up, and he was responsible for a large resurgence in rum popularity during the 1920s.  My family home actually houses a former speakeasy and it’s fun to dream that he might’ve imbibed there with some of the locals!

What is your favorite Owney’s Rum cocktail recipe

Owney’s has a very distinctive smell and taste.  On the nose, it is floral, grassy and earthy yet full of vanilla and molasses notes.  On the pallet, you can expect some tropical fruit, banana, earth, cane, vanilla, molasses, smoke and a medium body mouthfeel with a clean, dry finish.

Two of our favorite Owney’s cocktails are classics:

Owney’s Daiquri (OWN THE DAIQUIRI!)
2oz Owney’s Rum
1oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
0.75oz of simple syurp (1:1 sugar to water ratio)
Add all ingredients to tin shaker, shake w/ice and double strain
serve up in a coupe glass w/lime wheel garnish
 
NegrOwney
2oz Owney’s Rum
1oz Campari
0.75oz of sweet vermouth
Combine ingredients in mixing glass with ice and stir
Serve up or on one large cube
Orange peel garnish
 

We don’t play favorites amongst where to buy or drink Owney’s – we love all of our supporters equally.  If you’re looking for a retail shop, you can find the one closest to you by searching on the store locator at www.owneys.com.  And, if you’re looking for a bar/restaurant, you’re bound to find Owney’s in one of your favorite establishments as we are growing our account base strongly each day.  If not, ask for it!  That’s one of the best ways you can help (aside from drinking, of course!). 

Either way, virtually anywhere you go to drink Owney’s you will be supporting two small businesses - and that’s a wonderful thing!

There are only three ingredients that stand behind the final product – NYC filtered tap water + 100% all-natural molasses + proprietary yeast.

What is the key to creating a quality local brand that benefits our community?

I think the key to creating a quality local brand is collaboration with friends, neighbors and people within the community.  Developing this goodwill is an amazing way to ensure a positive reputation and good image.  So many small brands rely on word of mouth for selling their products and there is no better way to do that than to curate local ‘brand ambassadors.’  The most effective way to do this is through helping each other in whatever ways make sense for your particular business or industry.

In the long term, this creates wealth, jobs, philanthropy and a higher quality of life for all.

What is your dream for The Noble Experiment NYC 10 years from now? 

Ten years from now, I hope that The Noble Experiment NYC distillery is multiples of the size it is today with both capacity expansion at our current location and at one or two new locations within other neighborhoods in NYC.  I also imagine that the current distillery will be more of a destination and provide a venue for locals and tourists alike to enjoy and learn about how we procure our rum.  We will have also developed a formal education program around rum distillation and imbibing for all levels of tradespeople and general consumers.  I also hope to have a comprehensive internship program for locals who have an interest in best practices and becoming involved with the making of spirits.

By 2025, I dream that Owney’s Rum will be a household name and found everywhere in NY State as well as throughout the rest of the US, Europe, and Asia!

Esters are responsible for the flavor in the final product – you get tropical fruit, banana, smoke, vanilla and many other notes from our successful fermentation.

Meet Bridget Firtle

Neighborhood: Brooklyn, NY

Occupation: Head Distiller

Ultimate Accessory: Long, pendant necklace

Favorite Store: The liquor store

Go-to Outfit: Jeans, lace up sneakers, t-shirt, leather jacket

Favorite Nail Polish: Black

Signature Scent: Fermented molasses

Beauty Essential: Mascara

Cocktail of Choice: Classic Owney’s Daiquiri

De-Stress Technique: Gangster rap + treadmill

University: McGill University

Entrepreneurial Spirits

How did your background in finance as a global alcoholic beverage analyst prepare you to run your own company? 

I’m sure my MBA in finance and my experience as a global alcoholic beverage sector investment analyst helped me in certain ways when starting this business.  However, I had never distilled or SOLD spirits before!  No matter what your experience or skill set, in any entrepreneurial endeavor, there will be so much you need to figure out along the way as you wear many hats from day one.

Furthermore, I don’t think it’s easy to prepare for what starting a business is going to throw at you.  The keys to success are having a real vision, having the ability to execute, embracing change and shifting with it, and having the strength to stay positive.  I think you should set out with a clear and well researched plan but be ready to solve lots of problems as the plan will evolve and become dynamic.  If you can recognize the 3-5 ‘subject matter experts’ that your business needs from the onset (i.e., visionary, financial person, creative person, sales person, etc.) and curate (and afford!) the best talent to fill each of those rolls then you’re really set.  If not, get ready for a ton of ‘on-the-job’ learning, so think fast!

No matter what your experience, there will be so much you need to figure out along the way as you wear many hats from day one.

What are a few of your biggest accomplishments since founding TNENYC?

There have been so many big and small accomplishments over the past couple of years – I think it’s important to appreciate both.  Some of the big ones include the unbelievable media attention including being named both Forbes and Zagat 30 Under 30 in Food & Wine in 2013 – I got to ring the opening bell at the Nasdaq with Zagat which really made things come full circle!  Owney’s has also been named ‘one of the top 10 American Rums’ by the Rum Journal and The Noble Experiment as one of ‘America’s Coolest Distilleries’ by Travel + Leisure.  Other big accomplishments include our sales in some of the most exclusive places in NYC, our launch in NJ, CT, CA, DC and our international markets of UK, France, Norway, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

I really do appreciate every small win along the way – from efficiencies in production to finally nailing the sale you’ve been working on for six months to the floor drains not backing up just that one time when it rained really, really hard (and it saved you a monster day of cleaning!).  It’s important to celebrate all the victories along the way.

The keys to success are having a vision, having the ability to execute, embracing change and shifting with it, and having the strength to stay positive.

What is your advice for encouraging and empowering your team? 

I think you have to be inherently inspirational and positive at the start-up stage when managing a team (which is a huge challenge!).  If people believe they have the chance to grow with a small company and actually impact the success or failure, it is quite motivational.  The key is to find the right people that are driven by that rush and excitement and that are also able to see your vision and add value to the development of the company.  I strive to be a hands-off manager and let my team (who rocks!) do their thing.  Each person who works here is better than me at certain things – the magic happens when you recognize that and inspire them to give 110% of where the individual strengths lie and you step back and guide the ship.

I have an all-female team currently and it is something I get asked about regularly.  I didn’t set out and say ‘hey I’m going to have this badass chick distillery’ for promotional purposes – the women who work here are some of the most talented in the industry (shouldn’t be that surprising!).  Currently, I think we may be the world’s only all-female distillery but I expect (and hope) that’s not a distinction for too long as more and more women get involved in this business every day.

What were some of your biggest lessons learned as an entrepreneur? 

This is a tough one – every day is a learning experience.  As an entrepreneur, you are both putting fires out and enjoying unexpected positive surprises on a daily basis.  Cash and capital management are some of the lessons I have learned the hard way.  I think initially I was either cocky or I was foolish (two things you probably need to be in order take the leap!) or both.  I thought I could do everything better, faster and cheaper than anyone who had ever come before me.  Although, I have been able to execute higher than industry average, there are still ‘laws’ that you have to respect about sales ramps, cash burn, etc.  I have learned a lot about perseverance, how to give myself pep talks and how to stay positive.  As a first time manager, I have learned to let go and understand that as the business grows I will have less and less control over every little detail.  However, the most important lesson I have learned is ‘embracing change.’  Change is the only constant in life and in business.  I’ve learned to accept it and embrace it and morph my strategy alongside it.  Going forward, I’m working on anticipating it.

I didn’t set out and say ‘I’m going to have this badass chick distillery’ for promotional purposes – the women who work here are some of the most talented in the industry.

Pink line

How can we be smart when preparing and launching our business? 

If I had to look back on my somewhat short journey thus far, I would tell my 21 year old self to do what I did (get an MBA, go to a hedge fund).  I would tell my 23 year old self (when I started at the fund) to be more relaxed and less tightly wound at work.  I would be more respectfully assertive and less worried about being the first one in and the last one out when doing so was just to show ‘face.’  And I wouldn’t be afraid say ‘no’ when it was appropriate.

Before starting this business, I would go back and reiterate to myself ‘you are seriously out of your mind’ (something I have known my whole life :-)).  On a serious note, I would advise any person thinking about starting their own business to be patient – it takes 3x as long as you think, to have money – it costs 2x as much as you think, to be strong and stay in the fight – so much of the battle is perseverance, and to keep dreaming bigger – the mind really is a powerful thing.  Also, be prepared to be lonely – hardly anyone in your life will relate to what you’re going through – but that’s okay – enjoy them for distraction.  Although it is one hell of a roller coaster, there is nothing in the world quite as exciting or liberating as owning your own business.

I think we may be the world’s only all-female distillery but I expect (and hope) that’s not a distinction for too long as more women get involved in this business.

Pink line

 

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