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We cut through the BS to bring you the best craft spirits (relatively) risk-free

People often ask Robert and me how we came up with the idea for Bootlegger Co. As two best friends and fraternity brothers in college, we always loved trying new spirits. We were constantly looking for something new and interesting to break up the monotony of macro booze and cheap beer that so often filled our red cups.

That spirit of exploration never really left us. Robert went on to build an innovative craft spirits brand in an emerging category and, in the process, met nearly everyone worth knowing in the industry. He would send me recommendations for brands to try, bottles to pick up, and sometimes even drop a goody in the mail for me. Likewise, I had a travel-heavy career, and no business trip was complete without finding at least one craft distillery to visit in whatever city I happened to be passing through.

Bootlegger Co co-founders Brian Tung and Robert Davies

As Robert and I compared notes about all of the great, small brands we were discovering, we found one common theme: They were next to impossible to find reliably. A great Colorado whiskey I tasted on a ski trip was in every liquor store between Denver and Aspen, but as soon as I was back home in Chicago, they were nowhere to be found. Robert’s favorite Tennessee whiskey was nonexistent in his home state of Texas. And we couldn’t figure out why these exceptional brands — and they truly are exceptional — never seem to make it outside of their own backyards.

Turns out, making spirits is a risky business. Consumers don’t want to take a chance on a brand they’ve never tried before, especially when it involves $60 of their hard-earned money, and that full-size bottle may sit in the back of their cupboard until the end of time. And distributors and retailers don’t want to put a new brand on their shelves, unless it has a former-wrestler-turned-Hollywood-megastar lined up to promote it. The whole thing can feel like a giant dart board at times, with each throw costing a serious chunk of cash. And with more than 2,000 craft spirits brands scattered across the country, the odds of hitting a bullseye can feel remote at best.

Also, drinking spirits is an immensely social activity, but it’s also deeply personal. I love telling my friends about new spirits I’ve found, and why I think they’re great. But I also think Locke + Co whiskey tastes better to me personally because I’ve sat with Rick Talley and Owen Locke, and they’ve shown me the Aspen-wood discs that float in the barrels. My palate seeks out that sweet, smooth, menthol finish imparted by those discs every time I take a sip.

So Robert and I set out to solve all of that. We want to make the best craft spirits we’ve found across the country available in an approachable, curated, and guided manner — and cut through a lot of the BS out there along the way. The result is our first product, the Barrel Outfit, a box featuring three 200-milliliter bottles of fine American whiskeys you may not otherwise get to try. And we want the people who make those whiskeys to be able to tell their stories to everyone who tastes their juice.

We truly hope you enjoy exploring both the spirits in your glass and the stories on this website from our friends across the industry. Spend a moment clicking around and you’ll find guided tastings, recipes, recommendations, and plenty of other fun observations Robert and I have made from the road.


Robert and Brian

Author: Brian Tung

Brian is the co-founder and CEO of Bootlegger Co. His favorite drink is a premium whiskey with one giant ice cube. But if forced to drink a cocktail, he loves a Sazerac.