Three childhood-turned-lifelong best friends never imagined they would start a whiskey company in their home state of Utah, yet here they are, producing a nostalgia for simpler-times whiskey that calls to mind what the American spirit is all about. Jeremy Rawle, Jay Williams and Matthew Seegmiller are the heart and soul of Black Feather Whiskey, a true American spirit, now available in your local Utah State Liquor Store.
Approximately four years ago, the idea of a brand was born. Rawle was in the entertainment business as the CEO of Nitro Circus. He had a passion for whiskey—to him, whiskey always went hand-in-hand with entertainment. He found himself saying goodbye to Nitro Circus to start a new brainchild. Rawle, Williams and Seegmiller put their heads together, and the Featherhood movement began. “Creating the Featherhood was equally important,” says Williams, “to what we wanted to accomplish.”
Over our dinner conversation at HSL, Williams may have said it best: “We wanted a brand that proclaimed fierce independence and a sense of always belonging.” Not only is this an emotion that they want to evoke in their followers and loyal fans, but this is also an accurate description of the American bourbon spirit. Its American roots span the Midwest with handpicked allotments from Indiana, a bottling plant in Houston, Texas and headquarters right here in Salt Lake City. Symbolizing the backbone of the hardworking, fun-loving and determined go-getter that stays true to his or her roots, it is the “get back to what really matters in life” spirit. Whether sipping on the rocks, in a cocktail or neat, this whiskey pleases the bourbon virgin or connoisseur and everyone in between. “Many have their favorite beer brand,” says Rawle. “We want to be their go-to whiskey brand.”
As a whole, Rawle, Williams and Seegmiller feel that Utah is underrated and wanted to create a homegrown company to pay homage to friendship, hard work and their roots. Salt Lake City has always been home for the three of them, which lends to the appeal of tapping into Utah’s uniqueness and opportunity by opening up headquarters in SLC. They incorporate the mountains and outdoor landscape as inspiration in Black Feather’s messaging, keeping the fire within lit and not letting family, friends and conversation go by the wayside.
Black Feather Whiskey’s top-shelf smoothness does not discriminate, offering its one-time Christmas-splurge-purchase taste at a price ($30) that you can afford year-round. As Rawle reasons, “It is premium, not precious.”
Besides producing a great product, it is equally important for the three friends to keep the brand meaningful. In such trying times in the world, they aspire to keep the grassroots vibe and inclusive acceptance of all individuals who just enjoy whiskey, back-porch sitting or a good jam. They are inclusive versus exclusive, so you will never see a VIP zone at one of their events. They want to engage their audience with compelling content, such as their partnership with The State Room for The State of Music series. Whether it is through social media, videos, events or telling the stories of artists, craftsmen and everyday people like you and me, the brand is forging ahead in the world to create a culture of people who live by the “work hard, play hard, love all and live simply” attitude.
Though Black Feather is available here in Utah, the company is also in Texas, becoming entrenched in Austin. With a great indie music scene and nightlife, it was a natural fit to connect to Texas pride and test themselves as a bourbon contender in the South. The results—a steady workhorse pace that continues to grow and expand, with boots on the ground to get the spirit into bars, restaurants, clubs and more, both in Texas and Utah. The company hopes to head into Nashville, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana in the coming months, with Southern California in the works. Online purchasing to states that allow inbound liquor shipments will soon be available.
Black Feather can be enjoyed at various locations in Salt Lake City. One is at one of my favorite restaurants, HSL, where Bar Manager Clif Reagle has created a selection of incredible bourbon cocktails that complement the 86-proof kick and sugar-char finish. I particularly enjoyed the take on the Manhattan and traditional whiskey sour. However, I hear Manoli’s serves up an incredible coffee surprise with this new-to-the-market whiskey. Other local hot spots to find the liquor include: Club Try-Angles, Garage on Beck, Tinwell, Water Witch and Squatters Brew Pub, to name a few.
The greatest news is that Black Feather is here to stay and has a strong desire to become a product Utahns are proud of. Their headquarters is not open to the public, but they hope that as they grow, that may change. On the shelves, Black Feather is hard to miss—their labeling pulls you in with a mysterious blackbird that somehow begs you to give it a try. Once you do, you might just get sucked into the Featherhood.
Blackbird Sour: The Original Black Feather Cocktail
Created by Clif Reagle of HSL
1.5 oz Black Feather Whiskey
¾ oz fresh-squeezed lemon
½ oz peach simple syrup
¼ oz Fernet Branca
6-8 mint leaves
3 drops of salt water
Shake, fine strain, and garnish with mint sprig. This cocktail is a twist on the classic Rye Grin.