Do you like your liquor aged but don’t have forever to wait—especially because you’re the one trying to make and sell it for a profit? Then Raleigh-based Next Century Spirits has your answer. The startup blends traditional distilling techniques with innovative technologies to create spirits more efficiently and much more quickly, while maintaining quality as well.
Traditionally, the aging of spirits involves taking distilled liquor and storing it in wooden casks for up to 40 years or more, where hundreds of different individual reactions occur inside the barrel. Next Century’s CEO and Co-Founder Scott Bolin explained that Co-Founder Joel Pawlak discovered and patented technology that combines traditional whiskey making techniques with a proprietary, rapid finishing technology to create flavor profiles that are very similar to spirits that take much longer to mature.
“(Distilling spirits) has been kind of a mystery with how these natural interactions take place, but Joel being a chemist, he had figured out broadly what those natural reactions were” Bolin said. “He had theorized a way to make those natural reactions happen much faster with much less work.”
Bolin explained that the startup was founded in 2018 and is a spinout of Raleigh-based Tethis, a company that he and Pawlak founded that creates biodegradable superabsorbents and modifiers to use in the hygiene, personal care, fabric and other industries. Pawlak is also an NC State associate professor in the department of forest biomaterials. Bolin still remains on the Board of Tethis, but he and Pawlak decided that after growing Tethis to 50 employees, they could put Pawlak’s discoveries to use and create Next Century Spirits.
Next Century Spirits has several different business models, one being that it will send up to 6,000 gallons of spirits to the bulk market at a time. Currently, for the bulk market, NCS has been creating different types of rum, whiskeys and bourbon as well.
The second model is geared toward a liquor producer who already has a private label and a brand identity, but just needs the liquid—NCS will even bottle and ship the spirits as well. The last and most intimate model, Bolin explained, is where an entrepreneur wants to create the brand, labeling, and flavor/aroma profile with NCS. That helps significantly reduce the barriers to entry for a new liquor company or product.
Bolin said that NCS has raised $3.6 million in funding so far from various investors, including the Carolina Angel Network, the Wolfpack Investor Network, and Seagram liquor company heir Matthew Bronfman, who is also the chair of the company. The company has also partnered with celebrities such as Interscope Records rapper Yelawolf, who’s worked with both Eminem and Kid Rock.
Head Blender and Senior Product Technologist Nick Scarff said that Next Century Spirits is not only producing spirits efficiently, but that the company wants to help North Carolina to become known for its spirits and whiskies as well.
“We’re also trying to put North Carolina whiskey on the map,” said Scarff. “Back before Prohibition we sort of had a bit of a name in whiskey, but since then there hasn’t been a whole lot. So we’re working with different groups here as well trying to get them to market.”