Welcome to our Happy Hour Question & Answer series, where we ask questions to interesting people in the alcohol world.
This week’s spotlight is on David DeFazio, co-founder of Wyoming Whiskey with Brad and Kate Mead. When Brad and Kate decided to make bourbon, they turned to “Faz” to figure out how to get it done and he’s been getting it done for Wyoming Whiskey ever since. To keep David’s bio from being too long, we’ll just make a list: lawyer, river guide, late night philosopher, angler, skier, wingman, Yankees fan, and whiskey man. Learn more about Wyoming Whiskey at https://wyomingwhiskey.com/.
Hops & Spirits: How did you get into the spirits/alcohol industry?
David DeFazio: I was asked to start Wyoming Whiskey by my partners Brad and Kate Mead. I was tasked with figuring out how to make whiskey. And given the history of the Mead family in Wyoming, it had to be done right.
HS: How did you end up at Wyoming Whiskey with Brad and Kate?
DD: I had worked in their law office as a young attorney before hanging my own shingle. Having an appetite for new projects, I jumped at the chance to start WW.
HS: What’s it been like seeing Wyoming Whiskey grow over the years?
DD: It’s amazing to learn all of the things that you didn’t even contemplate when the business plan was drawn up. With scale comes expense, storage, supply chain, distribution, and other issues that you don’t fully understand on day one. But the upside is receiving texts and emails from old friends that I’ve lost touch with showing me a bottle on their home bars across the country. Building a national brand is fulfilling.
HS: How does Wyoming’s climate impact whiskey making?
DD: Whiskey, no matter where it’s aged, matures in a specific environment that imparts its own unique characteristics. Here at WW, our barrels are subjected to the intense heat of summer and bitter cold of winter. Huge daily temperature swings in the summer months help offset the hibernation the barrels experience in the winter. But the environment around our barrel houses is unique in that it is comprised of sage, rangeland grasses, and dry, high prairie air…which is very different than almost all other distilleries. This is what makes Wyoming Whiskey, Wyoming’s whiskey.
HS: How important is it to stay true to being in Wyoming and how has that impacted what y’all do?
DD: With the name “Wyoming” on our bottle, we must stay true to our state. All of our grains, water, and various other goods are sourced here with the goal of producing a product that people of our state can be proud of. We don’t cut corners, have never sourced any whiskey, and continually strive to be better. If we could source glass in Wyoming, we would, but some industries simply don’t exist here.
HS: What’s it like working with Nancy Fraley and having her as part of the team?
DD: She is an integral piece of the team and she’s simply amazing. We are the same age, get along great, and understand each other. And even though I don’t have a fantastic nose for spirits, I learn a lot when we get together and it helps me improve. But in terms of her impact on our whiskies, her fingerprints are all over every product that we release. We simply couldn’t do it without her.
HS: A fun story is how the Outryder was born. Can you explain how it came to be?
DD: This is a long story that is better told aloud than written. But let’s just say that the defiance of a wheated whiskey maker led to the creation of something truly unique and special.
HS: What’s next/coming up from you all?
DD: We’re looking forward to this summer’s Wyoming-only release of Integrity (a tribute to Senator Alan Simpson), National Parks 3 (benefitting Grand Teton National Park), our improved Wilderness bourbon (new label and proof available in Yellowstone), and this season’s Outryder.
HS: Where can folks find Wyoming Whiskey?
DD: Thanks to our partnership with Edrington, it can be found in all 50 states and in select markets in Canada and Mexico.