The Castle Spirit journey began with an adventure trip that founders Russell and Vicki Thorp took to Oktoberfest in Muenster Texas years ago. That was the moment that they tasted honey whiskey for the first time. It was love at first sip. The leap from aficionado to distiller came simply with a recommendation to watch “Moonshiners” on the Discovery Channel. With that, the Castle Spirits dream officially began.
While the show itself was fine, Russell was drawn into the physics and chemistry of actually doing moonshine. “I thought, ‘we are plumbers, we can do that.’ So we built a little still in our warehouse and started making some moonshine. It was the worst tasting stuff you can imagine,” Russell laughed, “but we enjoyed the process.”
The quest began in earnest to “make it something we could actually drink.” Russell said that, after leaning how to craft the basis of a honey flavored spirit, “we did a lot of blending and taste testings. We had a lot of misses, but we also had a few hits. Over about three years we put together a spirit we liked.”
“We set up our distilled spirits production area non the back of the plumbing shop and began a year-long process of securing federal and state licenses.” With these barriers removed, we were ready for production and needed a bigger still. It just so happened that they had a huge, 40 gallon decorative hammered brass pot in the back yard. So the plumbers did what plumbers do, they went to work. He ran piping and added the assembly. They goal was to achieve a still that is extremely functional yet “pretty cool to look at.”
Having a plumber around is never a bad thing. Vicki explains that, “being a plumber, Russell had all the pumps and filtration systems, so he was able to set up a great system for us to be able to bottle. It’s an amazing process. We definitely didn’t want our finished product to make us look like a mom and pop operation. Our desire is excellence, so se came up the a bottle that is a piece of art in itself, grounded by our label’s old-world Welsh castle.”
Russell and Vicki have truly created a shared dream, sharing the load with Russell as the distiller, and Vicki handling production, including the bottling, labeling, corking, and last but not least, waxing the top of each bottle by hand. And together they have done the marketing as well. It’s easy to see — and taste — that every bottle is created with love. Vicki’s strengths as an administrator and hostess come across as they offer a tasting room and can host meetings or events featuring their spirits and recipes created by local mixologists.
“We started production and actually got a distributor to put us on the shelf of Christmas Eve of 2018.” A lot has happened in Oklahoma Legislation since that time, but Oklahoma liquor laws still have a long way to go before they are truly friendly to the entrepreneur. To sell the product, they have to go through a distributor to sell to liquor stores and restaurants. The changes in 2018 changed the entire alcohol industry, and in some ways it is really trying to catch up. However, Oklahoma is ready, for new legislation to pave the way for greater growth and prosperity. The time is ripe.
The Thorps are not only optimistic, they have forged a guild and are actively doing their part to pave the way for future business in Oklahoma. Our hopes are only our own business, but to pave the way for the success for many like minded people and companies.