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Interview, Part 2: Phillips Distilling CEO Mike Duggan

August 14, 2019

In the second part of our interview with Mike Duggan, the Phillips Distilling CEO discusses the company’s recent and upcoming moves in whisk(e)y and Tequila, as well as its focus on sustainability.

SND: Phillips is present in a number of whisk(e)y segments, including Canadian (Revel Stoke), Scotch (Tomatin), and Bourbon (Douglas & Todd). How are those efforts progressing?

Duggan: Revel Stoke is positioned at a very aggressive price point (around $12). We think we deliver a lot of value for the price, and we’ve got a packaging update and new flavors coming to market soon. We have a Black Cherry that will launch regionally in the Midwest, a Peanut Butter whisky rolling out in the East and the West, and a seasonal Revel Stoke cream for the holidays. (Revel Stoke was roughly flat at 55,000 cases last year, according to Impact Databank.) In Bourbon, we’re very bullish on Douglas & Todd (46.5% abv, $40 a 750-ml.). We’re getting some great movement out of that brand and when we bottle it the next time it’ll be a five-year-old. Douglas & Todd is 100% made in Minnesota, and it’s a very different liquid from other whiskies in the market.

SND: What are your priorities in Tequila and mezcal?

Duggan: We have our Centinela line, which is the ultra-premium offering and will get a packaging upgrade soon. Cabrito, another of our 100%-agave Tequilas, is on fire, especially in large Tequila markets like California. We have two mezcals. Marca Negra is ultra-premium—$60 and up—with five variants. Our Meteoro brand still has some smoke to it, but it’s a lot more approachable. For people that want to get into mezcal or make cocktails, it’s a great entrance to the category at a more affordable price.

SND: In addition to organic sourcing and production for Prairie Organic, Phillips commits a portion of sales to promoting sustainable farming. Is that initiative paying off?

Duggan: Sustainability is a big pillar in our company culture. With the Spirit of Change fund we’re donating 1% of Prairie’s sales to the Rodale Institute, which is training conventional farmers to be organic farmers. If we can get our whole industry doing 5% of the category in organic spirits, it would have a huge impact on the environment. For spirits alone, there would be 7.5 million pounds of pesticides that wouldn’t go into the ground.

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