Beehive Distilling – Jack Rabbit Gin
“If you can’t work with friends, who can you work with?” – Beehive Distilling
Beehive Distillery has launched their first refreshingly-smooth spirit labeled Jack Rabbit Gin. Already it’s seen success as Salt Lake restaurants and bars have raised their glasses to this new botanical-rich blend. The three long-time compadres behind beehive, aka the respectable booze-hounds, developed their appreciation for fine spirits in their world travels as they indulged in their foodie tendencies. It was a conversation at home, gathered round (take a guess)… some favorited spirits, where praising the success of local distilling brands and the rise of the good-standing cocktail culture in SLC, that the idea broke lips “We should make booze”.
Our team at Vita Brevis found ourselves in the right place at the right time, one founder, Erik “O” Ostling, shares an office space with us. Both Erik and second member behind beehive, Chris Barlow, work as professional photographers. The final teammate is Matt Aller, a Creative Director and the “adult” of the trio (though that term was used loosely). The bottle and labeling was handled by themselves, and clearly they understood that people tend to drink first with their eyes. From first sight to last sip, this product will leave any gin enthusiast swooning.
We joined Erik at their distillery after agreeing that we should produce a video to accompany the launch of the gin. We spent a few days shooting and watching the three run through the distilling process, an experience both eye opening and mouth watering on the hot summer day. To shoot the short documentary we used two Red Epics while Erik shot behind the scenes stills. The interviews with Matt, Chris and Erik were shot with two angles using cannon cinema glass, the 85mm and 24mm lenses. We filmed details and the distilling process using the same lenses, everything going smoothly until our team stepped too close to a barrel being charred and nearly caught their wigs on fire. It’s not a film production until something catches fire……
After wrapping up the production, we wanted to know a little more about what gave birth to Jack Rabbit, and how they first came together as friends. All it took was holding “O” hostage, and we got our answers….and some celebratory gin.
How did the three of you meet?
Erik: It was a dark and stormy night…kidding. We’ve all worked together in the advertising world. I met Matt when I was assisting for a photographer. I was probably carrying something or pulling polaroids, and he was the Art Director. Chris and I met through another photographer; he assisted for me for a couple of years before he went out on his own, and he met Matt during that time.
Chris: In addition to photography, we all count mountain biking as a passion. We’ve camped and ridden Moab for nearly 20 years together.
You’ve said that you have worked together for years, what do you guys do?
Erik: Advertising, photography, design and art. Basically anything related to graphics. We have all travelled extensively for our careers, and I think (embarrassing as it is) we qualify as foodies.
What was the conversation that gave birth to this venture?
Erik: Chris and I were having a drink one evening after work and just started riffing on our interest in distilling. . .It didn’t really seem possible at the time, but Chris, hound dog that he is, kept after it. We figured we needed an adult in the room, so we called Matt to see if he had any interest.
Speak about the feeling of creating something new, of bringing something unique and different into the market:
Matt: It’s been amazing; there’s just been so much to learn. It’s hard to create a product from scratch under any circumstance, and then when you add all the regulation into it…it’s crazy. Ultimately, it’s like anything worth doing, you work at it, and one step at a time, you figure it out. Fortunately, it’s a creative process, so I think we all enjoyed the problem solving. It’s also unique in that we’ve done everything ourselves: flavor, label design, bottle selection—we made all those decisions. To see it on a shelf, or to talk with somebody who loves it—yeah, that’s a great feeling!
What kind of drinkers are you as individuals?
Erik: I like strong flavors. Scotch would be something like a Lagavulin 16, I also like the Balcones single malt whiskey, out of Texas…Herradura, Del Maguey’s Chichicapa, the list is long, but Jack Rabbit Gin fits right in. Beer, same thing, I enjoy the local market as well as the old favorites, but it has to have some flavor and craft.
What was the flavor profile you were searching for? Did you know in the beginning? Where did you end up?
Matt: Gin is more complex than it seems—it can be taken in so many directions! You start with this clean spirit, basically a vodka, and you add in the botanicals and flavors. Juniper needs to be at the forefront, but from there it’s an open field. We knew that we wanted it to start like a traditional gin. So many of the “new” craft and small-batch gins lose the juniper, I think to the detriment of the spirit. With Jack Rabbit, we just kept tinkering with the flavors—less of this, more of that. We thought we had it right probably 15 times, but each time Chris would come up with something new, and we all thought, “Wow, this is even better than the last!” In the end, we ended up with the current balance. Admittedly, we are still using an absurd amount of botanicals in our recipe, which cuts into our profits, but it makes Jack Rabbit unique.
Chris: It might be better to tell you what I don’t like! I won’t drink Heineken or flavored vodkas (whipped cream is especially disgusting). Fireball whiskey and peppermint schnapps round out the list. As far as gin cocktails, my new favorite is the Fitzgerald—definitely my go-to summer evening drink. This winter, I will probably move to our upcoming aged gin or a nice clean shaken martini.
Matt: I’m always trying to find the perfect spirit. I’ve never been a single-brand guy. I have baseline favorites that are my go-to’s, but I’m a sucker for a beautiful bottle and label. It’s an enjoyable quest…finding the perfect scotch, the best tequila, the tastiest gin, or a special new beer.
Jack Rabbit is the first product out of Beehive Distillery, but it’s safe to assume more is on the way, anything to say on what’s to come?
Matt: Like Chris mentioned, we’re working on an aged gin that’s barreled in vintage casks made from charred French oak; it already tastes amazing and hasn’t even been on oak very long. We have other products in the works, but you’ll have to stay tuned for those!
For information or to join Beehive Distillery for the
launch party, please follow the links below:
People are slinging great cocktails using Jack Rabbit at:
- Director Skylar Nielsen
- Camera Operator Lance Clayton
- Camera Operator Josh Fletcher
- Camera Operator Ian Rigby
- Still Photographer Erik "O" Ostling
- Production Assistant Vjay Ganapathy
- Production Assistant Jeff Welch
- Editor Catura Jenson
- Colorist Jake Penrose
- Author R. MacDonald
- Starring Beehive Distillery