When a bond crosses from fiction to reality, the resulting creation is something truly captivating
Written by Phoebe Calver
It’s a vital part of human nature to be intrigued by relationships, in all their forms. Be it family, friend, romantic, colleague, or local barista, they all form a vital part of who we are and the journey our lives take. But could a whiskey also form part of an integral relationship?
In short, yes, yes it can – but that would be a very short article, so let’s delve into this idea a little more. While playing two ever so slightly dead brothers on the set of the American supernatural television series Vampire Diaries, Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder, co-founders of Brother’s Bond Bourbon, bonded over America’s native spirit during their eight years of filming.
Somerhalder jokes, “Paul is my longest relationship of 12 years… these vampire boys bonded on screen over Bourbon, and Paul and I bonded off screen over Bourbon. Paul likes to say that it was the only way he could tolerate me.”
Little did they know that, just over a decade later, their bond would be shared with the world in the form of their very own whiskey. A friendship such as this is infectious to be around, and when you add into the mix a carefully curated product with the ability to unite whiskey lovers and newbies alike, it’s a recipe for success.
“We developed this,” explains Somerhalder, “we’ve been talking about it for a decade, and Vincent and I were in the wine business together now almost eight years ago.”
“That’s how long I’ve had to suffer him…” jokes Vincent Hanna, co-founder, CEO and third sibling of Brother’s Bond Bourbon.
His demonstrated history of expertise in the wine and spirits industry, coupled with his history working with Somerhalder in the wine world, made Hanna the perfect addition to the team. It’s clear to see the sense of humor is a perfect match too, making the creative energy between the three palpable.
The tight-knit team of Wesley, Somerhalder, Hanna, and CMO Tess Michelis all shared a vision for the whiskey they wanted to create. Somerhalder explains, “We had the same flavor profile… we love Bourbon, oddly enough we love the same Bourbon. We’re not stupid, we have a massive following and it’s not that we want to benefit financially from them, we wanna grow a brand for people to enjoy.”
This is our baby, we’re not selling something someone else is creating…
Taking into account the fact that the duo’s collective audience was leaning towards a more Millennial- and Gen Z-based age range, the two noted that many of them may be new to the spirit.
“Bourbon can be tough… I mean we all love 90 proof, or 100 proof, or cask strength Bourbons, but it’s not for everyone,” adds Somerhalder. As a place to start for the brand, the co-founders knew they needed two things: immediate approachability as a great leveller, and a complexity that a Bourbon lover would be wowed by.
Somerhalder continues, “You can literally pour this Bourbon out of the bottle and drink it… Paul and I blended this for over a year in my kitchen… I mean the amount of texts, emails, calls, and videos I’m sending Vincent literally from my kitchen at three in the morning. He’s like ‘dude that’s nuts, great job tonight’.
“This went on for a really long time and so we got that smooth approachability. We got it because we never stopped with uncompromising quality.”
Smooth approachability really is the perfect descriptor for this whiskey: a four-grain Bourbon, made up of 65 per cent corn, 22 per cent rye, and an undisclosed amount of barley and wheat. As Wesley adds, “As far as the proof, you know for this version we did 80 proof.” After recounting a story about recently entering a bar for a relaxed drink or two, he explained the thinking behind this proof, “I wanna have two Bourbons at 80 proof and enjoy the taste, and the complexity, without having to get hammered on cask strength… I actually don’t need that kick in the face. I love that sort of easy-going, everyday-drinking Brother’s Bond vibe.”
The combination of the whiskey itself and the backstory of the former vampires ensured that in difficult times the Brother’s Bond brand was able to see the light of day at the very moment it was needed. The brand was opened up to the world in the spring of 2020; perhaps it’s safe to say it was not the easiest of moments in recent history to get your new brand out into the world.
“You’re going to hear this from a lot of companies, but worst timing ever,” explains Somerhalder. Thankfully for the team, the process of blending the liquid was already completed before the pandemic hit. Although a Brother’s Bond distillery is on the horizon, the liquid to date has been produced in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, by third-party producer MGP.
Hanna continues on the subject, “I mean, one of the things the three of us talk about is how lucky we were… we didn’t have to go anywhere and got used to seeing each other on computer screens. We were able to knock out hundreds of Zoom calls [with distributors] that would not have been possible without the pandemic.
“It was bad timing because the world was suffering, but the greatest [moment] for people to feel, learn, and see something new that was about connecting.”
And connecting people is exactly what the team achieved from the word go, reaching out to people through virtual tastings and Instagram Live. The team moved seamlessly through the constantly changing world, while bringing lightheartedness and great whiskey to the masses.
“Being in front of people is natural, it’s just us being goofballs,” explains Somerhalder. “This is our baby, we’re not selling something someone else is creating… I think we changed the game in the way virtual tastings were done… We spent a lot of time and energy and money on building out almost like a variety show, with different sets in our studio.”
The virtual introduction of the brand to the world enabled the team to reach an even bigger community, building unity and anticipation that continues to grow in the present day as the brand begins to travel.
It’s the attention to detail, energy
emitted by the co-founders, and small-batch nature that truly make this brand befitting of a craft title. Somerhalder expands on this, “Yes, it’s at scale, but it’s craft at scale. We never blend more than a certain number of barrels at a certain time, never over 7,500 cases. These are small batches – we go through and make sure every single time that it’s consistent and this is what it’s supposed to taste like.”
The trio have touched every part of this brand, recounting a moment of panic at the hands of a dry goods shortage… no, really!
“Paul and I were so stressed out, dry goods shortages stress us out. We could only get dark corks for when we were going to do our first big bottling run… and yeah, they’re beautiful,” explains Somerhalder. “They go on our cask strength, but for this [flagship] it changed the aesthetic.”
Hanna interjects, “I think we ended up flying them in from Portugal.”
Somerhalder confirms, “We did – there’s only one sustainable place that does them in the world like this.”
One fundamental aspect of the company’s ethos is leaving the world a little better than they found it, as Wesley adds, “We knew we wanted to give back… it made sense.”
In order to achieve this goal, the brand give back a portion of proceeds to support regenerative farming practices that fundamentally alter the way large-scale agriculture and farming is carried out in the US. This is highlighted in Kiss The Ground, the docu-film that Somerhalder worked on as an executive producer.
“The best thing that we can do is invest in regenerative agriculture. It is the use of planned grazing methods and using living, growing plants,” explains Somerhalder. “When you do that you feed those vital microorganisms in the soil, the soil is healthier, the plants are healthier, the people are healthier, revitalizes fresh water stores, builds farmer prosperity, puts more money on farmers’ tables… these are not polarizing issues, no one is going to argue with you.”
This forward-thinking approach to creating unity extends into the planned future expressions of Brother’s Bond. On the immediate horizon is the cask strength expression, launching this year. Talk also turned to a bottled-in-bond expression, an eight-year-old expression, a rye, and, apparently, a non-alcoholic Ian Somerhalder RTD – but I’ll let you decide which was a fib.
The excitement is clear to see when the trio discuss these future expressions, as Somerhalder jumps in on the topic, “The eight year is insane, it’s crazy.”
Vincent laughs, “You’re divulging all our secrets.”
Continuing to divulge, Somerhalder added, “The DNA is so good in this that when we do these extensions, it’s the same DNA, just in different expressions… When you play with these profiles, especially with the ABV, it really brings out different elements… And so, if we did a rye, IF, you cannot imagine the balance of what that rye with the DNA of this [flagship Bourbon], how it plays out, it’s kind of insane. IF it was to be.”
Between the openness of this team, the liquid in the bottle itself, and the shared love of whiskey, I think we can all agree that this is a bond we can get behind.