Dark Door Spirits Crafts Award Winning Whiskey In 3 Months - A Case Study

May 21, 2020

If you’re like most distillers, you’re already skeptical from reading the title - in the spirits industry tradition reigns supreme. However, aging technology is more accessible and more effective than ever. Craft distillers across the country are increasingly turning to novel aging methods to differentiate their products and solve business challenges associated with barrel aging. One of these distilleries is Dark Door Spirits. Utilizing the Aeva Labs platform, Dark Door designed and scaled a Double Gold winning whiskey that’s impressing bartenders, consumers, and judges.

What led Dark Door to choose Aeva Labs? The ability to design a high quality whiskey that could leap from concept to shelves in 3 months. Read below to learn more. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Dark Door grows their business without waiting years on aging
  • Crafted award-winning whiskeys without sourcing in just 3 months 
  • Reduced payback period by 85% compared to barrel aging
  • Dark Door’s whiskey production can now scale on demand 

The Distillery:

Dark Door Spirits (www.darkdoorspirits.com) is a Tampa-based distillery known for crafting spirits that are anything but ordinary. They launched in late 2018 with a mission to create spirits by fusing both traditional and innovative techniques. This theme shines through in the spirits they make. Their lineup encompasses unique takes on classic spirits, such as lavender flavored gin, as well as some category-defying products like their IPA whiskey.

Upon opening, like many young distilleries, Dark Door centered their product portfolio primarily around unaged spirits, the exception being their IPA whiskey which was a blend of both in-house and sourced spirits.

The Challenge:

About half a year after they were permitted and operational, the Dark Door team began evaluating their options for whiskey production on site, with an ideal launch date within a year. The upcoming whiskey launches drove the Dark Door team to ask the question: how can we get a unique whiskey to market quickly, without compromising quality?

“We’re not afraid of trying new things. We’re not trying to make the exact same product as 98% of distilleries.” -Matt Allen, Owner & Distiller @ Dark Door

Distillers often turn to sourced whiskey to solve this challenge, but that path isn’t right for every distillery. Sourcing a product (unless coordinated years in advance) doesn’t give distillers an opportunity to exert creative control. For this reason, it wasn’t the right choice for Dark Door, who creates products that stand out, not blend in. 

Dark Door investigated just about every option available to speed their aging process on site: spirals, chips, small barrels, oxygenation, and even a temperature controlled room to replicate the heat swings of the seasons. 

The distillers at Dark Door loved the creative control enabled by these methods. However, they couldn’t attain the quality, efficiency, and scalability they needed for a mainstay product line. The desire to solve these challenges led Dark Door to Aeva Labs. 


More Creativity, Less “What If”:

After reading about Aeva Labs in a feature article, Dark Door knew there was something unique about the Aeva platform. Their team was intrigued by the creative options Aeva could unlock, as well as the ability to keep production at their distillery.

Dark Door wanted an aging solution that would allow them to push the creative envelope, keep production on-site, and scale cost-effectively. Aeva’s aging platform fulfilled Dark Door’s creative ambitions and enabled a seamless transition from small batch testing to at-scale production.

Screenshot of Aeva Labs Flavor Customization Software
The Aeva Labs Recipe Control Software

Dark Door leveraged the Aeva platform’s R&D Capabilities to quickly iterate recipes at lab scale for their whiskey line. In a matter of 2 months, their distillers went through over 10 different “aging profile” iterations, using Aeva’s intuitive software to tweak their recipe until it was just right. 

In addition to controlling input variables like the base spirit and types of wood chips, Aeva’s system helped Dark Door to fine tune organoleptic properties such as color, smoothness, and mouthfeel.  To maintain labeling in the Rye and Bourbon categories, they opted to take a hybrid approach: resting the spirit in a barrel for a few weeks/months in conjunction with Aeva processing.

Growing Their Business Now, Not Later:

Dark Door installed Aeva equipment to scale their successful small-batch tests to production levels. In just two months after installing, they had the means to supply five barrels a month of finished whiskey and the ability to adjust that production throughput at a moment’s notice. With Aeva’s platform, Dark Door released both a rye whiskey (Spirit of the Harvest) and a bourbon whiskey (Spirit of the Oak) in just 3 months.

Investment to Launch Whiskey Line With Aeva Labs Vs. Barrel Aging

Part of Dark Door’s decision to turn to Aeva was motivated by the ability to generate a near-immediate ROI. To create an equivalent product with traditional barrel aging, Dark Door would have expected a payback period of 28-36 months on their initial investment. Using Aeva, their payback period was shortened to five months. The table below compares typical investment, time, and payback period associated with starting a product line on the Aeva platform vs. with barrel aging.

One of the most powerful benefits of using the Aeva Labs platform is that Dark Door can maintain high levels of agility with their production. If the demand for their product increases or decreases, they can react accordingly.    

Award Winning Spirits in Record Time:

Rapid aging brings many business benefits but the question remains: can you create truly great products without the wait? Like many, the Dark Door team had their hesitations, but the route they chose paid off. The whiskeys Dark Door created with Aeva’s platform have been well received since their launch in October. 

Spirit of the Harvest and Spirit of the Oak have already taken home awards at multiple spirits competitions: a double gold at the 2020 Denver International Spirits Competition and a silver at the 2020 ADI Judging of Craft Spirits.These whiskeys are making their way into bars across the Tampa area and local bartenders have shown great praise for Dark Door’s new offerings, integrating these whiskeys into their drink menus and shelves.

“This rye keeps surprising me. It is spicy and full of flavor with an amazing mouthfeel and I’m dumbfounded that it’s aged the way it is” - Sol Sohn, Bartender @ BAR at Armature 

A Partner For The Future:

By working with Aeva, Dark Door was able to create a product that’s truly unique to their brand and has helped pave the way for their future growth. With full access to Aeva’s production platform and advanced R&D capabilities, Dark Door sees Aeva as a partner to help them grow and continue to challenge the status quo. The ability to develop and scale products quickly with Aeva helps Dark Door bring their mission and their creativity to life.  

Interested in learning how Aeva can help grow your distillery? Contact our team today at info@aevalabs.com.

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