January 2023 Editions - Beverage Journal, Maryland and Washington, DC https://www.beveragejournalinc.com/new/easyblog/categories/listings/january-2023-editions Fri, 27 Jan 2023 04:03:04 -0500 en-gb Ted Dumbauld Returns https://www.beveragejournalinc.com/new/easyblog/entry/ted-dumbauld-returns https://www.beveragejournalinc.com/new/easyblog/entry/ted-dumbauld-returns SoNo1420_HOME.jpg

Hitting store shelves in Maryland and Washington, DC, is a line of whiskey, gin, and other spirits under the SoNo 1420 brand. What makes this line of premium spirits that includes names like 1420 BBN and Blaze Whisky stand out? They are the products of America’s first distillery to incorporate hemp seed in its whiskey mashbills.

SoNo 1420’s founder is Ted Dumbauld, a rather remarkable man who first got a taste for Maryland and all it has to offer when he attended the U.S. Naval Academy in the early 1980s. In his career, he has gone from serving our country as a submarine officer to earning his MBA from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to working on Wall Street for two decades at such powerhouses as Deutsche Bank and Bear Stearns.

Dumbauld eventually launched his own hedge fund and money management business, which got him involved in the lucrative medical cannabis business as an investor and operator. In those states that would come to legalize cannabis, his research showed there was almost always a corresponding drop in beverage alcohol sales. His vision became to launch a new company that would be a nimble competitor, “at the intersection of cannabis and beverage alcohol.”


That essentially was how SoNo 1420 was born. First, though, Dumbauld taught himself how to make whiskey. He bought a still and had it installed in his basement. He eventually developed a rather unique flavor profile, stating, “We’re making standard bourbons, whiskey, and rye. But rather than using traditional grains like wheat and/or barley, we’ve substituted in some hemp seed. That created our unique flavor profile that has given us a way to distinguish ourselves from a marketing perspective and has won multiple awards.”

He continued, “The hemp seed has a different flavor profile. It has a nuttiness associated with it. You can find hemp seed at Whole Foods and a lot of health food-associated stores in its raw format. We don’t use the whole seed. We used what it is known as the ‘hemp heart.’ You crack off the hard shell and inside is this small kernel that has this nutty flavor. But in addition, it is an oil seed. When we do our mash in, our fermentation, and our distillation, a portion of that oil makes it through that process. After it has been aged in the barrel, you sample it and it gives you this fuller mouth feel. The oil allows the whiskey to coat your tongue, keeping those flavor molecules on your tongue for a longer period of time.”

And the company’s name? On Feb. 4, 1919, the Connecticut State Senate -- by a vote of 14 to 20 -- failed to ratify the 18th Amendment. This made Connecticut the first of only two states to defeat Prohibition. The distillery chose the number ‘1420’ as a nod to the revolutionary spirit embodied by this vote and to symbolize the rights of personal freedom for which the brand still stands today. The ‘SoNo’ pays homage to the distillery’s home in South Norwalk, Conn., and its storied past. 

“Our Double Gold award-winning distillery in historic South Norwalk is a destination unto itself,” states Dumbauld. “A respite for you with a tasting room that’s open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays with live music and rotating art exhibits. It is the place where innovation happens.”

Looking ahead, Dumbauld describes his firm’s focus as “narrow, but deep. Because of my roots in Annapolis and Maryland, it made sense to be down there. The state has double the population of here in Connecticut. So just the number of potential customers in Maryland is very attractive to us. We want the same penetration there that we have here in the Connecticut market. I think our products appeal to everyone.  There’s a market for rare, premium whiskeys in Maryland, and we aspire to be in those lofty levels.”

He concludes, “I am more of an engineer-type person. I don’t have a lot of marketing and sales experience. So, I have found you have to hire the right people then pound the pavement to get the product out there. In the spirits world, you have to have a great product. But you also have to know how to market and sell. What I am good at and what I love is developing new flavor profiles -- not just with our whiskeys, but with our gins and our ready-to-drink cocktails. The best is yet to come!”

Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal. 

teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) January 2023 Editions Mon, 09 Jan 2023 08:26:24 -0500
Maryland's 2023 Legislative Session https://www.beveragejournalinc.com/new/easyblog/entry/maryland-s-2023-legislative-session https://www.beveragejournalinc.com/new/easyblog/entry/maryland-s-2023-legislative-session MD_GA_HOME.jpg

I've been writing this Maryland state legislative preview article each year at this time for more than a decade now. And this is the first time since 2019 where the annual feature won’t be so mired down in pandemic-era hand wringing. For Annapolis and the beverage industry, it’s been back to business . . . eh, almost as usual. Thankfully, so is this look ahead to the next General Assembly session.

But first a look back at the past year and its wins. No victory was bigger than the defeat of a bill to allow supermarkets and convenience stores to put beer and wine on their shelves. Attorney and Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association (MSLBA) lobbyist J. Steven "Steve" Wise was happy for the win. But he warned, “It’s a perennial issue, and it does not seem that the supermarkets intend to give up. So, we’ll keep fighting.”

MSLBA Legislative co-Chairman Jack Milani shared Wise’s caution, adding, “Defeating the chain store bill was a big victory. That was probably of the most interest to our members. It’s different how they come at us from year to year, and it’s been fairly aggressive the last couple of sessions.”

Another big triumph was getting legislation passed that hiked lottery commissions, something Wise believes will be “a huge benefit to a lot of our members who are lottery retailers.” Milani concurred, “We had been working on that for a while, and that came to fruition finally. We got a half-percent increase for lottery sales.  There are a little over 4,000 agents in the state. So, that affects a lot of folks. The increase takes us from 5.5 percent to 6 percent. So, that was a really good thing.”

Both men agreed that it has been good to gradually get back to “pressing the flesh” and taking concerns to legislators face to face as opposed to COVID-era Zoom sessions, e-mails, and phone calls. There was still a fair amount of limitation in this regard during the last session. Too many virtual meetings, Wise and Milani both lamented.

But Wise is ever hopeful. “This year,” he said, “it seems like there is going to be much more of an effort to get back to the way things used to be. I, for one, am a big fan of ‘in-person.’ It allows me to be in the halls of the Legislature, and you pick up an immense amount of information just hanging around. I also enjoy one-on-one conversations with legislators. It’s just not the same virtually, even if it’s a one-on-one Zoom session.”


Such “face-to-faces” are going to be even more important with the election recently concluded and so many new legislators for Wise, Milani, and MSLBA’s membership to get to know. “Some faces moved from the House to the Senate, too,” Milani noted. “So, this is a good time for our members to reach out to their delegates and senators, introduce themselves, invite them to their stores, and let them know what we are all about. It’s critical that you know your elected officials, especially with all of the things that can come up with respect to our businesses. Let them know how many people you employ, how long you’ve been at your current location, what you do in the community. Hopefully, your elected official will then reach out and talk to you before he or she votes or takes action on anything industry related. Oh, and let them know that most times, the big guys are not nearly as invested in the community as the small guys!” 

Wise says it helps with his job that most lawmakers have some passing familiarity with the alcohol business. After all, most have had a glass of wine with dinner, a beer with buddies, or a visit to their local packaged goods store for supplies. However, he pointed out, “Most of the time, they are just an end user. A consumer. So, when you are talking about how the industry actually works -- the delivery system, taxation, the concentration of retail stores-- they don’t think about those parts of it. So, while they are familiar with the product, until they have been in the Legislature a little while, they are generally not as familiar with the regulatory aspects of it.”

He added, “We’ve been lucky sometimes. Throughout my 25 or so years, we’ve had legislators who have owned packaged goods stores, bars, restaurants. They bring with them an immense amount of knowledge. But out of 188 legislators, at any one time you might have had two or three of those individuals.  . . . The retailers around the state have to make it a priority to get to know their legislators, especially if they are new. So that when they consider things that affect our industry, they are putting it in the perspective of the businesses in their district when they vote. It’s a constant effort and more so after an election.”


As for 2023, a supermarket bill almost certainly will come up again. Wise believes relief mechanisms that were put in place during COVID that are due to sunset will certainly be discussed. Milani added, “Third-party delivery will be an issue that will certainly be discussed in 2023. Some of the delivery platforms and delivery companies want to get into delivering alcohol. So, expect a lot of talk about that in this session. We think the sale needs to be done by a retailer.”

Finally, another issue that will be paramount is keeping MSLBA’s membership strong and active. Milani concluded, “Anyone new to the business reading this article, you have to become members and get involved in MSLBA! We have a legislative committee that meets weekly during the session. We track all of the bills having to do with employment, taxes, anything that can impact our business that we can weigh in when appropriate. If nothing else, being a member of MSLBA will get you the newsletters and keep you up to date. There’s also a lot of knowledge in the room. So, if you are new and have any questions that are business-related, a lot of the older members will try and help you. We were all new once and went through it. So, come and pick up some knowledge and be aware that we’re all in the same boat. We’re all trying to make a living and take care of our families. If we work together and stay together on the issues, we have a much better shot at being successful.”

Click Here to check out the article as it appeared in The Journal. 

teddy@beveragejournalinc.com (Edward "Teddy" Durgin) January 2023 Editions Mon, 09 Jan 2023 07:48:32 -0500