ANDREA WILSON I can actually remember being in college and having friends leave this state and come and call me and say, “There’s no Kentucky bourbon here.” It just wasn’t a thing outside of Kentucky. I can remember when you went to a fine steakhouse, and you might find one bottle of a bourbon on a back bar. Now you go into bars and restaurants and there might be 500.
AUSTIN It went from being a passion project to, almost overnight, having graduated to playing with the big boys. At Kings County, we really tried hard to shoot for the stars. And even with that view, we underestimated what this industry could do, and the interest that would come from it.
CLAY RISEN I guess it’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem — especially at a rapidly growing operation like Michter’s.
WILSON A large corporation like Diageo and a small family-owned business like Michter’s are two very different experiences. When I was at Diageo, I had the opportunity to work with so many amazing people across so many great brands, huge brands, millions-of-cases brands. While at Michter’s, the owners, the Maglioccos, are a really wonderful family who are passionate about American whiskey. And at a small company, passion is important. It ensures that you’re on fire. I mean, you also chose to be there, right?
Are things easier now?
WILSON I remember when I first started here, I was in a leadership meeting with a bunch of people I didn’t know. And they were talking about what was great about the company and they’re like, “Oh, we make decisions so fast.” And I was looking around thinking, “Am I in the right meeting?”
AUSTIN I would say I had a similar trajectory as you, Andrea, but I just came at it from the opposite direction. It wasn’t until I got to Diageo that I really felt respected and treated as a professional, and I valued that. When I was 26, I wasn’t exactly making supereducated choices, and I didn’t really understand and appreciate how important that piece was.
RISEN And now, in 2022, both of you are in positions to shape those cultures, even as the companies grow rapidly.