CHICAGO | We’re always interested in meeting people who are doing interesting things in the industries in which they operate, and we recently had the opportunity to meet up with Scott Crist, founder and owner of boutique spirits company Mesh & Bone. The Los Angeles native founded the company after 20 years of living overseas (8 countries in total) living, eating and drinking like a local. He realised that there wasn’t really a unified brand focusing on high quality, uncommon spirits in the USA, the kind which he discovered during his time overseas. Scott’s aiming to change this with his Wicker Park-based brand Mesh & Bone, and, after trying some of his great products, we had a chat with him to find out more.
What sets you apart from other companies in the spirits industry?
Our approach. From product development to marketing to service. We focus on the consumer and what we can do to bring them a better drink experience. We look at a spirit like a consumer product – something that solves a consumer need. P&G, Univer, Apple all have a consumer-driven approach to product development. We see ourselves in that light as opposed to traditional spirits companies.
From what I’ve seen in the spirits industry, product development is based on a manufacture’s taste, and then the product is launched to the market and they see what sticks. There are too many brands of vodka on the market, or whisky …it’s hyper choice. Go into most liquor stores and have the owner/store manager tell you why one product is better than another. They generally can’t.
From a marketing point of view, most of the companies have a “herd” mentality. It’s because they all have the same corporate objectives and bonus structure. In short, they follow the text book marketing, because you’ll never get fired for following the text book.
Here’s a good example, Mesh & Bone doesn’t have a website, nor do we do Social Media. We do this because we want Mesh & Bone to be a “live” experience. Other brands push their message on you, but I imagine that many people drink Jack Daniels for example, but don’t really pay attention to the myriad of Instagram posts. We know people are tired of being “sold” or “marketed” too – they are tired of the slogans and tricks of marketing.
Mesh & Bone gives you the best product from around the world and that’s it. Our job is the curation and sharing. We’re not videographers and we don’t hang out with celebrities. We are authentic and that makes us different. Mesh & Bone has spent years working with consumers to find the drinks that best serve their needs. Mesh & Bone doesn’t sell, we share and our intent is different. We want you to buy the product if you like it of course, but big profits and sales at all costs isn’t our end goal.We think people appreciate this approach.
Can you highlight a few of the unique range of spirits in your collection?
Sure. There are four main products that make up the Mesh & Bone range.
- Shochu, which is made in Japan and is a clear spirit distilled from barley and famous Hita water. It’s smoother than vodka (no chemical burn) and pairs better with natural mixers/ingredients.
- Sotolis a clear, organis spirit from Mexico that’s distilled from the Desert Spoon plant in the Chihuahua desert. We see it as a good substitute for Tequila with a smoother and lighter finish than most tequilas.
- Arakku comes from Sri Lanka and is distilled from the sap of the flower on a coconut in Sri Lanka. It’s a golden brown spirit with a taste profile somewhere between rum and whiskey. It’s for consumers who like whisky but left the category because of the burn. It’s also for those who want a rum-like spirit without the sweetness.
- Poire-Pomme Cidre is fermented from specially-grown apples and pears in France. The golden-hued sparkling beverage is naturally sweeteened and refined in the French cidre tradition. It’s not as sugary as most of the commercial USA ciders and gives consumers a different experience from champagne spin-offs like Prosecco and Cava.
What traditional methods do you still retain in the distilling/manufacturing process?
We use traditional methods of making our spirits all the time. Our Cidre uses all traditional methods native to Brittany and Normandy while the Arakku is made in the same way it’s been done for thousands of years. Our Shochu uses a tried and true 300 year old formula and process.
Have you been involved in the manufacturing of any particular spirit? Can you share with us a favourite experience of making a spirit?
Yes, I harvested the Sotol spirit personally. I spent three weeks in the hot Chihuahua desert with the Tarahumara tribe harvesting. It was a crazy experience because we were three hours away from any source of water and in the middle of the Narco territory. There are “Death Roads” in this part of Mexico that we had to avoid. I slept and ate with the Tarahumara, making $0.25 cents per plant and made about $5.00 dollars a day. I have never slept better – it was amazing.
I also was able to try toddy tapping, which involved climbing coconut in Sri Lanka to extract the fermented juice from the flower on the coconut – an unbelievable experience. We had to do it early in the morning because of the extreme heat, and there were cobra snakes in the fields which was quite unnerving.
What part of Mesh & Bone’s philosophy are you most proud of?
Mesh & Bone is about empowering people to get our of their comfort zone. It’s about taking the small step to try something unknown and different. Most American shave never heard of these drinks, but once they take a chance and try them, they realize they are better than a lot of the stuff they’ve been drinking for years. I’m proud to play a small, but important, part in their lives.
What is your favourite Mesh & Bone cocktail?
I drink Mesh & Bone drinks on the rocks or straight (our cidre), but I must admit the Arakku with Ginger Beer is absolutely life changing.
What is the best way to enjoy Mesh & Bone spirits?
On the rocks. You don’t need to add anything andwhy would you? They’re that good!
What the best place you’ve travelled for business?
By far the most interesting places have been in the “stans”…Turkmenistan, Krygystan, and also Iran. There are so many hidden treasures in these places waiting to be discovered by those in the West.
What does the future hold for Mesh & Bone?
We launched in mid July 2016 in Chicago and we are already launching in Texas and will be in Tokyo, California, and New York next year. We are looking to disrupt the market and bring these hidden treasures to everyone.