You Can Drink Whiskey for a Living. Here’s How.

How two successful LA dudes made their boozy dreams a reality

By Kirk Miller

You Can Drink Whiskey for a Living. Here’s How.
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25 January 2017

Somewhere on your dream-job bucket list you’ll find a drunken scribble:

“Make whiskey.”

Pipe dream? Na. We found two guys who just crossed that dream off their list.

And not just any guys: we’re talking one of the most successful cameramen in the world and one of the finest character actors currently on TV.

Men who dreamt of crafting (and tasting) their own delicious, affordable spirits.

Called Mulholland Distillery, the new booze brand is collaboration between Los Angeles photographer/cameraman Matthew Alper and actor Walton Goggins (Vice Principals, The Hateful Eight, Six).

The genesis of Mullholland started back in 2005, when Alper began collecting rare spirits and making his own small-batch bourbon. Goggins, a good friend, joined in later as Alper’s side hustle became his primary one.

Mulholland, which launched in November with a portfolio of whiskey, gin and vodka, is one of the few spirits companies based in Los Angeles (their motto is literally “The Spirit of L.A.”). Their name is a nod to William Mulholland, the civil engineer who helped design the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

“Most people come to Los Angeles in search of something: fame, love, creativity, freedom,” says Alper, a second-generation Angeleno. “They bring the best of themselves to create a new life and fulfill their dreams. We want that: to embody the dream of Los Angeles.”

In the name of science, we went out for a dinner with the duo, testing out the spirits and discussing (off the record) philosophy, life, death, art and alcohol — and drank a lot of it, which certainly greased the conversation wheel.

To that last point: Mulholland wins on both price point ($20-$30) and profile. The vodka has enough character to work on its own, the gin is complex but clean, and the American whiskey — while admittedly young — thankfully lacks the bite of a moonshine. It also works amazingly well as a bourbon replacement in an Old Fashioned.

A few post-hangover days later, we emailed Walton and Matthew some questions about how they started a booze company, their love of Los Angeles and what makes for a great drinking toast.

Mulholland Distillery (4 images)

InsideHook: How important was it to make these affordable?

Matthew Alper: It’s more important to be inclusive than exclusive. Everyone should be able to enjoy our spirits — that’s who we are as people. Sharing the good times with all of our friends. It’s not about status or bling but quality and cool. We believe that what goes on your bar is a reflection of your taste, of your aesthetic. It’s why you buy certain clothes or a particular piece of furniture. We want to give people the opportunity to put a bottle of Mulholland on their shelf and be excited about what it looks and feels like. And we want to give that to our friends for a fair and affordable price.

IH: After vodka, gin and American whiskey, what's next? An aged whiskey?

MA: Absolutely! From the very beginning, we’ve planned on releasing an aged bourbon. We’re looking at year two and beyond for that. But, we’re also looking at different American blends, more age, different mashbills, different flavor profiles. We’re also tinkering with seasonal blends for our New World Gin using different botanicals and trying different ABVs.

IH: Besides neat, how you do enjoy each one of your spirits?

Walton Goggins: Maybe it’s because I’m originally from the South, but I prefer my whiskey on the rocks. Gin … on the rocks. Even tequila. No one ever brings you “sweet tea” or anything else to drink without ice where I grew up, the assumption being that it’s the only thing that will get you through the humidity. I’ll never forget the cold smell of Canadian Mist on my grandfather’s breath as the sun was going down on a very hot day in Georgia. It comforts me.

MA: I am a neat freak. I feel if you can’t drink a spirit neat or with a little ice or water, you shouldn’t use it in a cocktail. Like cooking with bad wine. I’ve been sipping our gin lately on the rocks. It’s so damn good and refreshing! How many gins would you drink like that? But, I do love my cocktails. These days, I’ve been hooked on an old traditional Whiskey Sour with egg white and a float of Bitterman’s aromatic bitters on top. It’s just the perfect blend of sweet and sour with a dryness at the end. Our American Whiskey mixes in so beautifully.

IH: What's the best drinking toast you've ever heard or given?  

MA: ”Here’s to lying, cheating, stealing, and drinking … If you’re going to lie, lie for a friend. If you’re going to cheat, cheat death. If you’re going to steal, steal a heart. If you’re going to drink, drink with me.”  I also like, “Here’s looking up your old address.” I don’t know why, but it makes me laugh.

WG: Friends are very Important to me. I came to Los Angeles when I was 19 years old. I knew no one. I had a beeper number of a person that I had worked with for only one day a year earlier. That was it. I was alone. Over the next 26 years I’ve amassed an incredible group of eclectic diverse, kind, strange, authentic, forward thinking people that I have the honor to call my friends…. And it is still growing to this day. We have supported each other in good times and bad. They have been the bedrock of my adult experience in L.A. They are my family. So my favorite quote is one that reflects my tangible experience … “To be rich in friends is to be poor in nothing!”

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