Move over hemp beer (figuratively, not literally, because we like you, too) and make room for hemp gin, hemp whiskey, hemp vodka, and more! The hemp-based and hemp-infused drink industry seems to be growing from niche to mainstream. At Victory Hemp, we’re always excited to see and learn about our hemp ingredients being used in innovative ways.
So, to better understand where and how hemp can be incorporated into spirits recipes, we turned to a pioneer in the industry, Ted Dumbauld. He’s the founder and innovator behind Sono1420, a craft distillery in South Norwalk, Connecticut. He’s also a Victory Hemp customer.
Here he shares how he’s using hemp in whiskey, whiskey bourbon, gin, and vodka recipes, as well as what he’s pouring his creativity into next.
What inspired you to launch this endeavor?
Over the past 7 years, I’d been on the medicinal side of the industry and had attended a bunch of industry conferences. They had booze cruises and happy hours at many of these events and I saw an opportunity to craft a line of spirits that would appeal to people that have incorporated hemp and its other derivatives into their lifestyles.
Sono 1420 Hemped Rye Spirit, 2019 San Francisco World Spirits Competition - Silver Winner
It was after I went to a conference at the University of Kentucky that I started experimenting with using hemp seed to make whiskey. The conference was all about hemp and after it was over, I went out with some friends for drinks. And since we were in Kentucky, of course we had to drink bourbon. After a couple of bourbons, I had the idea to use hemp seed to make bourbon or hemp whiskey. That was the final piece to the puzzle. I went home and bought a baby still and started making hemp whiskey in my basement.
You recently won a big award. Tell us about it.
There are multiple spirits competitions, but the oldest and most prestigious is the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. They get thousands of entries—upwards of 3,800 spirits.
We entered one of our spirits—which is almost 4 years old—into a category for craft distillers and won a double gold medal. The competition has four levels: double gold, gold, silver, and bronze. To receive a double gold every one of the judges that tastes and judges your spirit has to give it a gold medal - which is the award our hemp whiskey received
Interesting fact: When Tito’s first started, they got a really big boost after they entered their vodka in the same competition and won double gold.
Which of your spirits include hemp?
We make three types of spirits: whiskey, vodka, and gin.
Whiskey is unique because it’s made from a mash bill of grains, distilled twice, and then placed in a barrel to age for a few years. The flavor profile is based on three things: the different grains in the mash bill, how long it ages, and the type of barrel used. Our bourbon hemp whiskey is made with 75% corn, 15% rye, and 10% hemp. Those three grains create a flavor profile where the corn provides sweetness and some maple syrup/vanilla notes. Rye has spicy, flavorful notes, and hemp seeds add two characteristics—nutty flavor and fuller mouthfeel. Hemp is an oilseed so it coats your tongue. In our rye hemp whiskey, we switch the corn and rye ratios: it’s 75% rye, 15% corn, and 10% hemp. It’s spicier, bolder, and not as sweet.
Sono 1420 BBN, 2021 San Francisco World Spirits Competition - Double Gold Winner
Vodka is flavorless and odorless and there is very little flavor that comes from the grain mash. We have mostly plain vodka, and one we add hemp flower terpenes to.
Now with gin, we take that plain vodka spirit and make gin. To make gin, you boil ethanol into vapor and that vapor rises through the still—which contains botanicals and within them are essential oils, and in our gin, terpenes from hemp—and gets infused with what’s in the gin basket. Then you cool the vapor and collect the condensation.
Some hemp terpenes are more energizing than calming and we crafted our gin to have different effects, as well as flavor profiles. Our Sativa Gin is uplifting and designed to be a pre-game cocktail. Our Indica Gin is your nightcap before bed. Our hybrid gin is a more balanced experience.
Why did you partner with Victory Hemp?
When I first started buying hemp, I was buying hemp hearts from Whole Foods. But that got expensive and I needed a wholesale producer. In 2016, I couldn’t find anywhere in the U.S. that would sell bulk, so I went to Canada and I bought hemp seeds. I couldn’t find hemp hearts. The border patrol called me before they let my seeds through. After that experience I figured there had to be a better way and that’s when I found out about Victory Hemp. I’ve been really pleased working with a dependable supplier that sources hemp from U.S. farmers and that is based in the U.S.
The story behind your brand name—1420—is neat. Can you share it with our readers?
Our brand embraces that sense of prohibition. Back in the 1920s and 30s alcohol was prohibited and Connecticut was the first of only two states that failed to ratify the amendment to the Constitution that created Prohibition. The vote in the state senate was 14 for Prohibition and 20 against. Now we experience a different type of prohibition with some hemp products and we wanted to make an allusion to that. Also, most people know what 420 is a reference to. If you de-emphasize the 1 in 1420, you are left with 420. So, it’s a double entendre.
We started out making hemp whiskey, then gin, now vodka—and as the trends evolve, we aim to stay on top of them. We’re now making a line of ready-to-drink cocktails. We sell Crowlers—fresh cocktails made-to-go in our tasting room. We also have shelf-stable, ready-to-drink cocktails made from our spirits that we sell throughout our distribution network. One of the favorites is our We’ed Mule. It’s a cocktail made with our We Vodka, fresh lime juice, and ginger beer. Here in beach towns in the Northeast, an orange crush is very popular, so we have an Orange Kush. And we’re about to launch Strawberry Lemon Haze.
Also, we’re very supportive of the arts and causes and we designed a vodka bottle that lends itself well to have different labels. For Gay Pride month, we put a pride label on the bottle. October is breast cancer awareness and we had a pink bow version of our vodka and 10% of our proceeds went to a breast cancer charity.
For more information on Sono 1420 or to purchase their hemp whiskey, vodka, or gin, visit Sono1420.com.
To learn more about Victory Hemp Foods' hemp seed ingredients, contact us to learn more.