Dave Dafoe

Former Brown-Forman exec Dave Dafoe, who founded Flavorman all those years ago, has yet another hit on his hands.

The New York Times has a post on Defoe’s relatively new Distilled Spirits Epicenter and its Moonshine University.

IL writes about DSE about every other day.

But to the reporter’s credit, the Times post drives home to us a point a bit lost amid all the tastings and socializing: Dafoe’s five-day distilling courses for $5,500 teach the aspiring entrepreneur enough to start their own mini-spirits company.

So at its heart, the DSE is a serious small business incubator.

From “In Louisville, a School for Spirits,” by Elaine Glusac:

Presenters include professionals from some of the biggest distillers in the area, including Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey and Brown-Forman. The next one, titled “So You Want to Build a Distillery?” starts in mid-June. “Within 50 to 75 miles of Louisville is every major resource imaginable in distilled spirits,” Mr. Dafoe said. “There are distillers, places to buy labels, cooperages, grains, glassmakers and more.”

The post makes the point that Dafoe is the first to figure out his competitive advantage – DSE is an independent effort in the center of what’s becoming a monster, globally focused Kentucky spirits industry build around bourbon.

An independent center, but with strong connections to the Big Boys such as Brown-Forman.

Dafoe’s main 20-plus-year-old business Flavorman helps perfect beverage flavor formulas for commercial clients –including soft drink companies – around the world.

When we covered the DSE opening in April, 2012, Dafoe told us the idea grew out of the increasing number of individuals – not established companies – coming to him from across the United States, wanting to launch their own spirits brand.

“The people who come to me have two things – lots of money, and an idea,” Dafoe said.

The last line of the Times post is the best from Jacquelyn Zykan, bar director for Doc Crow’s, and sums up the maturity of the spirits culture in Louisville:

“People here are more interested in examining what they’re drinking rather than getting drunk.”