Three friends create a spirits empire

Some distillers set out to create a great liquor for just themselves and their friends, and then with a little luck and hard work it turns into a successful passion project. That's exactly what happened to friends Ken Lee, Tony Grillo and Tom Bleakley, the masterminds behind Malahat Spirits. What had been a fun side project is now a successful business. They have created three rums, including silver, spiced and ginger. The spiced rum recently won a gold medal at the 2014 World Spirits Competition before it even hit the market. The winning combination is that the rum is made from scratch, with nothing but the best ingredients. Malahat also makes whiskey, but it's not just the liquor that they put time into. Part of the experience is the tasting room, with its Star of India-inspired artifacts on the wall to the entryway that looks like a throwback speakeasy. With all of that, it's easy to understand how Malahat Spirits is becoming one of San Diego's best new distilleries. Q: If you were to be a super hero who would it be and why? Bleakley: Super Rum Guy, of course. Super Rum Guy makes awesome spirits and the best rum-based cocktails. Oh wait, that really makes me a super hero. Awesome! Did I mention Super Rum Guy can fly? Grillo: Captain America, because of his charisma, leadership and innate ability to be do the right thing. Doesn't get any better than that! Lee: Superman, of course. I would cook and distill our rum or whiskey with my heat vision, cool it with my breath, and then fly off to the best daily surf spot in the world and still be back in time to hang with my girls. That's a good day. Q: Best part about doing business in San Diego? Lee: We love being part of the food and beverage movement in San Diego. It's a great community, not afraid to evolve, and appreciates quality food, beer and now spirits. I'm proud to be a part of it. Q: How many tastes did it take to get your rum exactly the way you want it? Lee: With all the daily batch tests, it all seems like a blur. Really, a blur. I can tell you we each went through a couple of birthdays before we even opened the doors, just to get everything set up and our booze just right. I'd say over a hundred. Work, work, work. Quick preview of a San Diego-based distillery that creates handcrafted spirits. Video produced, shot, and edited by Jarnard Sutton. Q: What talent does each of you bring to the table that is different from what the others bring? Bleakley: When a juggler, a karaoke singer and a break dancer get together, the possibilities are endless. We Googled our unique set of talents and the outcome was clear, we should start a late night television show. We ignored our innate talents and opened a distillery instead. Q: If you could only play one album in the tasting room, which album would it be and why? Bleakley: Boston "Boston" Because It's the best album of all time. You may disagree, but it's my distillery! Q: Best part about going from corporate or past jobs to becoming a business owner and rum connoisseurs? Grillo: Entrepreneurship is a lot like coloring outside the lines. You have to break a few rules to really discover your potential and that of others, love what you do, do it well, and give it 100 percent all of the time. Plus, who wouldn't want to be a rum connoisseur? Q: Favorite item or piece in the tasting room that you love to talk about and show off? Grillo: The experimental still. It's an awesome 34-year-old piece of equipment that looks like jewelry and makes a mean rum! Amber Mesker is an entertainment and lifestyle reporter for DiscoverSD. She loves providing readers updates on Hollywood gossip, San Diego fashion and cool weekend events. You can follow Amber and laugh at her fun, crazy life at @ambermesker Source: DiscoverSD
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