Kevin Szady joined the MurLarkey team in 2016 after a lengthy career in IT, and is now our Head Distiller. A lover of whiskey and jazz, Kevin sat down with us to discuss his background, distilling tips and tricks, and what makes MurLarkey spirits so special.
What did you do before distilling?
IT consulting. I am actually a co-founder of an IT consulting group that focused on collaboration and DevOps software.
How did you get into distilling?
So about 12 years ago, I may or may not have started making moonshine in my back yard, and the rest is history.
How did you join MurLarkey?
You know that old saying, “You give a cat food, the cat comes back”? Well, they gave me whiskey, and I kept coming back and kept coming back. Talking to the guys, got to know them real well. Got to be friends with them, and they actually said, “Hey, we need some help running the still and doing stuff in the back here, you want to come do it?” They had to twist my arm, oh no no, but I said okay, and I love it. So I was basically at the right place at the right time, with great people, and it’s been great ever since.
What’s the No. 1 rule when it comes to distilling?
I’d say the most important thing is to trust your senses, especially your taste and your smell. Bottom line, if it doesn’t taste good and if it doesn’t smell good, then it’s not going to be good. Whether you put it in the infusions with flavors or put it in a barrel, if it doesn’t start off good off the still, it’s not going to be good when anything else is done with it.
We do everything by taste and smell. If it tastes good and smells good, it’s going to be good.
What makes MurLarkey spirits so special?
We do traditional methods, but then we put our own unique spin on it. Whether it’s the flavor infusions, where we actually do all-natural ingredients with no sugars, whether it’s our aged spirits where we take Virginia red wine barrels and char them ourselves and age them in the barrels, we put that little spin on everything.
Smokehouse, where we take bacon in the bottom of a smoker with wood staves in the top of a smoker, smoke that bacon for eight hours, and put [the staves] in a barrel of our Heritage Whiskey to get that smoky, bacon flavor to it. Or even our [Imagination] Gin, where we’re more of a New Western-style gin. It’s not what I’d call a dysfunctional family Christmas gin, where you take a Christmas tree and beat you upside the head with it. We dial back that juniper, put our own spin on it, more of the lavender and the citruses coming out.
How important is it to use all-natural ingredients?
All-natural’s very important here. We’re all about being genuine at MurLarkey, there’s nothing fake about what we do. So it’s very important to us that you’re not drinking Red Dye No. 9 or fake ingredients, we want it to be all-natural. When you drink our Orange Whiskey, it tastes like orange. When you drink our Cinnamon Whiskey, it tastes like cinnamon, because all we’re putting into it is oranges and cinnamon sticks.
As Head Distiller, what do MurLarkey’s International Gold Medals mean to you?
It’s really cool to be recognized by the industry and getting those awards, especially in the vast differences we’ve got. We’ve won in Vodka, Gin, and our Whiskeys, so having that diverse portfolio and being recognized for it is really great.
But more importantly, what I really enjoy is coming out and talking to our customers and getting the feedback from them. When they say they like it, that’s way more important than a gold medal. What’s really awesome is when, we get a lot of people coming in and they say, “I’m not a whiskey person.” And then by the time they leave after they’ve tried our whiskeys or had a couple of cocktails, they say, “Wow, I guess I am a whiskey person.” So that’s really gratifying, more than any of the medals that come through.
What’s your favorite MurLarkey cocktail?
For me, my favorite cocktail at MurLarkey is I take a glass of Heritage and add a couple of ice cubes to it. I’m old school.
What’s your secret talent?
I actually play saxophone. I actually got my degree in music for jazz saxophone, so basically I just love doing some jazz on the old saxophone.
What’s the best part about working at MurLarkey?
It’s going to sound kind of cliche, but it’s really the people here. Whether it’s from our co-founders or Papi or even the people who come and help us bottle, everyone’s very passionate about what we do here and is really into it and really wants to make the best stuff that we can make. So the teamwork and the people is really the most fun thing about working here.
Come by the distillery soon to meet Kevin and the rest of the MurLarkey family! Slàinte!