Hoya Highlight: Paul J. Coughlin III (C'86)

Owner, Taconic Distillery

How has your love for the great outdoors and appreciation for American history inspired Taconic Distillery?

With a passion for the outdoors and a desire to work the land, my family and I decided to purchase part of a former beef farm in Stanfordville, NY in 2010.  We renamed it Rolling Hills Farm and initially spent time there on weekends and holidays. The farm’s 113 acres of rolling hills became the inspiration for Taconic Distillery and our entrance to Dutchess County’s local agribusiness market.

The Hudson Valley is filled with beautiful scenery, charming villages, National Historic Landmarks, and bountiful farms. It is home to the first wine-producing region in the U.S. and a world-class culinary institute. Four hundred years of history and hospitality make the region an ideal location for the production of our own native spirit – bourbon whiskey.

Bourbon whiskey has been savored for generations in our part of the country, from George and Martha Washington’s home during the American Revolution, to the Great Estates of the Vanderbilts, Roosevelts, and Rockefellers, to the hunting preserves and horse farms of today.

What is your favorite product and why?

Personally, I favor our Barrel Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey.  It is the same distillation as our signature product, Dutchess Private Reserve, but is bottled at higher proof of 115.  Since it comes straight from the barrel the flavor is more intense and complex than the standard 90 proof.

Where did you get the idea for a bourbon-infused maple syrup?

I was actually trying to create the end product, Double Barrel Bourbon Whiskey with Maple Syrup.  My goal was to get the barrel glazed with New York State maple syrup and put the bourbon back in.  It sat in the barrels for four months.  We had bottled the maple syrup and were giving it away.  Pretty soon people were calling and asking where to buy it.  We came up with a label and started selling it.  It’s now our second line of business.

What trends do you see in your industry and how does Taconic Distillery plan to stay ahead?

Craft distilling is a growing business, particularly in New York State.  Aged whiskey requires a fair amount of patience and a lot of capital, both of which we already have invested. People like our product and we plan to keep doing what we’re doing while expanding our customer base into other states and countries.

What has been your greatest professional challenge and how did you overcome it?

Taking the leap from a stable business with a salary, to a new industry and venture with sizeable risk.  Learning about an industry that was entirely new to me was an exciting challenge at this stage in my life.  It required lots of reading, research, visits to other distillers, and my Georgetown network.  I started with a vague idea about the spirits industry and have come to learn about distillation, sales, mineral content of water, marketing through social media, branding, distribution, and operating a forklift, among a multitude of other things.

Who has inspired you in your life and why?

Mark Allen – six-time World Ironman Champion.  I met Mark at Ironman Hawaii, which I raced in 2001, and his underlying mantra was “never give up.”  It’s a long race and at some points you’ll be hurting but if you just keep going,eventually you’ll feel better.  Everyone is hurting in that race but the winners never give up.
The last 100 yards of Ali’i Drive in Kona, Hawaii held some of the best moments of my life.
Never give up.

If you were going to change direction now, where would you go?  How would you do it?

I did it two years ago.  I walked away from a successful career on Wall Street to follow my dream of actually creating something.  I’ll let you know if it was a good idea in four years.

How has Georgetown helped shape your values, both personally and professionally?

Values come from your family and friends.  I am lucky to come from a long line of Hoyas – I have two children there now.
Thirty years later, most of my close relationships were developed at Georgetown.

Name three things that you couldn’t live without having in your workspace.

1. Picture of my three daughters, two of whom are currently Hoyas, and my wife, all of whom have supported me in my various endeavors.
2. My Amazon Prime account.
3. Coffee