Published on October 5th, 2016 | by Brittain Thompson0
Mississippi Wine & Spirits Co. Alcohol Broker Bringing Small Batch Craft Spirits to Mississippi
Mississippi Wine & Spirits Co. is a distilled spirits brokerage company started by Kevin George. His operation officially launched on July 6, 2014 and has seen steady growth since.
“I had heart troubles so I moved out here [to Mississippi],” said George.
A California native, he found himself in need of a triple heart bypass. Unfortunately, he had lost his insurance, but his doctors advised him that he could find capable and affordable surgeons. On blind faith he headed down south to find a solution to his medical issues.
“I was told to come out to Tupelo after I had lost my insurance. I’ve got it back now, of course,” said George. “But, the surgery was going to cost way less in Tupelo than anywhere in California.”
While spending time in the area, George found himself settling in to Oxford’s small town atmosphere, the antithesis of what he was used to on the west coast.
“I fell in love with this place,” said George. “I love sports, not so much basketball but baseball and football so I thought I might as well stay here.”
Coincidentally, Oxford had plenty of baseball and football to offer him.
After spending some time in Oxford as a retiree, George wanted a way to fill his time.
“I don’t golf or anything like that, so I started drinking and goofing around,” said George. “I had to quit drinking, had to quit smoking and, you know, I got bored. So I decided I needed to do something.”
Brokering in-state sales for wines and spirit distilleries seemed like natural direction to go for him.
“I retired in 2004 after running four beer distributors for owners,” said George.
George comes from a family of alcohol industrials. His brother owns a vineyard in California.
“He has a vineyard,” said George. “He’s got his own private label and…runs out all the time. He does a lot of work with the national hockey league.”
George’s father owned a company that distributed many of the biggest brands in California. George showed us an old, yellowed industry paper that featured his father’s business.
“This was our 40th anniversary back in the ‘70s,” said George. “We had 318 employees.”
He pointed out phots of him and his brother in between describing all the different alcohols the family business moved throughout the golden state.
“We had the number one beer, Olympia, at the time,” said George. “We were huge. We had a liquor department, a wine department, and a beer department.”
With a life of experience in the industry, Mississippi Wine & Spirits Co. was born. His goal was to focus on bringing small batch, “craft,” distilleries into the state.
“In the ‘90s you had a handful of these craft beer distilleries like Sam Adams, and now they’re huge,” said George. “Well, you’re gonna see the same thing with distilled spirits. People are putting the time and the effort into the quality rather than the mass production of these brands. I’ve been able, with the contacts I have, to bring them to the state.”
AmericanCraftSpirits reports that there are approximately 1,280 craft spirit producers, representing a 17% growth since 2005.
Along with his industry contacts, the way Mississippi has structured the alcohol industry allowed George to get started with minimal investment.
“Unlike in California, I don’t have to have trucks, drivers, or a warehouse,” said George. “Mississippi has their central warehouse in Madison where everything goes, and it is massive.”
The states incentive for this, is that they place a tax of, “approximately 27.5% on every case as well as a $5 per case delivery fee,” George explained.
“I don’t know if they give that to schools or what, but it’s a good way to get state funding,” said George.
With the lowered operating cost, George has been able to hire on Scott Warren Melton as a Sales-Finance-Social Media Representative and Ken Taylor as Sales and Internet Sales Representative.
“I’ve got Scott that just graduated from Ole Miss running Oxford, I’ve got Ken running Southaven, and we’re hiring someone in Jackson real soon,” said George. “I’m about to start working on the Starkville area and then we’ll push into the gulf”
The reasoning for his specific targeting is the long list of dry counties in Mississippi.
“Some of these counties have only one or two stores,” said George. “You don’t really need a lot of man power in those areas.”
Along with avoiding dry counties, George is also focusing his efforts on the millennial market. These are the consumers adopting the newer craft spirits and the ones who made craft beer the industry it is today.
“The young guys are drinking craft,” said George. “That’s what they’re growing up on and that’s what scares these big brands. Once a generation dies out, brands go along the wayside and new ones come up.”
Mississippi Wine & Spirits Co. has made a commitment from the start, to only bring in the finest craft spirits that can be found. Their current flagship bottle, Humboldt Distillery Certified Organic Spiced Rum, is a gold medal winner as well as the same distillery’s organic vodka. Humboldt Distillery will not get you high, but it does contain 0.3% thc.
The Most Righteous Bourbon is the next brand they are planning to push into Mississippi. Made in Bethel, New York, the same area known for Woodstock, the bourbon has earned countless awards and named number 1 great bourbon you should be drinking by liquor.com.
“On the same list are brands like Bulleit,” said George. “And no one has heard of Most Righteous. It’s actually made by this guy who worked with the Beam family for years. He worked on Gentleman Jack for Jack Daniels. He’s like the guru of the bourbon industry.”