Brad Estabrooke, founder of the Breuckelen Distilling Company, was a typical Wall Street banker. That is, until he got laid off in December 2008 and decided he'd rather make gin than find another office job. The 31-year-old began working on his Brooklyn distillery in March 2009, and he expects it to open for business this May. Over the next few months he'll chart his progress—the good and the bad—in an exclusive diary on Details.com. This week, he takes us back to when it all began.
I had actually been thinking about opening a distillery for some time. I read an article in an in-flight magazine a couple of years ago about the new feasibility of starting micro-distilleries, and I had been thinking that it was something I wanted to do—when I saved a little more money or when I retired. Not at 30. But then I got laid off.
I was the typical finance guy—I studied economics in college, worked in Boston, moved to New York with my girlfriend, got a job at a Wall Street investment firm, and basically ate, slept, and breathed bonds for more than seven years. When the market started falling apart, I had less and less work to do. It was obvious layoffs were coming, so it wasn't necessarily a surprise, but I was still disappointed. No one wants to lose a job less than a month before their 30th birthday.
And honestly, part of me was relieved when I was let go; it had been a dead end for such a long time. I spent the first few weeks doing nothing. I went ice climbing and skiing and took a much-deserved break. But then, as cheesy as it sounds, I did a lot of soul searching. For about a month I was trying to decide what the hell I was going to do. Did I want to move out of New York? Did I want to stay in finance? Did I want to find some new career? Maybe I should just move out of the country and climb for the rest of my life. Maybe I should really start a distillery.
As time went by, I got more comfortable with the idea. I knew it was a long shot—the planning is such a long process, and there were so many things that I didn't know anything about—but I also knew there was never going to be a better time than now. So I got this space, raised money from family and friends, and applied for my permits, and now I'm just waiting for the still to arrive so I can start making gin. If you had asked me last March what the chances were that I actually was going to be able to start the business, I would have said one out of 10. But a little over a year later, here I am.