Off Hours Bourbon - Making Lasting Moments
A Conversation with Founder Jake Ireland
Written by Jamie Agoglia
Photograph by Cibelle Levi
Founded by Jake Ireland, Off Hours Bourbon is meant to engage our senses and change perceptions. The goal is to create that brand and let it speak for itself. Finding a way to make it relatable to the Midwest bourbon drinker and to the west coast bourbon drinker. The name Off Hours is something that everyone can relate to, regardless of what you do and how you spend those hours. Finding ways to bring people together, to have conversations, build memories and have some fun with it. It’s not about preconceived notions of artisanal cocktails and dimly lit bars. It’s for everyone, everywhere. So cheers to more inspiration. More real-life connections. More easygoing hangs, and less expectations. More time outdoors, less time behind our screens. After a long week or just because. Find the time and the moments in between.
Jamie Agoglia: What have been the most exciting developments for Off Hours Bourbon over the past couple of months?
Jake Ireland: The main focus has been expansion. I think with launching back during COVID, we had to be really strategic with what markets we wanted to be in and how we chose to expand in each one of those states. I think now that for the most part everything has gotten back to that pre-COVID stage, and we’ve been able to tap into a lot of these places that we weren’t able to early on.
We recently launched in Tennessee, Kentucky and California, specifically Los Angeles, so we’ve got a really heavy focus on the national market. And then lastly, we just started in Texas, which is just a behemoth of the state. And it’s an interesting play because really each state might as well be a separate country with the way the laws work. We’ve chosen to take a city by city approach in Texas where we’re starting in Dallas and expanding from there to Austin and then into San Antonio, Houston and so on.
Along with Texas, you’ve expanded in Michigan as well, correct?
Yes, correct. We expanded into Michigan, which is an interesting market to sell alcohol in. Michigan is a control state which means there is way more oversight and more required to make sure that we get into places that we want to be. My wife grew up in Michigan and we have a lot of family there, so we’ve tapped into those who are there to help support the brand and start to build awareness and we’ve garnered some amazing attention and stockists in the state as a result.
With each one of these markets being separate and very different from each other, we started to realize that we had very different customers in each market. This has helped shape our marketing approach in each one of those markets.
Additionally, with all these different spirit competitions that we’ve been a part of, we’ve had a lot of success. The third party validation of winning gold and double gold medals is something I’m so proud of because it really shows people that Off Hours is not just a lifestyle brand, it is really good juice.
Within your grassroots approach, how does that include strategic partners like Yeti and Buck Mason, et cetera?
Early on we decided that an approach that allowed us to collaborate with like-minded brands or retailers that had a similar audience would be beneficial since we launched during COVID. And really, I kind of think back to my own personal lifestyle. Would I be wearing some brand t-shirt of an alcohol brand or something? Probably not, but if I partnered with something like Buck Mason or any one of these brands that I wear daily, I think people would actually be more into it than just a wholesale Off Hours t-shirt or whatnot. It’s a good fit for us and similar to a number of the other brands we’ve partnered with like Nobu or Health Ade Kombucha or Yeti, they’re all lifestyle brands that we admire and find common ground with.
The Off Hours Bourbon bottles and packaging is just so sexy and clean and fantastic. Did you personally come up with that?
Thank you! I worked with a design team here in LA to create bottles/labels that weren’t overly masculine or overly feminine and were also really functional for bartenders. I really like the rounded approach to it. As far as the label itself, we went through numerous designs. So we started working on the black and white approach and knew that there’s so many things you have to do to get someone to pull a bottle off the shelf. And then the last piece of it was the “Bourbon Whiskey” on the top and the bottom of the label on the front being partially cut off. It’s something that really catches peoples eye.
There was a lot of work put into it. The name itself went through countless iterations but when we landed on Off Hours, we felt like that was something that was all inclusive, as everyone has their own off hours, and we’re all different. It felt like that was a way to bring people together and hopefully share some conversation and build some memories in your off hours.
Exactly. And I wanted us to touch upon the two Off-Hours SKU’s, including the single barrel product.
We started with just one SKU and it is a 95 proof blend and really meant to be an approachable bourbon for the casual bourbon drinker. It was middle of the road with the proof, so it doesn’t have that burn that some bourbons do at a higher proof. So it’s really good as an introductory bourbon for either the casual Bourbon drinker or someone new to bourbon. Especially since a large percentage of our drinkers are females, this was a nice way for us to have an approachable offering to introduce the brand to that demographic. However it’s also great for seasoned bourbon drinkers or in a cocktail as well.
The single barrel is actually a program that was started about a year or so ago where accounts, whether they’re liquor stores, grocery store chains or restaurants, can select an entire barrel and it’s unique to them. They’ll taste multiple different barrels and they’ll pick it. So when they do that, they’ll end up getting an entire barrels worth of bottles - roughly 180 to 200 bottles come out of a barrel on average for our age.
When we bottle it, it is exactly what it was in the barrel. With a stronger alcohol by volume, you’ll get a more prominent taste profile. It’s a cool way for us to have something unique to offer our retailers.
What a great idea! Fantastic. What are some of your current favorite recipes of Off Hours Bourbon cocktails?
Most people, including myself, often associate bourbon with fall and the feeling of a warm you up type of cocktail. And I think that those are great. I know we got a handful of those that go really well in the fall, but something we’ve tried to differentiate ourselves in is having some of these cocktails throughout the spring and the summer. We’ve been creating more citrusy cocktails that you wouldn’t necessarily think have bourbon in them with flavors like peach, more lemon, more lime. And for us, we’re trying to create these cocktails that feel a little bit more outside the realm of typical bourbon flavor profiles.
How is your new podcast, The Bourbon Life?
It’s going well! Personally, I was on the first episode of it. We partnered up with Bourbon Lens and really their approach was bringing in other brand founders and interviewing them about the brand itself. With the Off Hours approach, we talked with them and decided that we wanted more of a conversation around your off hours and how we’re all different in how we choose to spend them, versus just talking about the bourbon brands as a whole. It’s great to hear what’s going on behind the scenes and just getting to know someone on a personal level versus just what the world sees through the brand.
What’s next for Off Hours in the upcoming months and what do you have projected as a top set of goals to accomplish in 2023?
Really the goals are more so just continuing to keep the momentum that we have right now. We also have holiday gift sets coming out in October/November just in time for holiday shopping.
At the end of the day, I want this brand to be a household name. I want Off Hours to be immediately relatable so that when someone thinks of it, it’s personal; the brand itself allows them to find their own way of understanding it and, at the same time, gravitating towards it. A lot of expansion, some new products and to continue doing what we’re doing and as long as it’s working, don’t change anything. And have fun in the process.