WBOY | Swilled Dog co-founder wins national distillers awardWBOY

By Sam Gorski

UPPER TRACT, W.Va. (WBOY) — West Virginia distiller Swilled Dog received national praise from U.S. spirit makers this month after one of its owners was recognized for her work on behalf of the distilling industry in West Virginia and beyond.

CEO and Co-founder of Swilled Dog Brooke Glover was awarded the 2024 Dave Pickerell Memorial Craft Member of the Year award by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS); the distilling community has dubbed Dave Pickerell as the “Johnny Appleseed of craft distilling” and spent 14 years as Master Distiller for Maker’s Mark before he passed away in 2018.

Swilled Dog is known for its whiskey and bourbon, but also its wide selection of craft ciders that can be found in liquor and grocery stores around West Virginia. In an interview with 12 News, Glover said she was honored to be selected for the award by other distillers after making pushes in local legislature for more practical laws and common-sense laws for alcohol distribution.

For example, Glover said that if a customer wants to order a cocktail at a bar or restaurant, the liquor used has to go between four different parties:

  • First, a distillery like Swilled Dog must sell their liquor to a broker in the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Administration; West Virginia is a “control state,” which means all liquor sales must go through the state first.
  • The broker will then sell the spirits to a retailer, where consumers can buy it for themselves.
  • If a bar or restaurant wants to use that liquor, it must be bought from a retailer, and not directly from a distiller.

Even for a distiller to be able to sell its own spirits in a showroom, the bottles must first be sold to the state of West Virginia and then bought back with the taxes factored in.

“If we can look at this industry on a bigger scale and look and see what some of our neighboring states are doing, we can encourage the industry,” Glover said. “Let’s use common sense thinking to say, ‘Is it a safety issue? Is it going to affect us from a money perspective?’ If none of those things apply, then let’s just get some of the handcuffs off and make it easier to get people to come into the state.”

In particular, Glover references surrounding states like Kentucky and Tennessee — states that people think of when it comes to distilling. According to her, West Virginia shares many agricultural and geographical characteristics that make spirits from those areas unique. All it would take is a renewed focus on spirit-related tourism and some adjustments to state law, and West Virginia could become a bourbon and whiskey hotbed that other distillers would be excited to move into.

After years of working with the local legislature, Glover said some lawmakers are open to discussions about potential changes but might be unsure about the best course of action or are unfamiliar with the spirits industry.

“My outlook is really that we have a lot of potential,” Glover said. “[If we] really focus on tourism and getting people to come here, to try things, see the beauty of our state, that’s really where the greatest opportunity lies for all of us.”

For now, Swilled Dog is preparing for the next release in its premium bourbon collection in collaboration with the Country Roads Trust. The first bottle in the collection sold out online in as little as two hours; the name and release date of the next bottle has yet to be announced.