CHAPTER 9Ginning Things Up

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Michael Lowe (r) and John Uselton (l),New Columbia Distillers

Michael Lowe was weary of retirement.

He had exited the workforce in 2008, following a 30-year legal career, the lion’s share of it spent as a corporate lawyer for Verizon. He was taking yoga classes five days a week and reading like a fiend. In retirement, the snag was that his wife, Melissa Kroning, registrar of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, was still working full time.

“I was just kind of hanging around the house,” Lowe, now 69, said. “I decided I might as well try something else.”

As luck would have it, he had a good relationship with his son-in-law, John Uselton, now 45, then a beer buyer for a liquor store and a waiter, and a fellow aficionado of home brewing, wine collecting, and spirits. The two men had built a solid rapport since Lowe’s daughter, Elizabeth, began dating Uselton a decade earlier. So they began to literally gin up some ideas about possible projects they might collaborate on. On a lark, Lowe enrolled in a weekend distilling class at Cornell University, and realized making spirits was something they could do together if Uselton was game.

After getting his son-in-law on board, the two headed to Dry Fly Distilling in Spokane, Washington, for an apprenticeship to get their hands dirty and learn to operate the equipment. They were hooked.

When they returned, they ...

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