Local distillery Union Horse began in 2009 as an idea the four siblings in the Garcia family discussed around their parent’s kitchen table. Initially, they considered starting a brewery. But later, while touring a craft distillery—their business plan changed.
“We had toured some local and out-of-state breweries to gain more insight, but the light bulb went off for us when we toured a small batch, craft distillery on one of our trips,” says Damian Garcia, director of sales and marketing. “We discovered that the processes of making a whiskey and beer were very similar, plus at the time there were no other distilleries in the KC area.”
According to Garcia, the decision to open a family business was the easy part. At that time, Garcia and his younger siblings (Patrick, Eric and Mary) desired work that aligned with their personal and professional experiences.
“Over the years, we’ve joked that the easy part was deciding to come together and start this business while the hard part was choosing our company name, logo and figuring out the five different recipes, names and labels for each of the spirits,” he says.
Their vision was simple: to offer something unique and different.
“Our goal immediately turned to producing and pioneering whiskeys born and raised here, using only the finest Midwest ingredients. We wanted to create a legacy business that would continue for years to come.”
He credits the local ingredients, as well as the area they’re produced in, as what makes their spirits one of a kind. Creation of Union Horse products involves wheat from Kansas, corn and whiskey barrels from Missouri and Midwest-grown rye and malted barley. As for the area—the extreme weather conditions, namely hot summers and cold winters, play a role in the barrel aging process.
“All of our barrels are matured in our non-climate controlled warehouse,” Garcia describes. “With the changing Midwest seasons the whiskey expands and contracts within the barrels, really enhancing the bold and rich flavors of our whiskey. With our whiskeys aged five-plus years, that’s a lot of seasons they experience.”
When asked to describe his favorite whiskey, Garcia didn’t want to pick just one.
“I really try not to answer that question,” he says. “It’s like asking a parent who’s your favorite child. I feel like they are all different from one another, each flavor profile is completely unique to the individual style of whiskey.”
Since opening in 2010, Garcia finds they’ve honed their craft, spread distribution to 10 states across the country and maintained a busy event space on-site in Lenexa. But it’s the obstacles faced and overcome throughout the distillery’s growth that he is most proud of.
“We’ve overcome some obstacles in starting our company—lobbying to change [Kansas] laws to allow for tastings and tours with spirits at our facility; the name change and persevering through that; creating our unique, award-winning spirits and being able to churn out the same great products batch after batch; while also working with my family and trying to keep work and family life separate,” he says. “Navigating these hurdles and continuing to stay afloat for these past nine years makes me the proudest of our company.”