NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - First came the popularity of craft beer, but in recent years a new universe of bourbons and whiskeys has become popular.
Fans are pouring shot after shot, and they're eager to try new brands.
One of the many new brands is bottled in the Tampa Bay Area. The name of the blended bourbon is Von Payne. It was launched a few years ago by Steve Allen.
At 58-years-old, he sold his successful software business and turned to the bourbon business.
"Some people would say that’s too late to start a brand-new career and there’s not a harder shift to make than from software to bourbon," laughed Allen.
His flagship product, Von Payne Black is in an eye-catching bottle with a gargoyle on top. It pours from the gargoyle's mouth.
"The concept is dark and sexy and appealing to your alter ego," said Allen.
It's infused with tart, black currant. The taste was inspired by Allen's adult daughters.
"I have five daughters that are never drinking bourbon, so the aha moment was - well, if I could make a bourbon that my daughters enjoy, that would open up a whole new market."
Thousands of bottles of Von Payne Black go out to stores from The Point Distillery in New Port Richey, where they allowed Von Payne to start small and grow quickly. It's become an award-winning player in the new popularity of bourbon.
High-end brands like Blanton's, Buffalo Trace, and Eagle Rare usually sell out at liquor stores. Von Payne, at $65 a bottle, is marketed as a way to get into bourbon.
"If you’re one of the whiskey snobs, this is something you can share with one of your non-whiskey friends to introduce them into what you enjoy," said Allen.
Their marketing strategy aims to build a "tribe of passionate followers" who may not be typical bourbon drinkers and Allen isn't a typical former software guy. He now signs bottles of his own bourbon as they come off the line.
"There’s nothing more fun than having a job that requires one thing of you. You want to try something different? Let’s have some fun," he laughed.
In two years, Von Payne has spread from Florida into seven more states with a goal of going nationwide. It's been quite a career change.
"It's never too late to do something you’re passionate about," says Allen. "And I'm having a great time."