UnCapped: Aubrey Slater of Saint Luna Moonshine
Mar. 15—In this episode of the UnCapped podcast, host Chris Sands talks with Aubrey Slater from Saint Luna Moonshine about the history of the brand and Slater's path to working in the spirits industry. Here is an excerpt of their talk.
UnCapped: Today I'm joined by Aubrey Slater ... and what is your official title? Because it is a fun one.
Aubrey Slater: Yeah, it's cute. I am the Chief Brand Development Queen. It wasn't my choice, but if the shoe fits perfectly, just wear it.
UnCapped: Have you ever worked somewhere where they wanted you to pick your title?
Slater: I think this was the first time I was asked to choose it, because it's not only a new position, it's a brand new company. Being a transgender woman, I was like, I need a strong title. I need something with authority, where people are gonna take me seriously in this business where my community's not really represented. So I was like, Chief Brand Development Officer. My business partner was like, "You're the Chief Brand Development Queen." I was just like, yeah, sure, I've always felt somewhat royal. Before I even had time to debate this, business cards were printed, mailed, and that was it.
UnCapped: So how long has Saint Luna been around?
Slater: My business partner, David Suk, is the founder and CEO, and he started this company back in 2019.
UnCapped: Really good timing.
Slater: Yeah, and he was a one-man band, pumping this stuff around New York City, hitting up his friends who were in the hospitality industry. We became, somehow, the first spirit brand to ever be carried at Bergdorf Goodman, the department store here in New York City. That's a little fun factoid. He just carried on by himself until he got me.
UnCapped: And there's no distillery, right? You contract a distillery?
Slater: Yes, we do contract a distillery.
We were with a distillery in North Carolina, and then the pandemic hit, and I guess a lot of people got it in their head that they wanted to make booze as well. So, that distillery was on a two-year backlog of companies that wanted to do distillate runs, and they upped their cost, like, 35%. And we don't have investors. It's just this ragtag group of people trying to get this done.
Our master distiller, Scott Smith, lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and we tasked him to find our next distillery, and he found one in Chattanooga. We're getting ready to do our trial run there ... to see if everything is on point. Then you make your big order.
UnCapped: Did he have to do a lot of changing to adapt the recipe to a new location? That's one thing I've learned, how different stills have a tremendous affect on the output.
Slater: Let me preface this. The first distillery used a 17-plate repeating column still.
When it was first created, it was created in a pot still. Like most moonshine, it was made on a farm in Georgia, unbeknownst to authorities. We come by the name moonshine [respectfully]. We started as moonshine.
Scott is an organic chemist and a brilliant mind, and he said when he tasted it off the column still, it kept all of its integrity. I can only imagine that when we switch to this new distillery, it will be another column still. I have yet to see it. I havent been much involved in that area.
UnCapped: Your background is in hospitality, correct?
Slater: Oh, yes.
UnCapped: So who developed what is now Saint Luna Moonshine?
Slater: Scott Smith. He's one of those renaissance men, runs a lab creating all-natural and organic lotions and soaps for larger companies. They say they want a hand sanitizer that smells like cucumber and sea salt, and he gets in his little lab and creates these specific scents. But he's also a welder, a carpenter ...
UnCapped: One of those damn people who can do anything.
Slater: Yeah — plays rugby, is a cyclist, an amazing father.
UnCapped: So he's annoying.
Slater: [Laughs.] He is that guy. ... He's a Marylander, grew up outside of Annapolis ... and he's been toying around with distillates since he was in college. He's just one of those people — organic chemist, good with his hands, "I'm gonna make illegal booze for all my friends." I'm sure he was actually quite popular. He worked on this formula for, like, 15 years.
I think a lot of people have preconceived notions about moonshine, like it's some crazy hillbilly up in the woods late at night. Most people think it's corn liquor or un-aged white dog whiskey.
But I always describe moonshine as being like jazz. It's this purely American heritage spirit. You get rums from the Caribbean and the French, you get whiskeys from the UK, agaves from south of the border. The beauty of moonshine is it's this free-form art that is at the will of the artist. If you have bumper crop of peaches, you're making peach moonshine. You got elderberries, you're making elderberry moonshine. It's basically whatever you can stick in your mash bill and ferment and then run into a still.
This excerpt has been edited for space and clarity. Listen to the full podcast at fnppodcasts.com/uncapped. Got UnCapped news? Email email@example.com.