Travis Vander Vegte is Head Distiller at Union Horse Distilling Company. We took some time this month to learn a little more about Travis’ background, how he got involved in the industry, what he listens to when working and what it means to be a part of Union Horse history.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your background. When did you first get involved in the industry? What was it that made you want to work in the whiskey industry?
Travis: My interest in whiskey started very, very early on...my Mom always says that when she was pregnant with me and a few days overdue, my dad gave her a shot of Jack Daniels and they went for a walk around the block. That was all it took! Later that evening they were on the way to the hospital, and I was born the next morning.
I started out working in the food and beverage industry for the Embassy Suites (I believe I spent around 15 years working there). I’ve also spent many years as a home brewer, as well as I have always been handy fixing and repairing things (which can come in handy). I’m sure I have probably taken on some projects that I wasn’t qualified for, but I’ve always liked a good challenge. I think the learning process along the way and working through adversity is the best part of being in this industry. Learning from mistakes and coming out better on the other end is an invaluable life lesson.
When the opportunity came up to work with Patrick, Damian, and the rest of the Garcia Family, I was more than excited. I had known the Garcia family for years before I started work with them at Union Horse. Seeing them interact as a family is something special; they have an amazing cohesive family atmosphere and culture that I loved being around. Knowing that I could help be a part of their distillery start up, I jumped in with both feet and haven’t looked back since.
Q: What is your favorite thing about working for Union Horse Distilling Co.?
Travis: I love the family atmosphere, the people I get to work with and just doing something interesting and different on a daily basis.
Q: What music do you jam out to while in production? What do you listen to when you’re spending the day distilling?
Travis: I listen to an extremely wide range of music, but I’m big time into podcasts and audio books. My current listen is "Sapiens" by Yuval Noah Hirari; it’s a brief history on human evolution. Extremely interesting, highly recommended!
Q: What’s the one point in the distilling process that’s most important?
Travis: I think if you had to break down the whole process of distilling, one of the most important factors is fermentation. You can create or not create a lot of flavors during fermentation that will come through in the distillate. It’s kind of like the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears...you want to try to stay in the temperature range that is neither too hot or too cold. We have a certain range we like to be in to create the flavor of our whiskies
Wanna learn more about Travis or the process? Go behind the glass and experience our handcrafted, small batch process! Distillery tours are available in both a public and private setting. Tours are $17 per person, and must be purchased in advance by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 913-492-3275. Also, stay tuned each month to learn about a different team member.