Bootleg Botanicals

American Made Since 2014

Melanie & Ryan Belshee

Portland, Oregon
Bootleg Botanicals offer a fun, all natural way to infuse ordinary spirits into delicious alcoholic drinks free of unwanted dyes or excess sugar.
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Tell us about your business.

My husband and I have always enjoyed experimenting with alcohol recipes and in the past, we have been known to dabble in beer brewing. One day we decided that it might be fun to try to make our own bottle of Absinthe. But because distilling liquor at home is illegal and can be very dangerous we thought we'd try the infusion method instead. The spices were pretty unique and took some hunting to find. When we did find a supplier, they had large minimum quantity requirements leaving us with a surplus of supplies. Our experiment tasted great and received wonderful feedback, so we decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to see if we were on to something. In just 30 days our $5,500 ask soared to over $31K far exceeding our goal. From there we launched an online shop and turned our front office space into a tasting room. Our hope is to one day be a product alcohol lovers and mixologists can turn to for quality infusion spices to liven up their liquor naturally.

Tell us about your workspace, shop, or studio.

We lease a small 1,500 space in Hillsboro, Oregon. In the front of our shop we've built a Prohibition themed tasting room to share our finished infusions with the public. The magic happens in our commercial kitchen located in the back. Here, we freshly grind each spice before blending our recipes together and packaging each into a glass vial. After each one has been securely closed with a cork, we label each to ensure a tight seal and maintain freshness. Our hoochfusion kits require additional bottle labeling and assembly. We have an area adjacent to our mixing kitchen dedicated to lovingly putting each kit together. We start by wrapping each spice vial and bottle in un-printed newsprint then carefully packaging them in natural fiber to give the presentation a vintage American feeling. Our space is a good size for the two of us to work in but we'll definitely need to think about expanding once we bring on new team members.

What inspires you?

Inspiration is a funny thing. It alludes you when you are craving it and sneaks up from out of the blue when you least expect it. It is hard to pin point what inspires us because life is full of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. One of the things we've enjoyed while building Bootleg Botanicals' image is exploring antique stores. There is something about immersing yourself in someone else's history that is very inspiring especially when you are trying to recreate a specific period in time. Throughout the process of creating Bootleg's branding, we've tried really hard to be true to the Prohibition era. It's so important to us that our customers enjoy the experience as much as they enjoy the product itself.

What makes your business stand out?

Although we are not the first to offer infusion kits to the masses, I think it is our style, the quality of our product and variety of infusion blends we offer, that helps us to stand apart from the rest. One of the aspects that we hold most dear is our commitment to producing the best possible product we can make. Even though we could have easily sourced non-organic spices pretty much anywhere, we sought out the best domestic organic supplier we could find to ensure that our finished product would not only taste great every time, but would be free of unwanted chemicals. They even have a laboratory to inspect all of their spices before selling them to us. An added advantage to using quality ingredients is that our spices infuse alcohol faster and with a fuller richer flavor.

What advice would you give an aspiring creative entrepreneur?

Being your own boss isn't for the faint of heart. You might not become a millionaire and you will probably loose a lot of sleep but, if you let your creativity and passion for what you are doing guide you through the up's and down's, being your own boss can be the most rewarding thing you will ever do in your life. Bootleg Botanicals is not our first business and it probably won't be our last. Entrepreneurship is something that becomes a part of who you are and a true entrepreneur won't give up just because the going gets tough even if at times it feels like that is the only solution you have to survive. Sometimes it might feel like you are gambling your way through life but in the words of Richard Branson, "Have fun. Do good, and the money will come."

What does American Made mean to you?

We've always been believers that American made products are the only way to go if you want to maintain optimal quality control over your final product. Being able to personally inspect your goods at every step of the process and before they go out to the customer is paramount to ensuring that you are always putting your best foot forward. Nothing less will do. Bringing manufacturing back to the United States is extremely important to our countries economic stability. We are a nation of innovators with a history rooted in ingenuity, hard work and craftsmanship. Unfortunately that tradition has been eroded over the years and with it some of the American dream has died along the way. You don't hear about the Rockefeller type entrepreneurs anymore. Over the years, the trades have been neglected. A new industrial revolution would be an amazing boost to this countries economy and moral. We want nothing more than to be a part of it.

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    June 3–Aug. 29, 2014

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  • Judging
    June 23–Sept. 9, 2014

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    Sept. 15–Oct. 13, 2014

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  • Winners Announced
    Oct. 17, 2014

    2014 Award Winners and Audience Choice Winner announced.

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  • American Made Event
    Nov. 7–8, 2014

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