I recently sat down with Jill, the owner of Freeland Spirits. In one word, she embodies elegance: from her poise in speaking with me; her authenticity in telling me her story; her general demeanor; her passion behind putting elegance into her distillery. Everything about her celebrates elegance.
We began the interview with the basic questions of where did you come from? What piqued your interest in distilling? Who inspired you?
In some ways, I feel I opened pandora’s box, but in other ways I simply got to listen to an inspiring story that celebrates the roots of her beloved MeeMaw (her Grandma). She boasted on about how hard MeeMaw’s work ethic was:
“She worked really hard…work hard…(you know) feed your family….she would give advice about ‘keep going…put your head down…it’s important…huge investment…and now you have to put the sweat behind it….there’s a deep work ethic in our family….'”
All I can say is that it reminded me so much of my own grandmother who recently passed; my grandmother shared the same ethos, and always loved whatever work or service she was giving to the community. It sounds like MeeMaw was no different.
Jill credited her with her initial love of all things gardening (including ant farms – you’ll have to ask her about that one:)) and her passion for agriculture. Jill also credited some of the recipes to her grandma, and tried to come up with recipes that would be something like “I wonder what MeeMaw’s garden gin would taste like?” – it’s amazing how much one singular person can have so much impact. Jill shared with me her passion of distilling reaches far beyond just making money or even her own family. She seeks to inspire other women to take the leap into the industry.
For her, it’s a celebration of women and beauty. She lamented at how so much of the industry focuses on the ubiquitous sex symbol, which isn’t in and of itself bad, but she wanted more. She wanted everything about the distillery to be simple and clean, and I have to say, everything in that place is gorgeous, especially “Hell Bitch“, the copper tank:) and even the bottles. (As a side, “Hell Bitch” gets her name from the show “Lonesome Dove” and was Cowboy Call’s mare in the show which only he could tame. Analogously, creating the perfect spirit requires Jill and her distiller, Molly to have a good relationship with Hell Bitch?). It’s evident that she paid SO much attention to detail in crafting her dream. If you spend thirty seconds with her, this would not surprise you one bit. Even the way she spoke about the rest of team simply exuded a sense of pride, fulfillment, and beauty. To her, she said it came with age – she wanted beauty, not luxury per se. For her, it’s non negotiable. It must be beautiful.
“Beauty…we want an emphasis on beauty to the bottle…to everything…aesthetically…in a feminine kind of way…often that is overlooked…we wanted it to be ornate and beautiful…we won’t make something that’s not perfect…we want everything to be blessed with beauty…[it’s a] blend of art and science…that’s where I see beauty. David, the beautiful cocktail…the still (Hell Bitch)…the staff..the beautiful story…that’s often left out”
As we finished the interview, I asked her to pick one word that she felt encapsulated Freeland Spirits. Her response? Celebration.
“I always come back to the word celebration….why…why Freeland? Anyone could make more money elsewhere…each person has to have their own “why” that they celebrate…”
In her view, Freeland Spirits is a celebration of women in agriculture…for her distiller, it’s a celebration of creativity and authority…for other staff, it’s the ability to celebrate working and hiring the best bartenders.
“There’s always a challenge…the idea of creating something that people can truly celebrate…sometimes you have to try harder….”
The Irony? Jill stated unequivocally that celebration isn’t her natural state of being. “I’m MeeMaw…I can plant ONE more ROW. It’s not quite dark yet” She stated that she has to make a cognizant effort to celebrate with her team. In my view, it came quite naturally to her, and it doesn’t seem like she’s trying. But, to admit that in an interview – let’s just add humility, confidence, and vulnerability to her traits. It takes someone who is truly confident to be that vulnerable to admit that she, herself, struggles, with the ethos of the company. I honestly cannot see anyone NOT being inspired by sitting down and talking with her.
In closing, I highly recommend going in and stopping in for a drink and just talking with her and the rest of the team. You might just find yourself inspired in your own life to find elegance and beauty in what you do. I certainly did.