When serial entrepreneur Joe Giildenzopf sold one of his startups, his brother sent him a celebratory gift: a mason jar filled with whiskey that had been stilled in his basement and contained a sliver of wood. “He was using the wood to age the whiskey because he was distilling in small batches—not enough to fill a barrel,” Giildenzopf says. The gift sparked an idea. He began searching to see if anyone was manufacturing whiskey finished with seasoned wood in the bottle and found no one was. “I eventually started the business, but not before calling my patent attorney and filing three patents,” he says.
He shared his business plan with Brad Neathery, who was leading a creative marketing agency along with editorial publication Modern Huntsman. “I’d never seen something so thoroughly thought through,” Neathery says. The two launched Oak & Eden in 2018 and quickly landed a partnership with Republic National Distributing Co., the second-largest wholesale alcohol distributor in the U.S. They opened a tasting room and 10,000-square-foot bottling facility in Bridgeport, Texas, and a corporate headquarters for the company’s parent, Sanctified Spirits, in Southlake.
During the pandemic, Oak & Eden tripled its reach from seven to 21 states. “From 2018 to 2021, we were the fastest-growing whiskey brand in the country in the ultra-premium price category,” Neathery says.
In April 2023, the company launched an online platform where customers can create a custom spirit from four bases and several infusions instilled into the wooden spire inside the bottle. The company employs 33, has a presence in more than 40 states, and sells 50,000 cases a year. Giildenzopf serves as CEO and Neathery as the CMO. “We have an operator and a creative visionary who see things through different lenses,” Neathery says.
In the spring of 2023, Sanctified Spirits brought a cookie dough-flavored whiskey brand called JOJO to market. “Many trends suggest we are about to see a substantial emergence and growth in that segment,” Giildenzopf says. Sanctified Spirits is opening an Oak & Eden tasting room in Fort Worth’s Clearfork in September 2023 and looking for spaces to grow in Dallas and Houston, with other markets to follow. “We’re in growth mode and always will be,” Neathery says.