When Mike McQuiggan retired in 2016, he wasn’t sure what to do next. Would it be developing hobbies, satisfying any wanderlust travel thoughts, or perhaps working on some fitness goals?
His wife, Renea, had a better idea to keep him busy. "I figured when he retired, and I was still working out of the house at that time that he needed to find a hobby.” she said.
The idea was that perhaps they could use the corn from her farm in Kansas to make whiskey. McQuiggan didn’t know anything about that and thought she was kidding, but she was serious and from there their lives took on a new trajectory they could have never anticipated.
McQuiggan found a place called Moonshine University in Louisville, Kentucky and they flew there in 2017 and began a distillery training course on how to open and operate a distillery. They were told it would take two to three years to get your license so they recommended getting their mash bill started right away so it would start aging in barrels. That way when they received their license, they would already have a product to sell.
The process began and they received their license in March 2019. They opened their tasting room in the heart of Cave Creek in January 2020.
When the COVID pandemic happened in March 2020, they had only been open for a couple of months. McQuiggan did what he could and sat in the tasting room seven days a week with his own version of a new model.
“I couldn't make drinks, but we could sell bottles. I have to tell you; the locals were fantastic. There were only two days where somebody didn't come in and buy a bottle from us. So that was amazing. That paid the rent and the utilities and to me, that was a homerun,” said McQuiggan
The bourbon has been a huge success and they started thinking of ways to expand so they started doing some research on vodka. Renea’s daughter, who is passionate about yoga, came up with the idea of creating a line of vodka called Chakra Vodka. They loved the idea and were thrilled to find out that they were able to trademark the name.
They hired a flavor engineer out of Louisville to help develop the seven flavors for the different chakras.
“It took us about a year to develop the flavors with it going back and forth with different flavor profiles, different ingredients.” said McQuiggan. The challenge was creating it without sugar and with only natural ingredients.
The team has continued to grow with the addition of their vice president, Jake Stuckey, who I would describe as a jack of all trades and their tasting room manager, Jordan Gettes, along with Kathleen Campbell, their dedicated new product manager and chef and some incredible brand ambassadors.
The tasting room is a proven proof of concept and they have realized that the facility they are in will limit their growth, so they acquired a plot to build a larger bottling and blending facility. They are building a two-story, 20,000-square-foot building in Carefree that will house a tasting room, a bottling and blending area with an observation space, as well as an event space for private events, along with their corporate offices. The facility is expected to open by the end of 2023.
The tasting is located at 6201 E. Cave Creek Road, Suite C, in Cave Creek. For more information, call 480-466-7424 or visit their website at carefree-spirits.com.
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