By David Bruce
Operational planning is a key factor in success on the battlefield and in business. For military veteran entrepreneurs and co-owners of Regimental Spirits, Eric DiNoto and Kyle Moore, they run their business the only way they know how: with the precision, planning and the attention to detail that they learned as career military leaders.
The concept first took shape while on deployment in Iraq in 2008. DiNoto and Moore found a quiet safe spot to have a non-alcoholic beer and enjoy a cigar. They reflected on a particularly difficult day and discussed building a life and a business for themselves, far away from the battlefield – a business where they could honor the sacrifice of all service members and give back to the community that they had dedicated their lives to. It didn’t take long to discover the answer: whiskey.
“Let’s face it, no one’s ever won a battle and said let’s have a mimosa,” said DiNoto. “There’s been a tie to American service members and whiskey since that first Patriot George Washington decided to make a rye in Virginia.”
But there was still much more work to do outside of launching a business. With the Global War on Terrorism in full swing the idea was on hold for another decade while DiNoto and Moore assumed different duty positions and commands.
There were troops to train and lead and young families to raise that required their attention and time. But during the weekends and after hours, DiNoto and Moore researched and planned the business like a military battle plan. They used the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP), a seven-step process designed for the tactical or garrison environment. MDMP is an iterative planning methodology to understand the situation and develop a course of action.
It was during the planning phase that the momentum began to build. Moore’s wife, Ashley, watched as what started off as muse began to consume her husband’s after-hours thoughts.
“I remember one night, he was up until like 1 or 2 a.m.,” said Ashley Moore. “He was up researching. I think it was probably when he made a PowerPoint presentation to show to me that I knew this was real. I was like, okay, I’m your wife, I don’t need a PowerPoint presentation.”
While Moore was conducting feasibility studies, learning the marketing and studying everything he could on running a business, DiNoto reached out to a friend, Gabriel Garcia-Pons. Garcia-Pons worked in the alcohol business for over 25 years. A lot was riding on this call. Garcia-Pons is an expert in this world and if he said it wouldn’t work, DiNoto and Moore were prepared to scrap the plan and get back to their lives.
“Eric called me and said, ‘please, tell me if I’m crazy, but this is my idea.’ I said, let me sleep on it,” said Garcia-Pons. “I thought about it for the rest of the night and when I woke up I called him and said, let’s go, let’s do it. So yeah, in his mind’s eye, it was kind of a far-fetched dream, if you will. But obviously, I have the experience, because I live in that space. So, we just did it,” he said.
Garcia-Pons’ endorsement validated what DiNoto called their proof of concept. DiNoto, Moore and Garcia-Pons, provided the seed money for the company out of their own savings. With Garcia-Pons on the team, DiNoto and Moore were put in contact with the right people in the industry and provided the guidance that up until that point was done by research or trial and error. DiNtoto and Moore would serve as the face of the company at events and pitches and Garcia Pons worked behind the scenes.
“So, some of the things like our talents began to reveal themselves,” said DiNoto. “Kyle gravitated towards marketing and building a social media platform and I moved towards sales and locking down distributors and getting out there and promoting the brand and Gabe focused on getting us in the door with these different distributors with connections and made those connections for us,” he said.
They needed to understand the business, marketing, distilling, distribution and bottling. They started with the bottle which is shaped like a canteen, which is a piece of gear that is universal in the military. Everyone regardless of branch of service is issued the same canteen.
“We offset the label on purpose,” said DiNoto. “Almost all labels are dead center, right? This one is not, it’s off center. “It pulls your attention away from the other bottles to this one like hey, why is that off? And once we’ve caught your eye, we got you,” he said.
DiNoto worked as a bartender while in college and remembered that bottles get slippery and are hard to pour at times. To remedy this, they put cutouts on the sides of the bottle for a better grip.
The cap is another eye-catching feature. It is silver and in the shape of the back of a 40mm round. Each cap is embossed with the regimental symbol in the center.
“When the Saxons were invading an area, the lord of that area would say, I need to build a regiment,” said DiNoto. “Once you are part of a regiment, you’re always part of the regiment whether you win or lose, you will always be a member of the regiment. That regimental system is still used today.”
The whiskey itself is made from American grains and aged in American oak barrels. The barrels can only be used once to make bourbon and then after they are used to age the whiskey. Whiskey is the most heavily regulated spirit in the world. It must be at least 51% corn and be at least 80 proof or higher.
“Everything’s all natural,” said DiNoto. It’s all American ingredients. We were asked if we wanted to put food coloring in there to make it look appealing. We said no. They asked if we wanted to put a synthetic alcohol in there to raise the proof. We said no. Our spirits are made with integrity, we couldn’t do that,” he said.
DiNoto and Moore’s commitment to military ethos like duty, honor, integrity and respect has earned them a spot in Bloomberg’s top three rankings of veteran-owned whiskeys for 2023, but in keeping with their oaths it’s not awards that motivate the career soldiers, but who they are able to help.
Regimental Spirits supports a number of charitable organizations and recently contributed to Run to Home Base and Fisher House Boston. Both organizations provided much needed support to the veteran community to provide lodging for injured warriors’ family members and to provide counseling for the invisible wounds of more than 30,000 of our most injured service members.
“All our core values as we know it are brought into this brand, and I feel like we’re not in the industry necessarily,” said Moore. “We’re in it for the hard work, to do it the right way,” he said.
“Many brands will save a penny and make a lesser product,” Moore said. We’re trying to bring it back traditionally and we’ll spend the money to do it right,” he said. So, we feel there’s this amazing responsibility that we have to create a product that every veteran can be proud of and call their own.”