S1 E7: MAX LENTS - DISTILLERY FOUNDER
When he moved to Baltimore, Max Lents became part of what he calls “the creative outburst and youth defining the new Baltimore.” From music to dance to street and fine arts, Max was living amongst a community where expressiveness drove everything.
He played music, bartended, and tinkered with making beer. And then…the vision for a distinct distillery came to him and his partners, Ian Newton and Eli Breitburg-Smith. From there, the path of Baltimore Spirits Company has been defined by “old world distillation resulting in new world spirits.”
Max became a student of distilling and, specifically, producing spirits in Maryland, one of the nation’s cradles of distilling. He has become a storyteller through his craft and his brand, envisioning everything from bottles to product names to brand architecture. But what continues to be most important is the spirits. As he says, “Our fashion design work is on the inside of the bottle.”
Here are Three Big How’s from a philosopher, entrepreneur, and damn good distiller of spirits:
THREE BIG HOW’S
The collection of books on distilling is “finite,” in Max’s words, so consuming it won’t be intimidating. He said that all of the three partners at Baltimore Spirits Company essentially rotated books and read them all. If you can’t do that, you probably shouldn’t be distilling.
Max recommends in order:
GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY
Brew beer. Distill something. Get a feel for how it works in real life. Max started out crafting his own beer and getting very good at it. Along the way, he and his partners started experimenting with different ingredients and methods. As they became more and more familiar with various spirits, they saw an opportunity to be hugely creative and imaginative in distilling spirits rather than crafting beer, so they got their first still…and the rest is history. (Max was very quick to point out that home distilling can be dangerous, so don’t take it lightly.)
UNDERSTAND WHO YOU ARE
If you’re really going to do it, you need to have an identity…and stick to it. People and customers will respond to your brand and product if you’re truly living it. Knowing who you are won’t just help you tell your story, it will help you make every single decision you face along your journey. This piece of advice was as much existential as it was functional, something Max clearly felt strongly about. As an entrepreneur, you will come to moments that could literally make or break your future, and knowing who you really are could be the only thing that enables you to make the right call at those moments.
On mic and off, Max often referred to his company as “the project,” which we found very interesting. To us, it indicated something that is constantly being researched, tinkered with, refined, and evaluated. Looking at your own endeavors that way can keep your mind both focused and open. That’s surely going to serve Max and Baltimore Spirits Company well.