How I’m Creating a Luxury Brand—by Starting Small

Product fit, persistence, and a personal touch are the key

What does a luxury brand look like before it’s a global powerhouse? How can a nascent brand etch itself into the cultural fabric with limited resources? These are some of the questions and asymmetries I’m navigating while building The Beverly High Rye.

A few years ago, I set out to change the face of American whiskey, a category dominated by a traditional ethos, by drawing inspiration from Beverly Hills’ culture of high living to create a whiskey that tastes, looks, and feels luxurious. Fortunately, I had a few years of industry experience. However, that experience—at a venture backed by Drake—didn’t exactly prepare me to start from scratch.

My approach was design driven from inception. I started developing a brand identity with a local independent designer (shoutout, Tsz Chan). We worked fastidiously to curate a brand and develop a product that effortlessly signals luxury. We went to great lengths, like sourcing custom glass during the height of the pandemic, to perfect it. It needed to be distinctive but timeless. It needed to be the bottle we ourselves would choose on a crowded shelf.

Image courtesy of Rebecca Peloquin Photography

What’s inside the bottle matters the most. A beautiful bottle garners attention but it alone won’t win you repeat customers, or the favor of bartenders. It is not easy making whiskey that can go head to head with leading legacy and craft producers. Quality matters. So does authenticity. I made it a priority to partner with a craft producer, Cedar Ridge Distillery, whose story resonated with me, so we could be transparent about where the whiskey comes from and proud of how it is made. Working with Head Distiller Murphy Quint, we designed a recipe that is personal and unique—and in my view the quality reflects that.

The product is done and it’s ready made for luxury. Or, that’s what you think. Will others perceive it that way? Why should they care? These are arguably the greatest challenges. It comes down to credibility, class, and cachet. Press and awards help. Unfortunately, neither are really within your control. Partnerships help too and are more within your control. If you’re in some of the world’s top bars, that speaks volumes. We’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to partner with Nobu and Gabriel Kreuther, a two-Michelin-star restaurant, as we launched in California and later New York.

Product fit, persistence, and a personal touch are the key ingredients in our partnerships. Our partnership with The Grill on the Alley was born of persistence. I didn’t know anybody at the famed Beverly Hills steakhouse before presenting the product. I quickly changed that by showing up over and over again—eventually earning my own nickname, “Rye Guy,” in their system. That approach doesn’t always work, and that’s all right. I have learned to focus my energy on cultivating long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with people who believe in the product and are excited to be part of the journey early on. I try my best to be persistent in adding value with creativity and a personal touch. Ultimately, these partnerships only succeed if the product is a good fit and performance proves it.

Image courtesy of Rebecca Peloquin Photography

We launched in May 2022 with limited distribution in California. This measured approach offered a perfect opportunity to find our fit in the market and test strategies with an eye toward building organic traction and a recipe for success that can scale. With launch comes the temptation for splashy launch parties, events, and sponsorships. You’ll find traditional luxury players at every VIP event. It also comes with more affordable opportunities that may not exactly be brand aligned. I have largely steered clear of both, focusing instead on getting “liquid to lips” at intimate, targeted events serving our core audience and demo tastings at the point of sale with key retailers. I have intentionally focused resources on content and design. With a clear identity established through design, content brings the brand to life. We recently shot a campaign with The Grill on the Alley, featuring The Beverly High Rye in a gorgeous steak dinner scene, showing the type of occasion our product thrives in and the broader lifestyle our brand represents.

Ubiquity in high-end channels is the goal. Without a healthy foundation driven by distribution and demand growing in correlation with each other, it’s impossible to achieve. We’ll look to grow fast but expand gradually to new markets at the pace we can integrate them into that healthy foundation. Keep an eye out—hopefully The Beverly High Rye will be coming soon to a world-class bar near you.

Andrew Borenzweig is a Los Angeles entrepreneur and whiskey enthusiast and the Founder & CEO of The Beverly High Rye.