Refined Tastes

Running area distilleries with unique visions

Wilma 0720 Taste Main

As the American consumer has become more health conscious, the desire for products with natural ingredients has extended beyond the food and beauty industries.

It’s had an impact on the alcoholic beverage industry, as well.

On a national level, beverage companies have responded to this trend with lower alcohol beverages such as ultra-light beers and hard seltzers that offer fewer carbs and calories but often still contain sugar and additives. Here in the Port City, two women-led beverage companies have taken a different approach.

Wilma 0720 Taste 1AMY KUCHAR (above), co-founder Rosé Water, was on a personal health and wellness journey when she and her husband, Rob, began experimenting with ideas for their wine-water hybrid. Together, the couple owns and operates Executive Bev, a global wine supplier, and Boutique Bev, a boutique beverage company that specializes in designing brand concepts, brand incubation, and helping small, family-owned wineries around the world increase their distribution.

Amy Kuchar wanted to find a way to merge her family’s wine business with her health and wellness interests. She says it became a passion of hers to create an adult beverage for the healthy, active lifestyle consumer.

The Kuchars work directly with a small group of winemakers in France’s Loire Valley to create a blend of French pinot noir, gamay, and cabernet franc grapes that is then transported to the Austrian Alps, where it is blended with sparkling water.

Now, one of Kuchars’ main roles is furthering the development of the concept by exploring ways to bring new wine water varietals to the market.

“My goal is to promote the importance of knowing what we’re putting into our bodies and where it comes from, even when it comes to our adult beverage choices,” Amy Kuchar said.

Wilma 0720 Taste 2BROOKE BLOOMQUIST, master distiller at New Hanover County’s first distillery, Blue Shark Vodka, co-founded the company with her father, Mark, in 2018. The family-run business now includes her mother, Niki, and brother, Brett.

Brooke Bloomquist says that from the start, the family knew they wanted to work with a North Carolina farmer to source the mash bill for their vodka. They selected Carolina sweet corn grown by farmer Jeff Griffin in Polkton. The sweet corn mash bill is fermented, then distilled four times and filtered three times to remove impurities before it’s diluted to 40 percent ABV with reverse-osmosis filtrated water.

“The result is an incredibly pure, clean, super smooth product that is naturally gluten-free,” Brooke Bloomquist says. “There are a lot of people out there who are very conscious about what they’re putting into their bodies, as well as a lot of people that choose to be gluten-free, and Blue Shark Vodka fits the bill.”

While the Kuchars have launched a new beverage category from their Wilmington headquarters, the Bloomquist family has been instrumental in paving the way for other distilleries in New Hanover County. At the time they were seeking permitting, there were no other distilleries in the county, so the guidelines that are in place today, are ones that Brooke and her family helped establish.

Operating a distillery in North Carolina, where the distribution of spirits is run by the state, has presented its own set of challenges, says Brooke Bloomquist.

“Each county has to place their own orders for distribution from the central warehouse in Raleigh, so each time we get a new account it’s something to celebrate,” she says. “Having built a company from the ground up, seeing your product on the shelf is so rewarding.”

The company hopes to soon expand distribution of its award-winning vodka beyond North Carolina, with Florida likely to be the next target market.

In addition to ensuring the best possible ingredients go into their beverages, both Amy Kuchar and Brooke Bloomquist are interested in clean-water initiatives and conservation.

Amy Kuchar grew up in Flint, Michigan, a city known for its water-quality issues. Her company has pledged 5 percent of all Rosé Water sales to Cape Fear River Watch, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the health, beauty, cleanliness, and heritage of the Cape Fear River basin.

Having lived on or near the coast for most of her life, Brooke Bloomquist is also passionate about coastal conservation issues. Her company has partnered with marine life artist Wyland, whose mural, Whaling Wall #048 Coastal Dolphins can be found on the side of the Coastline Inn in downtown Wilmington. Wyland created an image that will appear on a limited number of Blue Shark bottles throughout the summer of 2020. The limited-edition bottles will support the Wyland Foundation, dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans.

To view more of photographer Logan Burke’s work, go to

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Categories: Taste