After several years of running a business and working in academia, the husband-and-wife team of Jim Matz and Wendy Tilton decided it was time to try something new. The couple moved to Arizona from the East Coast and opened up a small-batch distillery in Tempe.
Matz ran his own business for 17 years and is great with problem solving and people, and Tilton has an interest in trying new things and improving outcomes. Thus, they’re a perfect team for a distillery dedicated to bringing their customers the best possible premium spirits that are smooth and delicious.
The idea began when Tilton helped a friend in Texas cross off an item on his bucket list: making whiskey. With Tilton’s science background, she was able to assist her friend with his experiment.
Years later, on their way out West, the couple moved to New Mexico, where they had a patio party and let friends try the product Tilton produced with her friend.
“We had some friends over, and they very much enjoyed it,” Matz says. “And it made Wendy and I think, ‘You know what? What can we do to really get this going to the level of a distillery?”
The couple thus began Wild Hare Distillery in 2018 and officially opened their tasting room in Tempe in May 2019.
Matz explained that their distillery began doing really well by the end of last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. They are slowly getting their followers back and are hopeful they will be back in full swing by next year, with plans to grow their small business.
“There’s a certain point we want to grow to.” Matz says. “We don’t want to get huge. We want to keep it small because this is who we are.”
Matz places an importance on keeping a very personal feel to their distillery.
“We’ll just start telling stories and just basically hanging out and becoming friends with them,” he says. “And that’s important to me because it brings that one-on-one experience.”
They distill all of their products on-site using raw materials. The distillery offers tastings, tours and a bar where it gives its customers the option to try the spirits in cocktails.
Wild Hare Distillery offers nine premium agave spirits in its Drove line. Every spirit is distilled in-house with raw materials and premium agave nectar.
The Drove collection offers:
• Cristal, the base spirit that is 100% blue weber agave.
• Roble Blanco Salvaje, a 93 proof Madagascar vanilla bean cristal.
• La Vanilla, a Madagascar vanilla bean-infused spirit.
• Roble Hungaro, Hungarian oak-infused spirit resembling a smoky whiskey.
• Cafe Negro, using coffee beans from Ethiopia.
• El Roble, an oak-infused spirit.
• La Canela, a cinnamon-infused agave spirit.
• El Chocolate, a raw chocolate-infused spirit.
Bottles can be purchased for $35 to $65.
Wild Hare Distillery is passionate about keeping its products as simple as possible and is dedicated to using raw materials with no extra added ingredients.
“We want to make a product that is just natural flavoring,” Matz says. “And then that leaves it up to the person to decide what they want to add, if they even want to add it. We take pride in that we don’t want to use sugar in any of our agaves.”
Wild Hare Distillery, 5869 S. Kyrene Road, Suite 18, Tempe, wildharedistillery.com.