New technology process makes spirits faster, better

By Shelia Watson

Imagine a job that requires just that: imagining. Imagining improved methods, better results, more innovation, faster production.

And if you did, you just put yourself into the world of O.Z. “Ty” Tyler, inventor, chemist and owner of several patents, who daily ponders the “what-if” questions that often lead to something big.

“I love to figure out how something’s made so it can be made better,” said Tyler.

About 10 years ago, Tyler, whose expertise includes new product development with corporations such as DuPont, Hercules and WR Grace, worked with colleague Edward Bailey on an idea to rapidly age whisky.

He said the process was similar to how he came up the idea to put soda in cans.

“They had been putting beer in cans for years, and I asked why beer but not soda,” he said. “I finally figured out it was the coating on the can that made the drink taste like metal.”

So he changed how the cans were made, and canned soda became a billion-dollar market.

“With spirits, I started asking why you have to distill something for a long time and put it in a cellar for even longer,” he said. “It’s that whole thing of taking something apart to see how they did it and making it better.”

By 2006-07, they had perfected the process and built a machine that could replicate the effects of aging whisky in a barrel – but in a fraction of the time and with high-quality results.

By 2008-2009, Edward Hewlette was brought in as president and CEO, the company Terressentia was formed, and the machine and the intellectual property were made ready for commercial application.

Hewlette, whose career includes a law practice and executive management in the hospitality industry, said he was brought out of retirement to help bring Terressentia’s process to market.

“Basically I’m a failure at being retired,” he said. “But the simple answer to why I became interested is this: There are certain fundamentals in organizing and running a business that don’t change from industry to industry. I like the challenge of bringing something to market and making it a commercial success.”

What he hopes to make a success is a process that Hewlette said, “can make high quality spirits of all types and all flavors for companies that want to own their own labels, and for those who want their own brand, we do that too.”

In practical terms, it’s about saving money and time.

Take the case of bourbon. The typical process of aging the liquor takes seven to 12 years. Terressentia’s process can take very young bourbon and output high-quality spirits in a matter of days.

To get high-quality vodka, the spirits have to be distilled five times. Terressentia can do the same in six hours.

“Distilled spirits was discovered a thousand years ago,” said Hewlette. “They figured out how to condense it and make it into something to drink, but ever since they’ve been looking for a way to make it taste better.”

Until now, the only way was to let it age.

Although the company is licensed as a distillery, it does not distill – which would require an investment in distillery equipment – but rather it concentrates its efforts on processing for private labels and companies that have their own brands.

“A lot of hotels have their own wine label, but very few have their own whisky or vodka,” said Hewlette. “We can help them with that.”

Terressentia recently received a $200,000 investment from the South Carolina Research Authority’s SC Launch! program, invests in knowledge-based technologies throughout the state. The money will be used for marketing and sales efforts. The company is currently exporting to the Caribbean and Europe and has plans to export to Canada and China.

“Our sales forces are contacting hotel chains, food lines and various other businesses,” said Hewlette. “We’re letting them know what we have is better and less expensive to work with.”

Which is something potential clients might do well to note, especially considering the rest of the canned-soda story, as Tyler tells it:

“We went down to Atlanta to talk to Coca-Cola about the process,” he said. “They turned us down and said their customers would never abandon the bottle.”

He took it to the Royal Crown Company, which used it for its Diet Rite sodas. The result was an overnight success.

Tyler laughed, then started in with another idea.

“You know, I was talking with someone just yesterday about preventing infections and wondering why we couldn’t change computer keyboards from hard plastic to copper coating,” he said. “Wonder if that would work …”

INFOBOXES

Terressentia
Formed: 2007
Employees: 12
Key product/service: TerrePURE, a patented technology process of rapid maturation and refining of high quality spirits for retails and private brand owners.

Official title of the patent for the process: “Process for Enhanced Flavoring of Beverages and Product Produced Therefrom.”

 

Earl Hewlette
Position at Terressentia: founder, president and chief executive officer
Age: 64
Education: MBA and law degree from University of South Carolina
Resume bullets:

  • Two decades of practicing law
  • President of Sea Pines Company and Hilton Head Company
  • CEO of Gaelic Properties, Destination Hotels & Resorts (Eastern region)
  • CEO of Ginn Clubs and Resorts

Preferred drink: “Typically I like whisky or vodka. But these days there’s a problem. You see, our process smooths out the spirit so much and the taste is of such high quality, but we can’t order our own spirits on the market yet. It’s just not the same. So until then, I drink a high-quality cabernet or bordeaux wine when I’m out.”

O.Z. “Ty” Tyler
Position at Terressentia: co-founder and chief technology officer
Age: 76
Education: MBA from Tulane University, BA in chemistry from Bowdoin College

Resume bullets: President or vice-president positions at various companies, as well as consulting and market development positions throughout 40 years of innovative product development, with more than 100 products currently on the market, including:

  • The process to put soda in cans
  • Washable wallpaper
  • Outdoor latex paints for wood surfaces
  • Indoor/outdoor carpets

Preferred drink: “I’ve always been a scotch drinker and I love the fact that you can manipulate our process to give any range of flavors and can emphasize one thing or another.”

Published in Charleston Regional Business Journal