Goodbye Friend… Mr. Pickerell

We have lost a giant. Not just the craft spirits industry who utilized Dave’s talents to grow. A man who was instrumental to getting an entire industry on its feet in off the ground. A legend among the greats, David Pickerell was a friend to everyone he never met, a mentor to many and the creator of some of the best whiskey your lips could ever touch.

Known as the man behind a hundred whiskeys he was a distiller at Maker’s Mark appearing in a History Channel documentary called Modern Marvels which happened to be focusing on Whiskey that day. The first time I saw it I recognized him and thought “cool I know a celebrity.” From there his star continue to rise after leaving Maker’s Mark in 2008, he founded Oakview spirits, a consulting firm where he helped to launch brands across the country from Hillock in New York to Corsair in the south, and perhaps most famously Whistle Pig. He was also instrumental in bringing back a recipe from one of our founding fathers relaunching The Distillery at Mount Vernon and producing George Washington’s own recipe.

David was in Ohio born Soldier whom many don’t know attended West Point. A humble, kind and well-educated man he had no enemies. Last year I called him at 6:30 in the morning California time thinking that he was back on the East Coast. He answered the phone and told me that he was in Oregon and I felt horrible that I had woken him up but of course he’s been up for hours. When I asked him to speak at a conference that I was planning he enthusiastically agreed, and we will begin talking about the sensitive subject of compensation he said, “just pay my way out there.”

One of the most generous souls you could ever meet he was a music lover, attended West Point on a football scholarship, has a master’s degree in chemical engineering and most recently was working with Metallica to produce a new whiskey.

It was his gregarious personality that you remember the most even sitting at breakfast one morning with him in Colorado. One of the proudest moments of my professional career was several years ago at tales of the cocktail when surrounded by a flock of groupies he reached into his backpack and pulled out some samples that he wanted my opinion on. Just writing that I’m nearly tearing up because he was a man who valued loyalty and opinions and he cared deeply about everyone he met.

His influence and guiding hand in the craft distilling industry will be sorely missed but everyone he touched.


You Sir will be remembered as a Father, a mentor, a friend and a legend. You will be missed.

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Angel’s Share

Angel’s Share

The craft distilling world has lost a giant this week.  Jim Harrelson passed away Sunday after suffering a heart attack nearly a week ago. Jim was the Head distiller and “Lead Janitor” as he liked to call himself at Do Good Distilling in Modesto California. Do Good is a collaboration by friends and colleagues who banded together after the death of Paul Katuszonek, Jim’s brother in-law, an Oakdale police officer killed in a car crash on his way to work.



The announcement of Jim’s passing was posted to Facebook in the early morning hours of Monday by his wife Liz. “Despite earlier improvements, my sweet, strong, husband, Jim, passed away yesterday after his heart attack on Monday. He was the very best that person I’ve ever met. We welcome continued prayers and positive energy as we all work to navigate the world without his laughter, guidance, and support.”


The community went to work as soon as they heard with thoughts and prayers for Jim’s speedy recovery and social media lead the charge with #prayingforJim wanting Jim to wake up. The massive heart attack as it has been described sent him into coma that family and friends hoped he would awake from. Sadly, #hopingforamiracle was unanswered along with why this would happen to such a good man. On August 4th, it looked like he would wake up and that hope was strong with the family until the end.


On Jim’s Facebook page, he claims that “I do things that sometimes can be confused with work” and that seems to be how people will remember him, with an unwavering sense of humor.

He was a visionary and understood the needs of the industry. According to the Do Good website Jim consumed knowledge of distilling and brewing and even attended classes when he could. His love for knowledge and fervor for the craft industry lead him to become president of the California Artisanal Distiller’s Guild. The page also tell us that he was an avid runner, loved gardening and going to concerts.


I last saw Jim a year ago, while collecting bottles for an event at a conference I was putting together. We spoke about the state of the craft industry, the changing landscape of spirits in America and he had plenty of advice. He was always willing to share information and from what I gleamed he was the type to make friends everywhere.

Jim was a respected member of the community in California and was a former Deputy Sherriff of Stanislaus county. He is survived by his wife and three daughters who filled his life with laughter and love. Their loss will be felt by the community, family and an entire industry.


I will be raising a glass of Night Hawk in his honor this evening and hope many will do the same.


Jim, your lust for life and whiskey will be remembered.


May peace find you.

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