Brotherhood in a Bottle
If you’re anything like 99 percent of the television-viewing population, you’ve watched something and invested yourself in seeing it, setting time out of your day or week to catch the latest plotline unfolding. You get to know the characters and either love or hate them—hell, sometimes both—and you find yourself wondering what they’re like in real life.
For The Vampire Diaries actors Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley, playing the Salvatore brothers onscreen translated to a brotherhood offscreen, ultimately giving rise to something that shares one of their great loves with the rest of the world: they created their very own bourbon.
Named Brother’s Bond, the bourbon is the embodiment of their relationship, their friendship—their deep, brotherlike bond—in a bottle. And, of course, it helped that both men shared a passion for bourbon.
During their years of filming Diaries, in fact, Somerhalder and Wesley drank “bourbon” on the show. During their downtime, they imbibed the real thing together. “The boys bonded over bourbon onscreen, and Paul and I bonded over bourbon offscreen,” says Somerhalder in an interview with The Whiskey Wash. “Paul likes to remind me it was the only way he could tolerate me.”
Regardless of the late hour, the two would make their way to their favorite bar, unwinding over bourbon and cementing the bond that would last beyond the last credits of the show. “The name Brother’s Bond is very organic—it has the dual meaning of our bond onscreen and our bond offscreen,” explains Wesley.
A Louisiana native, Somerhalder’s appreciation for bourbon comes naturally. “I remember the whole family drinking mint juleps on the porch on summer days, weekends, family outings, after church—truly stereotypical awesome Southeast Louisiana,” he says.
Wesley’s experience with bourbon came later, during the ten years he spent in the South while the show filmed. The more he learned about the processes of making it and its deeply-rooted history, and the more he tasted, the more he developed a taste for the spirit.
As friends often do, they talked about going into business together—but not just any business. The bourbon business. However, they wanted more than to be simply the celebrity faces behind a corporate label. They wanted to be involved in every process, from development to distillation and bottling. They wanted to start something from scratch and be its creators.
Naturally, all of it took years to culminate into their vision, requiring countless hours blending different distillates from Indiana’s MGP, tasting them, and blending some more. They would not be satisfied with anything less than perfection. “Paul and I sat for over a year, literally over a year, blending bourbons in my living room,” Somerhalder says. “We were chasing this flavor profile. Not to sound all kumbaya about it, but we were after a complex, beautiful expression of grains in harmony.”
The result? Brother’s Bond’s release is an 80-proof bourbon from a four-grain mash bill, aged four years. “We have an eight-year that we’re going to do,” says Somerhalder. “We’re ecstatic about the line extensions that we can choose, the different age expressions. Eventually we’ll have our hundred-proof and barrel proof. We are hell-bent on making sure that we are only delivering uncompromised quality.”
They were hands-on the whole way, experimenting and taking notes, comparing different variations and tasting to see how different barrels and different agings affected the flavor and complexity of the bourbon. Both men gained a greater appreciation for the pure simplicity of bourbon—good bourbon—and how that simplicity could also birth such a complexity of flavors. While creating their four-grain bourbon, they found balance and nuance that makes their recipe not only unique, but also a secret they hold close to the vest.
Bottling is, of course, also a big part of production, as the bottle is someone’s first introduction. It’s all about presentation, so Somerhalder and Wesley spent a great deal of time perfecting every detail, from the texture of the recycled paper to the ink and the print and fonts for the bottle label. They obsessed over all of it, never wavering on their dedication to achieving nothing but the best.
Adding another layer to the company, a portion of the bourbon sales will be donated to regenerative farming efforts—something that both men believe is incredibly important as a way to help stabilize Earth’s climate, restore the ecosystem, and provide healthier food supplies. Both advocates of various initiatives, Somerhalder and Wesley recognize that, as a company that relies deeply on agriculture, they have a responsibility to give back.
As hard as the work has been and as long as the road has taken to travel, Somerhalder and Wesley are fulfilling a dream, creating something of their very own and working together to achieve something that they believe will last for generations. It’s a legacy to pass down—and a bond that goes as deep as blood.