Captain Dad and the Good Ship Blackfish
What do a pirate ship, information technology, and a distillery have in common? If that was the setup for a joke, the punchline would be our dad. As Owner of Blackfish Spirits Distillery, Mike brings a lifetime of esoteric hobbies to bear in order to make the best spirits possible.
Born in Palo Alto, California, Mike spent his early childhood in a partial stupor due to the pharmacological knowhow of his nanny. When not addled, he spent a great deal of time outdoors, working on a sun-scorched tan that led him to believe he had been stolen at birth from his Inuit brethren, pictures of whom he witnessed with some alarm in an issue of National Geographic.
Mike headed north, as any prospective Inuit might, but found himself on an easterly trajectory that eventually deposited him on a family farm in the backwoods of Maine. His father, a biology teacher at the local high school, maintained an expansive menagerie of reptiles and amphibians. This redirected Mike’s attention to the more immediate concerns of natural philosophy and pranks with slimy things.
The misadventures of Mike are far too numerous to name, and if his stories are any indication, Maine was never short of drama, whether it be in the form of pitchfork battles, barn fires, basement pigs, or freshly installed flush toilets. My brothers and I have been hearing these stories all our lives, but there’s one that holds particular relevance to the distillery: making maple syrup.
With all the maple trees around on their 175-acre farm, it was a no-brainer to make some fresh syrup, so Mike went about harvesting over 300 gallons of maple sap. He boiled it all down, little by little, on a wood fire stove. When the steam cleared, he had 4 gallons of the finest maple syrup and a new, enduring passion for handcrafted nectars.
Some years later, Mike had a family (us) and began a ruthless campaign of familial craftsmanship. If he sensed that we were bored or if we appeared unoccupied, he would make us make stuff. There were the wooden toys we had as children, made with Mike’s woodworking and cabinetry tools. There were the latex Halloween masks we painstakingly modeled and cast. There was that UFO we launched out by the middle school. Then there was the pirate ship, built from a heavily modified 25-ft yacht, stripped down and reassembled to scale in our backyard. The yard still has a hole in it where we scorched the earth casting a miniature cannon for the ship. Sometimes these projects were a lot more fun in retrospect than they were at the time of execution, but we always learned something and we were a bit less bored.
So now we have the distillery. In some ways, this is the culmination of our dad’s craftsperson ethos. Not only is there a tangible final product, much like those items just mentioned (except for maybe the UFO, which was never recovered), but that product can also be consumed. And just like the maple syrup Mike made so long ago, it is just too damn good.
Did I mention he gets to do all this with his family? I guess, for a dad, that’s a pretty cool place to be. Nowadays, he still might be in a partial stupor, but it’s usually work related, and he has four variously-skilled sons to help him through whatever business challenges might arise, as well as his loving wife Carrie to keep him financially in check. It’s a lot of hard work, dealing with the old man I mean, but we’re all learning a lot, and a little hooch never hurt, either.
Raise a glass to the man at the helm of the great ship Blackfish! Happy Birthday, Dad!