After reinventing his career, Wyn Ferrell ’09 is leaving his mark on the distilled spirits industry in the Denver area.
By Erin M. Turner ’15
When Wyn Ferrell ’09 decided to major in business marketing at Elon, he was planning to enter the world of finance.
He grew up in Connecticut, where the finance industry has a strong presence, and his father, Bill, worked in the field. So a career in finance seemed like a perfect fit for Ferrell. Then life happened.
“After working for UBS in college and a boutique firm in Denver that sold mortgage-backed securities, I knew the industry was not right for me,” he says. “I needed a way to express creativity.”
Looking for a new challenge, and confident in his liberal arts education, Ferrell got a job in sales and development for Colorado Pure Distilling. It was there he learned the ins and outs of the distilled spirits production, a booming industry that brought in more than $66 billion in retail sales during 2013, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Almost two years later, he decided to break away and open his own business, Mile High Spirits, with business partners Chase Campbell and Joe Vonfeldt.
That was in 2011. Since then the company has branded itself as a state-of-the-art, handcrafted, small-batch distillery and tavern in the Denver area. It is one of only a handful of distilleries around the world to use an all-glass still, which helps churn out a smooth line of Elevate Vodka, Fireside Whiskey, Peg Leg Rum and Denver Dry Gin. With more than 100 bars in the Denver metropolitan area, the business has also managed to win the admiration of many locals. It was named No. 1 on Westword “Fifteen best bars on Larimer Street” blog and is also gaining recognition from 5280: The Denver Magazine, USA Today and The Denver Post.
The accolades fuel Ferrell’s thirst for more. The business has already expanded its distribution reach to North Carolina, Maryland and Delaware, and this summer it relocated closer to Coors Field, the baseball venue in the heart of downtown that serves as home for the Colorado Rockies. Ferrell attributes Mile High Spirits’ success to the company’s three profit centers: its tasting room, brands and private label—all things that give it an edge in the Colorado bar scene. Coors Field, Ferrell says, has attracted a wide variety of bars and restaurants to the downtown area, but Mile High Spirits offers a unique concept since the artisanal spirits are made on site.
“There are no distilleries located in downtown Denver,” he says, “so Mile High Spirits will not only be a location that locals love but also a tourism hotspot as we will offer tours that will fully immerse patrons in vodka, whiskey, gin and rum production.”
Ferrell is optimistic about the future of his business and often thinks back to his days at Elon for inspiration. “Elon did a great job preparing me for life after college by teaching me the fundamentals of business and how to manage a full workload,” he says. “I can’t begin to describe how much of what I learned at Elon is applied in my everyday life. … [It] taught me how to turn my passion into a thriving business.”
For more information on Mile High Spirits visit milehighspiritsllc.com.