By Jordan Houston
Since its inception in 2019, a local whisky brand is making a name for itself across the state as the “whisky of the West.”
Scotchdale, an 80-proof blended malt Scotch whisky, was created by Scottsdale residents Travis Ranville and John McDonnell several years ago. It stems from Angus Dundee Distillers’ two pure malt distilleries in the Highland and Speyside regions of Scotland.
One day, the entrepreneurs were watching football and drinking scotch when Ranville asked, “Why isn’t there a brand named Scotchdale? I want to live in Scotchdale.”
McDonnell immediately trademarked the name online — and the rest was history.
“John and myself have been longtime friends and passionate whisky lovers. We enjoy all things whisky,” Ranville explains. “We asked ourselves, ‘Why isn’t there a Scotchdale, and why not create a whisky we can tailor to our specific palate?’”
Scotchdale is now found in 43 cities and towns throughout Arizona at restaurants, bars and liquor and grocery locations. The spirit has been distributed Valleywide, including on the shelves of Liquor Vault, Tops Liquors, Bitters, Lookout Tavern and Total Wine & More.
“With scotch whisky, we want to make it exciting again,” Ranville tells The Entertainer! Magazine. “A lot of your normal craft cocktails that involve scotch whisky, a lot of bars out there, they’ll throw bourbon in cocktails. So, we are reinventing the craft cocktail and making scotch whisky exciting again.”
Scotchdale, priced around $50 per bottle, is aged for a minimum of eight years in charred American oak bourbon barrels. The silky-smooth product boasts notes of honey, caramel, chocolate, oak and coffee.
With less bite than a 100-proof bourbon, it is designed to be enjoyed neat or folded into a craft cocktail, according to McDonnell.
“We blended two regions, which is unorthodox in nature,” McDonnell discloses. “We came up with what we liked the best, and as two entrepreneurs, we set out to do something that one, satisfied us, but also satisfied others. We sort of have a broad-ranged palette right down the middle. It’s not too overly complex but not overly offensive.”
McDonnell and Ranville designed the label for the bottles, adorned with an outline of Arizona with a cowboy smack in the middle.
Scotchdale’s foundation is built around local support and Arizona pride, McDonnell says.
“We pride ourselves on local support. We go into the bars and restaurants that carry us, and we introduce ourselves as the owners. We order a drink, and we assist with offering up craft cocktail suggestions,” he explains. “That sets us apart from almost any other whisky company. We will sell the product for the bar. We go above and beyond.
“That is one of the hallmarks of why we have been successful,” McDonnell continues. “We have taken the time to introduce ourselves and talk to customers and get them to sample our whisky.”
Neither McDonnell nor Ranville has an extensive food and beverage background, although McDonnell bartended at Hotel Indigo.
Ranville, boasting degrees from Western Michigan University and University of Phoenix, has experience in finance, while McDonnell stems from commercial real estate and renewable energy.
The whisky aficionados recall conducting their own “research” during Scotchdale’s beginning stages in order to get a better handle on how whisky is made.
The pair bought an illegal still and made their own batches, tinkering with videos and test recipes.
“I’m sure anyone going into business for themselves runs into a lot of naysayers,” Ranville laughs. “We jokingly told one another, ‘Well, if the company goes under, at least we have a lifetime supply of whisky.’”
While Ranville and McDonnell intended to acquire bourbon from Kentucky and barrel-age it here, they ran into issues with the Scotch Whisky Association. According to the Association, anything with the name “scotch” in it has to originate in Scotland.
Scotchdale also has to be spelled as “whisky,” which originates from Scotland, Canada and Japan, as opposed to “whiskey,” made from Ireland and the United States.
They contacted several Scottish distilleries, who sent them samples of three-year, eight-year and 12-year blends, before settling on Angus Dundee as its distillery.
Since then, Scotchdale has expanded into Nevada — and Ranville and McDonnell have no intentions of slowing down anytime soon.
“As a small and growing brand, we are hyper-focused on grabbing more on to the grocery market,” McDonnell says. “Long term, I think we have a wonderful product that will spread well nationally, and that is our goal.
“There are a lot of steps to get there, but we’re boots on the ground and we set a mission to go and help bars and restaurants by digital marketing, foot traffic and craft cocktails,” he continues.
Ranville says the pair is also looking to add bourbon in the near future into the mix.
“We are working on a bourbon. It looks like we might be blending or producing out of North Dakota, but it’s still up in the air. It’s almost confirmed,” Ranville adds. “Our future is to create our own bourbon with our own mash bill. That means the ingredients are unique to Scotchdale.”
For more information about Scotchdale, visit scotchdale.net.