Throughout the month of November, we plan to spotlight Ontario businesses that are focused on sustainability and interview a member of their leadership group. Not only will this help us learn from businesses in our industry, but it will also spotlight local businesses during this unprecedented time where a lot of local businesses could use the exposure. This week’s interview is with a Moonshine distillery that incorporates sustainable business practices. We interviewed Ben Murphy, the founder of Murphy’s Law.
Founded in 2016, Elmira-based Murphy’s Law is a distillery that specializes in authentic Appalachian Moonshine. Murphy’s Law has taken on projects to produce hand sanitizer and established a partnership with the Food Bank of Waterloo Region to produce “no-waste” Vodka. This community centric and sustainability-based business continues to produce quality products that are available nationwide.
(Questions and responses have been lightly edited for clarity)
Food Fight (FF): What was the inspiration behind Murphy’s Law?
Murphy’s Law (ML): It is a long story that kind of came randomly. In high school, I was getting a lot of attention from schools in the States for cross country and track and field. I got several college offers and I decided to go to a school in West Virginia on an athletic scholarship. While at college I had a friend, who made moonshine with his dad and I really liked it. Making and selling moonshine became a hobby of mine while I was at school, but I did not originally plan to pursue it as a career. One of the main reasons I chose the school in West Virginia is because the cross-country coach was a former Marine and I thought he would be able to help me pursue becoming a police officer. The school offered Psychology which I was interested in as it could further my possible career in law enforcement. However, I sustained a boxing injury, and the surgery was botched, resulting in the loss all hearing in my right ear. In turn, this meant I could no longer pursue becoming a police officer, so I decided to start selling Moonshine as a business. Now our Moonshine is available nationwide through our website. It is also available in the LCBO stores and we are starting to sell it in other provinces as well.
FF: How has the pandemic impacted your business?
ML: The pandemic brought a number of challenges. We had to close our store for a period of time and can no longer offer tours of our distillery, but it also brought about several opportunities. When the pandemic started, I decided to make hand sanitizer for my family and friends. My brother is on a hockey scholarship in Arizona and through him, I realized the growing need for hand sanitizer worldwide. We started to make more hand sanitizer for first responders. This led to us landing a contract with a privately owned company in Germany to make hand sanitizer. One of the biggest problems we ran into was that there was a bottle shortage, we didn’t have anything to put our hand sanitizer in. What ultimately made this project successful was the community support. Once we reached out to the community for bottles everyone and anyone was sending us bottles. Some local companies that provided us with a lot of bottles were Home Hardware and Princess Auto. Without the community’s support we would not be able to have the success that we do.
FF: What was the inspiration and story of creating the “no waste” Vodka?
ML: A couple people from our business visited the Food Bank of Waterloo Region and they showed us what they call the “Waste Room”. We could not believe how much food is wasted and we started to think of ways we could use the food that would otherwise be wasted. A lot of this food was either about to expire or a place like a grocery store would not take it because it didn’t “look” good. We visited with Trevor Hurley from Hurley Markets who has worked with us on some of our Moonshines and we came up with the idea of making alcohol from food waste. You can really make alcohol from anything that has sugar. One day the Food Bank dropped off 2000 pounds of food waste and we started the fermentation process to pull the alcohol.
FF: What were some of the challenges you ran into making the “no waste” Vodka?
ML: We ran into a lot of challenges when we started this process. When converting starches to sugars we had to use an enzyme which created its own complications. We also had trouble with keeping the fermentation process going because we had to make sure the pH and yeast were at the right levels to ensure a good product. As well, we were working in the summer so there was high humidity making contamination an issue if we had opened the sills too early.
FF: Do you have any plans of doing another project like the “no waste” Vodka?
ML: Sustainability has always been at the core of our business, so if another opportunity like that came up, we would jump on it. Sustainability initially started as a cost savings measure. With the pandemic it really reinforced the importance of being self-sustaining. The pandemic had a large impact on our suppliers, so we have taken on more sustainable practices to become more self-sustaining. We give our leftover grains to farmers to use as fattener and our water that is used for cooling is used later in the supply chain process. As a business, we try our best to recycle or re-use as much as we can.
FF: What are some of your future goals for Murphy’s Law?
ML: We plan to continue developing new products and establishing new collaborations. As well, our product is now being sold in stores in BC, Newfoundland, and Alberta. We are also exploring new fields that we could sell in.
FF: Is there anything else you would like to promote or share?
ML: If you want to learn more about Murphy's Law you can find their website here and links to their social media pages below:
FF: Thank you so much for your time! I look forward to trying some Moonshine very soon. It is amazing to see the work you continue to do in the community during this crazy time!