“The honey-rye whiskey takes you to an unexpected place, from (its) peppery start – spiraling around the tip of your tongue – to the languid motion, as it slips pensively down the throat (and) into the gullet.”Forbes
This is not the first time the sweet taste of honey prompted a woman to build a hive of happiness. When Claire Marin was introduced to beekeeping in 2003, it became the catalyst for a new life, the creation of a start-up company and a meaningful way to help influence her local community in the Catskill region of New York state. But what I really wanted to know was why a top advertising executive would leave her job for a beekeeping hobby?
Claire is the founder and CEO of Catskill Provisions, which produces Honey Rye Whiskey and a host of other artisanal products like pancake and waffle mix, aged honey apple cider vinegar, and chocolate honey truffles. Her love of bees and honey are the core of her business.
(Photo Credit, Left): David White Studio NYC)
Beekeeping became an obsession for Claire who studied the work ethic and female-centric nature of bees. Claire’s deep and instant connection prompted her to recognize a common thread she also saw in women. Bees do what women do every day – they make things happen with hard work and adaptability.
This insight surfaced after I first met Claire at a whisky tasting event in New York City in late December of 2017. Her impressive business success was eclipsed only by her desire to help others in the Catskill community. Claire was one of a number of forward-thinking advocates who recognized the potential of the Catskill region located about 100 miles north of NYC in the Appalachian Mountain range.
The farm-to-table craze in the food industry had become wildly popular in 2010, and both the marketability and long-term health benefits were gaining momentum. Claire hoped to capitalize on the Catskill’s unique wildflower honey and natural vegetation. Despite becoming an overused term, the farm-table movement was refreshingly positive because it also celebrated farmers and connected them to chefs and mixologists!
The Catskills, once an economically challenged area, has blossomed into a revitalized tourist industry with a host of boutique restaurants, charming hotels, and artisanal shops. Naturally, all kinds of local organic products have made their way into the product line of Catskill Provisions, including organic wheat stone ground in their pancakes.
Because it’s expensive to certify every ingredient as organic, not all of the Catskill products have this label. But their chefs have forged a trusted relationship with local farmers and beekeepers to ensure the highest quality ingredients. (To learn more about their products, visit CatskillProvisions.com)
Despite Claire’s advocacy and company success, there was still a larger question that bothered me when I attended the New York City tasting. Sure, I was distracted by the yumminess of her product offering after I snafued the last whiskey taster.
As a self-professed wine connoisseur and, at best, a curious neophyte whiskey voyageur, the Catskill whiskey was unlike anything I had tried. Its deep golden color hinted at the honey flavor, but the sweet taste was balanced by a smooth yet tart nutty flavor.
Why did Claire, who did not have a drop of industry experience in product development nor production, give up her former executive lifestyle, not to mention the swanky travel opportunities that came with her job? From a business perspective, Claire zeroed in on the money to be made in products that contained two words: organic and local. Furthermore, she knew a thing or two about distribution – Catskill Provisions is currently sold in NY, NJ, PA and CA. All this was certainly bolstered by the fact that thewhiskey industry was also rapidly growing.
What you don’t see in her resume, however, is the pivotal reason and truth that mitigates the riskiness of Claire’s venture: she understood the secret life of bees! Claire harnessed the skills that came naturally to her, while carefully exploring the possibilities for honey products because she understood the lessons manifest in nature. Bees provide clues or ‘secrets’ about life. They teach us to follow our natural inclinations and to harness the industry that comes from organization, a collaborative work ethic and a commitment to their mission.