That’s the Spirit
The creation of a vodka brand is a toast to a father
By Ray Owen » Photos by Brandon Williams
Worth Mitchell is a lifelong entrepreneur, a Southern gentleman, and relatively new to the Sandhills. He and his wife, Tina, are founders of Kvell Spirits, aka Kvell Vodka & Rum. Launched in 2018, this premium brand is the culmination of years of research and refinement – sparked by Mitchell’s love and admiration of his late father.
He grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, his family prominent in banking going back for well over a hundred years. “My strongest childhood memory is of my father,” says Mitchell. “He’d take me camping and bike riding, we’d shoot hoops and go to football and basketball games. He introduced me to all kinds of people, like Michael Jordan – they were friends.”
This fast-paced life dotted with frequent Big Moments sparked a wanderlust in Mitchell. Long before the idea of creating a vodka brand, in his early twenties he began investing in the acquisition and excavation of Spanish galleon shipwrecks. “I had been fascinated by pirates my entire life, not so much the violence but the whole treasure part of it. As a kid when we’d go to the beach, I always thought I was going to find something – a diamond ring, Rolex watch or maybe a real gold doubloon,” he reminisces. When treasure was found among the shipwrecks, Mitchell had the option of reinvesting his returns or retaining a portion of the artifacts. He decided to hold onto the artifacts and says: “it’s probably going to a museum at some point in time.”
In 2002, Mitchell learned that his father was diagnosed with early onset dementia, and in 2015 during the development of Kvell, his father lost his courageous battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Among the many life lessons his father taught him was the pleasure of a well-made drink and the word “cheers” – a simple expression of good wishes to those around you.
“As a child, we didn’t have cell phones or answering machines,” Mitchell recalls. “With pad and pen I would have to relay information to my father.”
Mitchell’s father was not a typical CEO Banker because of his position in a family-controlled bank. His fiduciary responsibility was to be the best steward of funds entrusted to him, and he was most adamant about providing for those that needed a helping hand in achieving the dream of home ownership.
“I remember him making loans on a handshake,” says Mitchell. “Sometimes there were good, hard-working people who fell upon hard times and didn’t qualify. Those were often the best bets, so to speak. They would never do you wrong because you gave them a chance when they were down on their knees in the middle of a storm.” Mitchell recalls that sometimes Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan or President Ronald Reagan would call their house wanting a snapshot of the true economic state and climate from a banker’s perspective.
“I remember this one time, my dad took me to his office on a Saturday when I was nine years old. He had to get something out of the main safe, and when he opened the door there were stacks and stacks of cash. My dad said ‘It’s okay, you can pick it up, just don’t take it out of the bindings.’ I was just so enthralled with that.”
Mitchell crafted his Kvell line with the help of mixologists and chemists using the highest quality ingredients and spring water from mountainous regions. “Pure vodka is almost odorless, tasteless and colorless,” says Michell. “The best way to consume it is at room temperature, like a fine wine, with no ice, no heat, no twist, or garnishing of any kind.”
What happens when you sip vodka that has the proper flavor balance and alcohol percentage, you get warmth and a very smooth, almost sweeter than expected finish and your palate is completely neutral for seven to nine seconds. “It’s a refreshing taste,” says Mitchell. “It’s almost like exhaling – damn, I needed that!”
“At the end of the day, what I’m really trying to create are positive memories and the true ability for self-reflection. The human body, by nature, puts up walls and barriers to guard itself. Just like a scab when you scratch yourself is what the blood does as a protective mechanism. The world can be hectic at times and one needs a place of escape from everyday life.”
“Sometimes we have trouble retracing our footsteps,” says Mitchell. “Normal, responsible consumption gives you the ability to thoroughly enjoy yourself and think deeply. That’s why I always tell everybody to go outside, listen to the frogs and crickets and katydids, and watch the sunset with the evening approaching and fireflies dancing in the air.”
“Think about today, what happened – how can your tomorrow be better or what was something that you never want to forget. Write it down, put it in a book – unlike the Egyptians, I’m not so sure that we have a second opportunity.”
As for the brand name, Mitchell came across it through his word of the day subscription. “I had so much trouble coming up with the right name and I thought it might spark something,” he says. “One day, ‘kvell’ turned up. It’s a Jewish term meaning ‘overwhelming pride and joy’ and I thought it was really cool.” Inspired by his father and his approach to life and ambition, the vodka brand is an entrepreneurial toast to his dad.