Marsh and Jan Mokhtari had an epiphany on a camping trip to Big Sur and McWay Falls in 2015.
Marsh had hosted food and adventure shows on the Network, National Geographic, and the Travel Channel, while Jan worked in the advertising world for major corporations.
“Two days up there with the kids reading Harry Potter in a hammock overlooking the Pacific Ocean, life was pretty damn good,” Marsh recalled. “Jan and I had these conversations about what are we doing? You have to show up to get paid to be in front of the camera. It's not the worse life in the world I know, but when you don't have any control over that, it can become a little tedious.”
Jan had the thought, “What am I doing that is good in the world?”
“Can we look back and say that we made a good dent and we changed the world and pushed it into a positive direction?” Jan said. “Sitting there and looking at our girls, we were thinking that's a lesson we want to teach them. In a lot of ways we were having success, but what is success? For me I was working for large corporate companies and I was doing something creative, which I love, but I wasn't making a direct impact in doing something good.”
During that time at Big Sur, with the gray whales making their long migration below them in the Pacific Ocean, the couple came up with idea of developing a distillery that celebrates California while contributing to the coastal environment.
The Golden State Distillery, headquartered in Manhattan Beach, was formed and with it Gray Whale Gin.
“It gave us goosebumps to know that this creature does this,” said Marsh about the 12,000-mile migration. “We thought if we're going to call it the Gray Whale, it has to be iconic.”
With every sale, Gray Whale Gin partners with groups such as Oceana, which works to protect and restore the world's oceans, and 1 Percent for the Planet, which inspires businesses and people to donate at least 1 percent of sales to environmental causes, among other organizations.
One of Oceana's campaigns is to eliminate drift grillnets, which are harmful to whales and other large ocean animals off the California coast.
Gray Whale Gin, which is six-time distilled and has a gluten-free corn base, is distilled and bottled in Sebastopol, Calif., and is crafted from “locally sourced organic or wild foraged ingredients.” The botanicals used in the recipe, which took more than 150 tries to get correct, according to Marsh, come from all over California, including juniper berries from Big Sur to limes from Baja.
The blue bottle is also eco-friendly, from organic paint to a biodegradable cork. The whale tail on the bottle features a map of the California coastline which represents the “journey, not the destination,” according to Jan.
Marsh said in the end the company was formed for their children.
“It sounds weird to say you started a booze company for your babies, but it was about protecting and preserving this coastline and creating a product we can be proud of,” Marsh said.
For more information, visit graywhalegin.com.