Business Setbacks and Bourbon: The 4 Steps To Aging Both The Right Way

Hello and welcome back to the Weekend Wordpour. It's been a bit since I've shared my thoughts on copywriting, content creation, business, whiskey, wine, and how they intermingle.
Over the past two months, I had a bit of a setback.
Okay, it was more like a train derailment.
Setbacks when you're an entrepreneur happen. The longer you're in small business, the more frequently you have to build up your resiliency and learn to overcome them.
Some will be minor. Others will threaten your success.
Not everyone will handle it the same way, but those who get past their setbacks all have gone through a process.
I believe that processing setbacks is a lot like aging bourbon.
Hear me out on this.
Let's start with the setback itself.
When it first presents itself, it's like the freshly distilled spirit.
It's raw, it's strong, it burns, and there isn't much in the way of complexity. It's in your face, knock you down, singe your nostrils stuff coming right at you.
Not exactly something you're going to enjoy the majority of the time, much less go back to for a second pour.
You've got to take some steps to process and temper that setback like you would a "white dog." It takes time to turn it into something approachable and desirable.
There are two important factors to consider when dealing with setbacks and aging bourbon.
  • The environment (determines how fast you'll get to the finished product)
  • The barrel (provides external factors that influence the finished product)


The climate you place your bourbon in to age has a huge impact on how long it takes to get a finished product.
Cold climates mean it takes much longer to get the desirable characteristics you're looking for. Too cold and you don't get the chemical interactions to develop that delicious flavor. Letting it sit in the barrel too long waiting for something to happen without turning up the heat won't get you what you need. All the sweet flavors you're looking for get overpowered by the taste of wood.
Heat speeds the aging process up and creates those chemical compounds to pull out those flavors. It expedites evaporation to remove extra water and volatile compounds. But too much heat doesn't give your bourbon time to integrate flavors. It leaves too much burn and not enough "mellow" in the finished product.
You find the desirable in the balance of the two.
It's the same with setbacks. You aren't going to overcome them if you stay cool and ignore them. But too much heat and you end up with something you can't drink in. It burns. You won't want the end product, nor will anyone around you.


Setbacks get inside a person much like white whiskey gets poured into a barrel. You likely feel like you've been torched emotionally with a setback.
The good news is, you can't have great bourbon without a properly charred barrel!
Newly charred barrels are REQUIRED in the production of bourbon. Believe it or not, those charred emotions you're feeling are what is also required to get through your setback.
As soon as you put whiskey into a barrel, things start to get interesting! The same is true when letting a setback come into contact with your emotions, logic, and perceptions.


Step 1: Extraction
Extraction happens when whiskey starts leaching elements out of the barrel. It provides flavor, color, and mellows out the harsh flavors.
When your "emotional barrel" is used to process a setback, it too will color and flavor your perception of the event. You're pulling out the elements to change the way you see the event. Your emotions determine whether you will get a smooth and enjoyable end result. If you don't take the time to pull out what you're feeling, you're likely not going to end up with anything desirable in the end.
Step 2: Evaporation
Evaporation is essential to the aging process in whiskeys and bourbons. It removes water, alcohol, and certain compounds (not always wanted), and indicates a healthy product.
Evaporation is also a healthy step in overcoming a setback. You let go of certain things that weigh you down: emotions, negative feedback, destructive behaviors. You might have lost a little momentum as a result, but what remains is more than enough to build from. What remains is something you can reintroduce and market from a point of strength.
Step 3: Oxidation
Your barrel is porous. Your bourbon will be exposed to oxygen. But this "airing out" is a benefit! It helps both the extraction and evaporation processes that take place within the barrel.
Airing out your setbacks can also help you. It allows you to mellow out your feelings, get rid of what doesn't benefit you, and improve your product.
But be careful of exposing it to TOO much oxygen. Both in wine and your setbacks, airing it out too much leaves you with a bad taste...for you AND those around you.
4: Concentration
You've extracted elements from the barrel.
You've lost the excess water and volatile compounds through evaporation.
What you have left is your bourbon in its delicious form.
When you concentrate on the lessons and events that led to your setback, and what you can do to overcome them, you end up with something beautiful. It makes you and your business stronger, more approachable and pleasing. It becomes something you want to reach for over and over again. It turns into something others want to take part in as well.

Final Thoughts

Setbacks are rough, there's no denying it. But they don't have to be unpleasant and unpalatable. Think of them as the raw ingredients you need to process it into something amazing.
Then next time you're hit with the unexpected, pull up a chair, grab a glass, and believe in the process. Once you're finished, you'll have something in the end that's worth toasting.
Sheral~ Founder of C3 Specialties