This woman-owned vodka brand will make you feel warm and fuzzy

Kjersten Merila toasts her new vodka atop Mt. Bierstadt in Colorado.

Kjersten Merila toasts her new vodka atop Mt. Bierstadt in Colorado. Courtesy of Her Spirit

It’s probably happened to you: You’re on vacation, swept away by the carefree high of not having to worry about work and bills for a few days, seduced by serene surroundings, convinced it’s time to make a major change in your life like starting a business or switching careers.

Then you return from whence you came and the dream dies a quick death at the hands of day-to-day life.

Well, here’s a story of a dream that didn’t die. On the way home from a road trip where she and her husband toured distilleries in Kentucky, Kjersten Merila decided it was time to start making vodka. It was an idea she and her husband Steve, founder of Big Woods Brewery, had been kicking around for a while, and she says, “driving home, I decided I wanted to do this."

But her dream was bigger than just bringing another boutique spirit to the market. As 100 percent owner, Merila hopes to inspire more women to pursue their entrepreneurial goals, both by example and with cold, hard cash.

The new brand, called Her Spirit, will invest half of its annual profits in women-owned start-up businesses to help other women fulfill their dreams. “I want this to be bigger than myself,” says Merila.

She feels so strongly about her mission that although the brand won’t have any sales in 2016 (a March 2017 debut is planned), Merila will demonstrate her commitment to the cause by personally investing $5,000 in the fund.

“The achievement of starting and working on Her Spirit is incredible, but is outweighed by the rewarding feeling of contributing," Merila says.

She doesn’t have any immediate plans to build a distillery, but Merila's vodka will be bottled and packaged locally, using a multi-column distillation process for a clean, crisp flavor. Eventually, Merila hopes to make the brand available nationally, so the give-back can be as big as possible. We'll drink to that.

Her Spirit