Molecular spirit maker Endless West raises $60M for tech scale-up


Dive Brief:

  • Molecular spirits maker Endless West has raised $60 million in a Series C funding round, bringing its total investment to $95 million. The round was led by Level One Fund and funds managed by UBS O’Connor, Horizons, SOSV, Casa Verde and Rage Capital.
  • Endless West’s molecular process identifies key flavor and aroma molecules in a spirit, and then extracts them from more available sources such as plants, fruits and yeasts to create what it says is a similar quality, less expensive and less resource-intensive end product. The San Francisco-based firm plans to use this latest investment to expand its Blank Collective B2B platform that provides other spirits brands with access to its technology.
  • Endless West, which offers three varieties of its molecular Glyph whisky as well as a sake-inspired spirit and molecular wine, is striving to scale up and share a technology that it considers a viable answer to creating more sustainable and accessible premium alcoholic beverages.

Dive Insight:

At just under $30 per 750-milliliter bottle, Endless West’s spirits are priced in the same ballpark as popular bourbon whiskeys like Maker’s Mark and scotch varieties like Johnnie Walker Black Label. Glyph is sold through various online alcohol retailers and Endless West’s DTC site.

The difference, Endless West claims, is that its production process avoids the time- and money-intensive processes of aging and barreling, but still creates a whiskey-inspired spirit that uses 94% less water and 92% less agricultural land than traditional varieties. The company also likes to point to the recognition its products have received from the wider alcohol community, with nearly 40 awards from various wine and spirits competitions since its first bottle of Glyph reached consumers in 2018.

According to Forbes, Endless West plans to increase its production capacity by 10 to 20 times in a push to help other spirits brands recreate this magic, and improve their margins, ingredient quality and scalability in the process.

“This funding round accelerates Endless West’s mission to become the alcohol industry’s leading supply hub, and further supports the company’s molecular production process in its role as an inevitable technology that is already yielding impressive cost, speed, and environmental benefits for a $1.5 [trillion] global market,” James Stewart, partner at investor Level One Fund, said in a statement.

Since Endless West’s previous funding round in April when it raised $21 million, the prospect of grabbing a slice of the massive spirits market has only become more attractive. According to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, spirits gained 1.7 points of share to command more than 41% of the total U.S. beverage alcohol market in 2021 — its 12th straight year of market share gains. Sales of American whiskey grew more than 6%, while single malt scotch rose more than 14%.

Christine LoCascio, chief of public policy for DISCUS, pointed to the premiumization trend as a growth driver.

“Nearly 82 percent of the spirits sector’s total revenue increase was from the sale of high-end and super-premium spirits brands,” LoCascio said in a statement. “Purchasing luxury spirits to create craft cocktails was a simple pleasure for spirits consumers who hunkered down at home and curtailed spending on vacations and dining out for a second year in a row.”

A reverse-engineered whiskey or other spirit like Endless West’s product — or the brands its Blank Collective partners with — could grab the attention of consumers looking to elevate their drinking.  

Endless West has already inspired a related business seeking to apply molecular reverse engineering to improve other consumable categories. This past September, Voyage Foods emerged from stealth operations and announced it had successfully reverse engineered chocolate, coffee and peanut butter. The startup was founded by Endless West’s former head of R&D, Adam Maxwell.

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