Jeff Erkkila is co-founder, owner, and Chief Research Officer of Earl Giles Bottling Company & Distillery. To say Jeff has made the rounds and paid his dues in the service industry is a severe understatement. With 20+ years of restaurant experience, Jeff has done it all from dishwasher to executive chef, line cook to bar manager, rolling sushi in Sayulita, Mexico to conducting Fishmonger classes as an instructor at Coastal Seafoods.
A graduate of the Arts Institute MN Culinary Arts School in 2005, Jeff continued perfecting his craft by extracting and transforming flavors of fresh raw ingredients into something magical. While in Lake Tahoe, California, Jeff took to gardening and learned about botanicals, herbs, and vegetation. He built a foundational understanding of plants and how to get the best out of them.
In 2009, influenced by iconic bartenders Nick Kosevich and Jesse Held, Jeff took his culinary knowledge and applied it to the bartending world. He scratch-made custom beverage composites, cordials, bitters, ginger beer and house-made vermouths for the bar program of Town Talk Diner, Eat Street Social, Parlour Bar and Constantine to name but a few.
In 2015, the culmination of years of hard work in the kitchen and behind the bar came to fruition when Jeff and Jesse Held founded Earl Giles Bottling Company. Starting out, they focused on non-alcoholic cocktail composite syrups, cordials, elixirs and ginger beer. However, they quickly realized there was a further opportunity for expansion and the dream of Earl Giles Distilling was born.
Additionally, as a homebrewer himself and having worked with multiple local craft brewers over the years, the art of making beer and the process of distillation is simply another area of knowledge he adds to his impressive range of talent. In 2018 he attended a Distillery Startup Workshop and Distillation Course at Oregon State University. While there he gained the knowledge and skills needed to launch his very own distillery. Oregon State University’s Food Science & Technology department is world renowned for their work in beer, cider and spirits. During the workshop, he learned from industry-leading experts, to include Dr. Paul Hughes (PhD – Chemistry).
In 2019, Jeff headed to Louisville, Kentucky, and successfully completed a series of intense and vigorous distillation courses at Moonshine University. Befriended by industry giants, Jeff was able to expand his network and create an incredible support system of long-time and proven Master Distillers to guide him along his journey.
In January 2021, Jeff took to the road to intern at Cerdo Negro Destileria in Sayulita, Mexico, for four weeks. While there, he learned first-hand how to develop rum, gin, and whiskey from start to finish. Rum was his passion project and he soon realized he could harness Earl Giles’ flagship ingredient, piloncillo sugar, to create what will be the crown jewel of their spirit portfolio.
The evolution of Jeff’s career path has brought him to this pinnacle moment. All of the experiences, knowledge, and networking expertise he has gained over two full decades has fully prepared him to operate a distillery and lead Earl Giles Distillery into the future.