Matti Anttila of Grain & Barrel
How were you introduced to hunting?
I was introduced to hunting by my grandfather in Finland. He was in Finnish special forces in WWII and was quite a remarkable shot. I used to spend summers there growing up and was usually able to catch the beginning of duck, partridge and pheasant seasons before I left to go back to school. As I got older I would participating in fox hunts during the fall and winter and then was invited on my first moose hunt as a teenager.
Tell us about your first hunt?
I remember one of my first hunts when I was probably 9 or 10. I was pheasant hunting with my grandfather. I remember taking a shot, but not being 100% focused. My grandfather quickly followed up with a shot that was spot on. I realized at that point that I needed to become a better / more focused shot as I wouldn’t being seeing many second chances otherwise.
How did you get into the spirits business?
I was working down in Brazil for JP Morgan’s investment bank in my 20’s. I discovered Brazil’s national spirit cachaca, which was big down there, but relatively unknown in the U.S. I didn’t love what I was doing and thought building a spirits brand would be a lot more fun.
What’s one hunting skill that you most want to improve?
I do a lot of wingshooting and have always struggled with left crossing shots.
What conservation organizations do you support with your time and money?
This past year I’ve donated to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Unlimited. I experienced my first Elk hunt a couple years ago in Montana and had a phenomenal time. It was my first experience big game hunting in the states. Since then I’ve broadened my support for conservation groups beyond just birds. I’ve also collaborated with the local DU chapter in Charleston for SEWE, providing Dixie for events. It’s something I look forward to doing more of as we expand the brand.
In all of the years of hunting what is the most important lesson you have learned from the outdoors?
To relax and just enjoy being out there. Somedays I’m shooting great, other days I’m off, but at the end of the day it’s all about being out in nature. I think that applies to a lot of things in life. We can get caught up with the task at hand, but we forget to step back and reflect on the beauty around us.
Tell me how and where Dixie Vodka is made and what makes it so unique.
Dixie comes out of Charleston, South Carolina, an amazing city with phenomenal people and a rich history. Everything is sourced regionally, so it really is a true Southern product. We distill it 6x from non-GMO corn and then use an extra finishing step to create an exceptionally smooth vodka. For our flavored varieties, we source and blend natural ingredients into our base vodka, all with a unique regional angle. My favorite is our black pepper vodka. We seep Serrano peppers and Szechuan black pepper corn in separate batches for one week each, and then blend them back together. The result is a fantastic, savory pepper vodka that is exceptional in a bloody mary.
What do you like to drink after a hunting day/weekend/trip?
I had a fun experience in England last year shooting pheasant and partridge where they drank before, during and after. Lots of fun, but not recommended. For me it depends on the temperature. If it’s cool and a fire is going I’ll usually have a Dixie Mule or our Chicken Cock bourbon on the rocks with a splash of water. If it’s warmer I like our Dixie Southern Vodka with club soda and a lime. Keep it simple and refreshing. For those morning duck hunts where we’re done for the day before lunch I’ll definitely go for a Dixie Bloody Mary.
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