Bringing a narrative experience to the drinking experience- Matthew Lillard talks Quest’s End Whiskey

Matthew Lillard has been making a name for himself outside of Hollywood for a while now with Beadle & Grimm’s high-end D&D products, and his next collaborative venture is another line of boutique gaming culture products: Quest’s End Whiskey. Matthew took some time with us last week to give us the skinny on the first few releases of the line:

Mike Dunn:  Now, when you say fantasy-themed, like I don’t tend to think of whiskey as being a fantasy-themed thing. Like, how are you approaching that in terms of, you know, what you’ve done in the past and how to kind of differentiate this whiskey line, this spirit line on the market?

Matthew Lillard: So there’s 16 different drops that are in this campaign; The first one’s Paladin, the second one’s Rogue, the third one’s Warlock, fourth one’s Dragon. Each one of them is accompanied by a booklet, like sort of a graphic novel. The art is done by Tyler Jacobson, who’s a modern master of fantasy art. And then Kate Welsh has penned the story. So each drop is a continuation of an ongoing story of our hero. Her name is Seron of the Pit. She’s a paladin of this god Inksa. And we meet her in the Gladiator Pits as she’s fighting her last foe before she wins her freedom. So it starts there and it journeys through as all good sort of fantasy stories do with lots of peril and fighting great evil. And hopefully in the end, she’ll be successful and vanquish it. But it’s very exciting. Each bottle has its own different flavor profile. And each bottle changes flavor, it continues the story. So yeah, so Warlock is different than Dragon, and Rogue is different than Paladin. And so yeah, it’s pretty exciting. Very cool.

Mike: So you’re bringing a narrative experience to the drinking experience.

Matthew: Yeah, exactly. We looked at, I think it was Todd Stashwick that said at some point, like the Venn diagram of D&D players and whiskey drinkers is a complete and perfect circle. So we’re just creating the same thing we did with Beedle and Grimm, the idea of presenting a premium box experience around your game. We’re doing the same thing with Whiskey and it’s specifically geared for people in the RPG community and the fantasy sort of aficionados.

Mike: So how did you guys come up with matches between the character archetypes and the flavor profiles of the beer?

Matthew: So we were blessed enough to find a woman named Alé Ochoa,, and she is a master blender. She’s a rising star in the whiskey industry, and we went to her and we sort of laid out the first four drops. And we, as a company, collectively sort of worked towards the trajectory of what the flavors would be. But then, you know, as Seron, our hero, became clearer, Alé read the work that Kate was doing and went out and sort of extrapolated what she saw within the character. And then went into the whiskey world and found samples, brought these samples in, and started to blend a specific whiskey blend that spoke to her as a blender and sort of expressed what she saw in the character. And we did the same thing with Rogue. We haven’t gone out and procured the juice yet for Warlock or for Dragon, but it’s been a really cool process to watch her sort of interpret what she sees on the page and brings to life in the Whiskey.

Mike: Now you said that it’s gonna be accompanied with a kind of a graphic novel, comic book thing that’s illustrated. Are there gonna be anything like little one-shot adventures for D&D players or anything like that? Anything to kind of spice up the game?

Matthew: We have not yet brought that into the mix. We’re hoping that we find an audience. We’re hoping that we speak to an audience in an authentic way, that they sort of come out and enjoy what we’re doing. And in success, and I can totally see that happening. Building a campaign world around the entire venture, building a one-shot, adding dice. We do have something called the High Rollers Guild, which is if you purchase all four bottles at the outset, we’re creating like these one-of-a-kind experiences, like a virtual tasting with Allie and myself and the whole creative team, the idea of like a signed lithograph from Tyler and sort of talking about what we’re doing going forward and how it’s all going to work. So creating community within what we’re doing is super important to us. And, you know, obviously in success, we would I personally would love to, you know, the idea of doing a one shot would be ridiculous.

Mike: I mean, Wizards of the Coast did it with Nerds, the candy, right? So it’s not it’s not a hard of a stretch to do it for a whiskey that’s probably leaning a little more into it than a candy brand would, right?

Matthew: Yeah.I have to say that we, you know, just contractually, we’re not associated with Wizards or D&D. I just take the time to say that every time, so everyone knows for sure it’s not a wizard’s brand.

Mike: Yeah, I mean, you know, a whiskey can still be OGL friendly, right?

Matthew: (Laughs) Yeah, exactly. It’s definitely OGL friendly.

Mike: Well, when is this, when’s the first one coming out?

Matthew: Yeah, so we, if you go to, you can sign up for early access. So it goes on sale the 6th (October), early access is on the 4th. So you get two days, you’ll have early access if you sign up. It’d be great if we got people on board. The good news is that we came to market sort of two weeks ago and the response has been awesome. It’s been really great. We already have 30,000 people signed up on that waiting list. We have 5,000 bottles to move, so we’re pretty hopeful about how it’s gonna go. We’re selling direct to customers, so we can hit, I think, 38 states is where we can go. We don’t go overseas, which is a bummer. But we are working on changing that, right, as we grow, as our first drop. We’re a brand new company. We’ve been building for the last year and a half. And so as we grow, as we become more successful and we find our audience, we’ll continue to expand and bring in more bottles and hopefully add more states and and more ways for people to find it and to continue on the journey with us.

An excerpt from the accompanying narrative

Mike: Yeah, that you actually answered my next question, which was- how can people buy this? It doesn’t sound like something that you can just go to your local liquor store or a place where you buy such things.

Matthew: Yeah, not yet. I mean, not yet. Our hope is that in success, we’ll continue that in, you know, other means of distribution. But we’re, you know, we just go, we gotta get into the batter box first and see if we can hit the damn ball.

Mike: Now, how big is a bottle of, say, paladin? How many ounces is that?

Matthew: Oh good, good question. I don’t really, I’m sure, stand by, hold on a second. I don’t have the bottle, but I do have this, which is a giant standee, because I’m at a convention. (Gets up and walks across the room, comes back with a cardboard standee) That’s the bottle, yeah, that’s the bottle. It’s super handsome. See the shield on the front? That’s what Inksa (Seron) uses in the pit, that’s her mace, and it’s called Paladin. You can see on the side, there’s the hit points. As you drink down you get stronger. And then at the top there’s our logo, our dragon, that’s on every bottle. It’s on my hat. But it’s not as big as this, but it’s pretty damn big.

Mike: Well, I mean, that bottle looks like it could do radiant damage all on its own, to be honest.

Matthew: (Laughs) Absolutely, hopefully. Might eat evil.

Mike: That’s funny that it has the hit points on the side. Have you heard of Rollacrit’s Barcadia? It’s a game. It’s like a bar adventure game where your characters are pint glasses and you drink to remove hit points. You should check it out. Probably the pint glasses are probably a little too big for your whiskey.

Matthew: That’d be a lot. That’d be a lot, yeah. You have to be chosen by a god to finish that. (Laughs)

Mike: Yeah, that might lead to a total party kill of another kind, right? (Both laugh) Well, great. So, I think you might have told me, when is the first bottle shipped out to customers?

Matthew: So, yeah, so we go on sale, like I said, the 4th, and then that’s for early access. And then we ship the first thing in November. So right now, yesterday, we started blending. Our glass just arrived from France. So it’s all coming together. It’s a very sort of exciting thing. You dream something up, you start building it with our partner. You know, we’ve got great partners and great vendors we’re working with. And you know, this is the first, right? The company’s called Find Familiar Spirits. And our whole idea is a can you, instead of being, you know, BevMo has 150 yards of whiskey with 10 shelves up and down. And so we’re not competing with that. We are, our whole idea is to build super cool stuff for very specific, for cultures and fandoms. And really try to execute and deliver for them in a way that’s, you know, that they’ll appreciate and sort of come and be excited about coming back for.

QUEST’S END™ Combines The Storytelling Acumen and Influence of Hollywood with Award-Winning Spirits Craftsmanship To Deliver a Super-Premium Whiskey and a Brand-New Fantasy Saga All In One

  • QUEST’S END: PALADIN, is a super-premium whiskey and a brand-new fantasy saga all in one.
  • Delivered direct-to-consumer, the first collectible, limited release of QUEST’S END will be available this fall, beginning on October 6 and the product will ship in November.
  • This super-premium blend of aged barrels from Kentucky and Indiana will premiere in October with QUEST’S END: PALADIN, to be followed in 2024 by ROGUE, WARLOCK, and DRAGON. Each new release of QUEST’S END will be limited and named after a character, weapon, or location in a larger serialized story, with a separate flavor profile of that release inspired by each character’s role in the story.
  • Three long-time friends whose bond formed through their love of good fantasy and great whiskey – celebrity actor and gaming entrepreneur Matthew Lillard, screenwriter Justin Ware, and Blue Run Spirits co-founder Tim Sparapani – joined forces to form QUEST’S END.
  • Lillard, best known for his legacy in film and television (Scream, Scooby Doo, the upcoming Five Nights at Freddy’s), is also a dedicated tabletop gamer and a successful entrepreneur. He is a co-founder of Beadle & Grimm’s®, one of the world’s preeminent manufacturers of premium boxed editions for tabletop games.
  • The unique flavor profile for the super premium whiskey was concocted by Master Blender and Director of Spirits Alé Ochoa, a former Whiskey Scientist and Blender at TX Whiskey whose bourbons have won top awards at San Francisco Spirits Competition, World Whiskey Awards, and American Whiskey Masters. As one of the few Latina master blenders in the whiskey industry, she’s brought a unique perspective and an incredible talent to the creation of QUEST’S END.
  • Professional Dungeon Master and the first female game designer on Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, Kate Welch, is writing an all-new fantasy saga that will be released in chapters along with each release of QUEST’S END. “The most important aspect of the story creation for QUEST’S END was simply writing good fantasy,” said Welch. “It was important to all of us to celebrate and respect fantasy and gaming fans through our work.”
  • Bottle art and design was created by Tyler Jacobson, a world-renowned artist and illustrator whose portfolio includes numerous works for Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, and more, including the cover art for the 5 th Edition Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide.
  • “I grew up a nerdy kid so I’ve always had a special appreciation for fandoms in general,” said Lillard. “They’re places where you feel like you belong, worlds that appreciate you and love you for who you are. Beadle & Grimm’s was a real eye-opener for me seeing how important and powerful they can be. I’ve learned that true fandom isn’t only about what you love, it’s about the community you build — and no community is more avid and devoted than the fantasy gamer.”
  • “Whether you enjoy tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons®, MMORPGs like World of Warcraft®, the books of J.R.R. Tolkien, or dressing up in cosplay, fantasy is more than just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle,” said Ware. “We saw this as a chance to give back some of the love we’ve gotten from fantasy over the decades, as well as a chance to make some really great whiskey.”

You can sign up to get access to the 48-hr presale here

Editor-in-Chief, Tabletop | [email protected]

Mike Dunn is the old man of Gaming Trend, having cut his teeth on Atari consoles and First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons back in the day. His involvement with Gaming Trend dates back to 2003, and he’s done everything from design and code to writing and managing. Now he has come full circle, with a rekindled passion for tabletop gaming and a recent debut as Dungeon Master (nearly forty years after he purchased the original DMG).

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