‘This Is Us’ star Justin Hartley on investing in Revel Spirits

November 28, 2021, 1:30 PM UTC

Justin Hartley is an actor, director, and producer, known for his role in NBC’s drama television series This Is Us. His work on the show has earned Hartley two consecutive Critics’ Choice Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Hartley, alongside his This Is Us co-stars, won the 2018 and 2019 SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series. In film, Hartley has appeared in The Hunt, Little, and A Bad Moms Christmas. He also launched a production company called ChangeUp Productions in 2019.

Hartley recently spoke with Fortune to share more about another venture: his investment in the super-premium alcohol brand, Revel Spirits.

Justin Hartley
Courtesy of Jimmy Seargeant, Revel Spirits
  • Name of startup: Revel Spirits
  • Year founded: 2012
  • Valuation: Declined to disclose
  • Investment level: Seven-figure Series B
  • Number of employees: 40
  • Location: Los Angeles
  • Other major investors: Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds
Revel Avila debuted in 2012 with three expressions: blanco, reposado, and añejo.
Courtesy of Revel Spirits

Why he invested, in his own words

I have always been interested in chemistry. I can’t stop trying to wrap my brain around it. Because of my love for chemistry, one of the things that it led me to was brewing beer. I just thought it was so incredible that you can take malted hops, yeast, and water and make beer. And you can make a Hefeweizen, a lager, an ale, a pilsner, and the flavor profiles are so different. I ended up starting to brew myself but then I got away from that and got busy with other things.

A few years ago, I met Micah [McFarlane, Revel Spirits co-founder and CEO] through a sort of odd circumstance. He thought I was someone else and approached me and was so friendly that I didn’t know what was going on. I was thinking, “Do I know this man? Because it seems like he knows me!” He later apologized saying he thought I was someone else, but we struck up a new conversation, now based on who we really are, and we talked about what he was doing. I told him that I had always had a passion for the chemistry of brewing and the distilling process. And we just got to talking and figured out how he could introduce me to a world I’ve always been fascinated by and how I could help him.

Revel is the only brand that I own and invest in. I truly believe in it. We are introducing a whole new spirits category to the industry and that doesn’t happen often. You have vodka, gin, rum, tequila, whiskey, Irish whiskey—but avila is a whole new category. It is an agave-based spirit, but we don’t make it like tequila or mezcal. We combine the processes of the two. We have a blanco, a reposado, and an añejo. All three flavor profiles are so different. The reposado is something that I drink quite often and is smooth and you taste the oak because it is aged for 12 months in whisky oak barrels. The blanco is great for margaritas and the añejo is aged for 24 months in French oak. The añejo almost drinks like a Scotch. The brand has become like a baby to me. I care about it so much and I want the right message to get out. It becomes a mission that people understand the difference between tequila, mezcal, and avila.

I’m not silent at all as a partner. I have an opinion about everything, whether it’s about the weight of the bottle, or the matte finish on the box. Everything. We are about to launch an agave spritz and it’s a cocktail in a can, an expression of avila. I was involved in the work that went into the canned cocktails. I cannot tell you how many different versions of each of the four flavors we decided on. It was incredible. I have a lot to say about the subject. We have Zoom meetings every Monday and I make most of them unless I’m on set.

I was drawn to Micah because of his honesty and where he was with the business and where he saw it going. It was his willingness to share with me both his dream scenario versus the actual practicality of the business and what’s going on in the marketplace. And also quite honestly, it’s good! It’s the best agave spirit I’ve ever had in my life. When you invest in something, you look at the potential to earn money. And also, does it go with—and I hate when people talk this way, but I can’t think of another way to say it—does it go along with your brand? Does it make sense? In other words, you’ll see a guy endorsing something and you think to yourself, “Well, that guy doesn’t wear those shoes.”

You are trusting other people with your money when you invest. If you can invest in a company or a brand where you believe in the people, and their heart, and you use the products and know they are good, I think you win.

This is an installment of Why I Invested, a series featuring famous investors from all different backgrounds and industries, revealing what inspired them to invest their own money in a new business.