Running a family business brings its own challenges, but adding the trials and tribulations that surround legal cannabis can create headaches no amount of weed can burn away. Alex and Jake Pasternack, the brothers behind Binske, have been able to clear the smoke and transcend it, creating a versatile cannabis brand in four states, with a heavy presence in Colorado.
To learn more about all the branching out that Binske has done, we caught up with one half of the Binkse brothers, executive vice president Alex Pasternack.
Westword: How did you find yourself in legal cannabis?
Alex Pasternack: My first exposure to cannabis was with my older brother, Jake, in Miami, where we were born and raised. In fact, the word "binske" originated around that time and was initially just shared between the two of us. "Binske" is an evolution of the term “doobie,” which we turned into “doobinskey” and later adapted slightly to "Binske" (the “e” is silent).
Ironically, there’s an innocence to those early shared moments: When we decided to create a cannabis brand, we wanted to embody that connectedness we shared. Fundamentally, Binske is a family business. Jake founded the company in 2016 in Colorado, and I joined him here the following year. I’ve always been fascinated by the business of cannabis, and I attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, so I have a deep love for Colorado; it was a perfect fit. We’re launching in California and Florida later this summer, and by this time next year, Binske will be in ten-plus states and multiple continents. Binske will have one of the largest footprints of any cannabis brand in the world by then.
We've always dug the art on your labels. What's the background behind that?
The packaging is an experience in itself; it’s immersive, layered and radiant. The work is so detailed, people find something new every time they look at the package.
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The art is a series of hand-cut collages made by a legendary artist from the U.K. Jake had a vision for the murals as "a fertile vision of utopian communities inspired by the elemental balance of man working symbiotically with nature." When I first heard that, I thought it was a bit over the top, but when I saw the work, I was captivated; I still am. I feel we’ve grown into the packaging, the longer we’re a brand. The more people experience Binske, the more the brand deserves such iconic packaging.
Binske sells flower, concentrates and infused products. What else does Binske make, and why the diversity?
When you’re growing a plant that’s bred to make people happy, you owe it to the world to deliver it in whatever way they prefer to imbibe. From our hive-to-hand honey producer to our Peruvian chocolate partner, they see how special it is to pair commitment and devotion in single product.
When we were initially building our product portfolio, we kept coming back to shared experiences, like those my brother and I had in our early days of sharing a “doobinskey.” We want to provide that opportunity to as many people as we can. And since people consume cannabis in a wide variety of ways, we wanted to provide a wide variety of products. We make everything from edibles to concentrates to flower to topicals, and almost everything in between.
Every product is designed to enhance the moment, whether [people are] at the beach, in the kitchen, around the campfire or hiking. Sometimes the moment calls for live resin, sometimes you want flower, sometimes an edible is better — but in any situation, the moment deserves to be savored. We hope people will pause and appreciate the quality of the product, savor who they’re with or the experience they're having, and allow themselves to be enchanted by the moment.
How do you focus on all those sectors without losing ground to companies that only do one?
For us, this is ultimately about delighting the customer, and the thread that ties everything together is our devotion to the first taste experience. Our aim, regardless of the product type, is to deliver a fantastic multi-sensory experience with every bite, sip or hit.
To do that, we traveled the world to find the right genetics for our strains. In the same way a wine grower finds the perfect starter plant, we cultivated the Binske genetics from some of our favorites to emphasize flavor and bouquet. We wanted to offer a variety of pure, potent — but most important, delectable — strains
It was also important to us that our non-cannabis ingredients were more than just a delivery mechanism for milligrams of THC. We wanted to complement and enhance the cannabis experience with the finest ingredients in the world. We found partners who cherish their own ingredients the way we cherish our plants, such as chocolate sourced from the world’s rarest cacao beans in Peru and locally sourced honey, to name a few.
Further, our business model is really nimble. We’re similar to a production company, like HBO, that pulls together the best ensemble. We’ve got the formula right. We don’t chase trends. We focus on products that we know we can make better than our competition. We have robust processes and intellectual property, outstanding genetics and ingredient sources, and then we license this to experienced growers, so we scale fast while keeping our standards high.
Cannabis-infused honey was pretty rare before you guys showed up. What was the motivation behind that?
From the start, we were focused on making already great experiences, like cooking and dining, more enjoyable. Is there anything honey touches that it doesn’t improve? Cannabis and honey are about savoring moments – they are perfect food partners.
How I use Binske honey depends on my mood. Sometimes after a great yoga session, hot tea and honey are the perfect finish to a day. It’s always a hit when I make Binske honey-barbecue wings for a football game. A couple of years ago at an event in Denver, I made “Pot Toddys” and they were a huge hit. And always, I love using it as a sweetener in a post-workout protein shake! It’s a standard part of workout routine.
What's your favorite way to consume cannabis?
It’s funny, because many people are very particular with the way they consume. For example, Jake is the biggest flower snob I know, and he rarely deviates from that routine. I am a bit more flexible and enjoy good products regardless of format. While I personally now consume more oil than flower, I also love using creams, topicals and, of course, edibles. There is no better way to sleep than on a few milligrams, and use different cannabis products at different times of the day.
What are you favorite strains right now?
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I’ve used a lot of cannabis over the years. I’ve sampled and tested almost everything I can get my hands on — call it competitive research. Currently, my favorite strain is Binske’s Fromage. Fromage is a strain originating from the famous UK Cheese, and it actually has a stinky-cheese flavor and taste. It is such a versatile strain for creativity at times, while at other times allowing me to wind down and reduce overall anxiety.
Where do you see cannabis consumption trends moving over the next few years?
From a consumption perspective, cannabis is going to be a lot like wine. Your budtender will be like a wine sommelier: she’ll invite you to sniff and taste cannabis before you buy it, while the average consumer will understand what terpenes are, what they do and why they matter. There will be cannabis brands like us, who celebrate genetics, craft and experiences, and there will also be cannabis brands who create the boxed-wine equivalent for cannabis.
Every major city will have consumption locations within ten years, and you’ll be buying cannabis edibles at Whole Foods and marijuana lotion at Sephora. Moms will be as likely to post cannabis memes as they are to post wine memes today. In general, I predict (and hope) we are moving toward more normalcy and acceptance for cannabis as a whole. On a more personal level, I hope Binske can help to push for that. I am proud to be selling insanely high-quality products; and if we can share Binske’s celebration ethos with people at scale, that’s a success.