Though it's been four years since Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley last shared the screen as brothers Damon and Stefan Salvatore on The CW drama The Vampire Diaries, the real-life best friends haven't missed a beat while creating and developing their joint passion project: bourbon.
In this week's issue of PEOPLE, the duo open about their latest venture, their friendship throughout the years, and whether or not there's a possibility of reprising their Vampire Diaries roles in the future.
"This has been 10 years in the making," Somerhalder, 42, says of their craft bourbon Brother's Bond, which will be available in stores and online May 1. "Our soul is in this bottle."
"A lot of people will put their names on something, and then their heart's not in it," says Wesley, 38. "For us, everything in this bottle is ours. This label, we created, the name, we created, the design, we created, the taste, the mash — everything is our creation. This is about people drinking it together in celebration of something or taking a moment to talk to one another."
"Life is tough," Ian adds. "Life kicks you in the teeth. Your bourbon doesn't need to."
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Somerhalder and Wesley discussed going into business together for years, and the idea of creating bourbon came organically.
"I've always been a bourbon guy," says Wesley. "It's always appealed to my palette. Our characters used to drink a lot of bourbon. Ian and I would go out, during the weekends or after work, and take it easy. And it would always be bourbon. It just become like, second nature."
"If we're going to have a drink, it's going to be bourbon," he continues. "So we became these kind of like, pseudo bourbon snob connoisseurs. We love our bourbon. We know what we like. So that's the genesis of this and that's how this whole thing started. And so we felt like if we're going to do anything together, it has to be bourbon."
"There was no defining moment," adds Ian. "We talked about this over and over and over and the joke is, and it's kind of true, this is not like a friendship. This is like a brotherhood, it's like a marriage. We've been in it together for so long."
Given their history of working side by side, becoming successful business partners came naturally for the pair.
"We've obviously worked together for so long and our characters complemented each other on screen — we were kind of like polar opposites," Wesley explains. "And what's very interesting, is that we both bring the opposite to the table in a positive way. "
"Ian's like the eternal optimist, eternally happy, eternally positive," he adds. "And I'm like, 'Oh, this is going to go wrong. This is going to go wrong.' You can't have one without the other. Kind of like rain and sunshine."
"Well, without the rain, nothing will grow," Somerhalder says.
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While they credit their strong bond to their time spent together on The Vampire Diaries, Somerhalder and Wesley are looking towards the future.
"With all due respect, it was such a great period of my life," Wesley says of his time on the show. "And I'm so grateful, but for me, everyone has chapters and that's that chapter. And this is a new chapter. You don't want to ruin what's already been created."
"I often have said, because I've had this conversation so many times with people and I thought, 'Well, what would that look like?'" Somerhalder says of revisiting his character. "And I can't imagine it."
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