Kentucky's Vintage Spirits Law Turns Dusties Into Profit

courtesy Bardstown Bourbon Co.

courtesy Bardstown Bourbon Co.

After seven books (most recently all about Mead), a very successful annual music festival called Bourbon and Beyond, years as the Bourbon Authority for the Kentucky Derby Museum, and bylines in Whisky Magazine, The New York Times, and more, Fred Minnick is writing a new chapter.

“For years people have emailed me to ask hey what's this bottle worth what’s that bottle worth,” recalls Minnick. “So with the Vintage Spirits Law passing I saw a unique opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do but I didn’t want to go to jail for it.”

In January of this year, Kentucky’s Vintage Spirits Law took effect, which means that all of those dusties in your grandma’s basement and your neighbor’s attic now have a legal market for resale within the Commonwealth.

“I started helping people find things. There are a handful of people who can look at a bottle and give the history behind it,” explains Minnick. It’s not always a matter of looking at a tax strip for the distilled and bottled dates. There’s the matter of determining whether there is counterfeiting or whether the contents could still be drinkable.

Minnick is starting a venture he calls the Signature Series, which is basically a mashup of vintage whiskey brokering and curation of whiskey collections. He’s already had his first client, the Bardstown Bourbon Company’sBottle & Bond Kitchen and Bar.

“The Bardstown Bourbon Company was very gracious about letting me kind of build whatever I wanted. So I basically built my dream bar with someone else’ s money.” Included on the drinks menu are bottles from the late 1800s all the way through about ten years ago, in addition to wine, local beers, mocktails, craft cocktails, and more.

“I think the hallmark bottle in there is from the 1890s. It’s from Cedarbrook, which was McBrayer in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. It was one of those highly counterfeited popular brands that got a lot of love, especially in the Cincinnati area. It had a very specific region in which it was popular. That bottle has some really important heritage to Kentucky, but it also means a lot to Cincinnati,” says Minnick.

photo by Maggie Kimberl

photo by Maggie Kimberl

He continues, “The one that makes the most sense for me, the very first thing that I sought, was the entire chess board from the Old Crow Chessmen. That’s the best bourbon I ever tasted and that’s why it was so important. It was very consistent. There’s usually a lot of evaporation - some taste like sublime blissfulness and others taste like shoe leather.”

That’s why hunting for vintage spirits requires so much skill and knowledge. “It’s kind of a crap shoot. You just don’t know what you’re going to get.”

This vintage whiskey curation service is going to make a positive impact on the tasting bars across the Commonwealth, opening yet another opportunity for tourists to experience bourbon history in an immersive way. Just don’t expect Minnick to work with you unless you care as deeply about bourbon history as he does.

“I want to work with someone who gets what the history of bourbon is and who wants to extend what we already know. This isn’t about money for me. It’s about getting to tell the history of bourbon through an experiential effort. Every bottle is a little piece of history.”

You can make reservations for Bottle & Bond Kitchen and Bar on Open Table. Hours are Sun-Wed  11am-5pm and Thurs-Sat 11am-close.