Barrel Blending at Wenzel Whiskey

Barrel Blending at Wenzel Whiskey (Photo by Meet NKY )

Blending is trending, and Bill Whitlow is making the most of the craze by launching Wenzel Whiskey- an interactive, hands-on custom bourbon experience in Northern Kentucky.

“People are now realizing that blending can be used to enhance the best features of different distillates,” he explains. “Something rich can be enhanced by something bright and something with a better mouthfeel.”

An expert mixologist and owner of Rich’s Proper Food and Drink, Whitlow has earned 15 years of experience running bourbon bars, the last decade spent in Covington.

“When I moved here just ten years ago, I was finding bottles on the shelf that make people’s jaws drop now,” he recalls. “In that short period of time, bourbon has become the fastest-growing spirit in the country.”

The storied Wenzel digs, housed in an 1873 brick Tobacco Alley building, are named for the property’s original owner. The airy event space has enjoyed past lives as a whisky and soda bottling facility, a pickle factory, a steam die manufacturer, and an African American Oddfellows Hall. These days, visitors can rent the artsy upper rooms as Airbnb accommodations while Whitlow hosts bourbon blending sessions below for $35 per person.

Participants receive plastic pipettes to concoct their own unique blends from four samples (all barrel-proof and aged at least four years), tasting along the way to create a final product just the way they want.

“We always include two different Kentucky barrels and currently have barrels from Indiana and Louisiana,” Whitlow describes. “The experience usually lasts around an hour; it can go longer depending on how much you really get into it.”

At the end of the visit, customers can purchase a bottle of their creation for $90- with their name, final proof, and ABV on the label- but it’s not required. Wenzel also offers a ready-to-purchase Proprietor’s Blend in the gift shop for $120 that comingles two different five-year Kentucky bourbons, a six-year Indiana bourbon, and a six-year Louisiana bourbon, clocking in at 119.6 proof.

Customers have ranged from corporate teams, bartenders, and bourbon bigwigs to families and couples looking to create custom bottles for their upcoming weddings. The blending sessions also make a fun complementary activity to include in Northern Kentucky B-Line Bourbon Trail or Kentucky Bourbon Trail itineraries.

“Each distillery is beautiful in its own way and has its own rich history, but after a few days of hearing all about how bourbon is made, you just want to get your hands dirty,” he says. “That’s where we come in. You not only learn a bit about producing our way, you get to be the blender and take home something to remember the experience by.”

Cheers to that.

Group blending activity at Wenzel Whiskey

Group blending activity at Wenzel Whiskey (Photo by Meet NKY)