On Friday, when the first bottle of Buzzard’s Roost Straight Rye Whiskey is cracked open at its launch party, Bourbons Bistro co-owner Jason Brauner officially will be part of an industry he’s longed to join since he was a kid.
Technically, Brauner and his thriving Clifton-area restaurant are a formidable part of the bourbon industry and are partly responsible for its popularity today, having opened in 2005 — long before eight distilleries opened downtown, long before the Old Fashioned came back into fashion and long (but not too long) before a bottle of Pappy was impossible to find.
But as of Friday, Brauner will have his own product on the shelf, right next to bottles made by his heroes and mentors — unless, of course, he sells out in one fell swoop.
Jason Brauner, co-owner of Bourbons Bistro, with his new rye whiskey. | Photo by Sara Havens
That can’t really happen, however, as some of his bottles already have been distributed all over town and even up to northern Kentucky. But the launch party at The Wine Rack, located near Bourbons Bistro, will likely put a hurtin’ on his inventory.
Brauner tells Insider he’ll be releasing two bottles — the Buzzard’s Roost Straight Rye Whiskey Single Barrel and the Buzzard’s Roost Straight Rye Whiskey Small Batch. While both are 105 proof, the former will retail for $70 and the latter $50. There are about 200 bottles of the single barrel available and 700-800 of the small batch.
As a lover and collector of bourbon and someone who is around it on a daily basis — and has been for years — Brauner wants to be honest and upfront about his products.
He says he and his business partner sourced the rye whiskey from MGP, a large distillery in Lawrenceburg, Ind., that often produces bourbons and whiskeys for private labels. He then took the almost three-year-old juice and re-barreled it in new, proprietary toasted oak barrels he got from Independent Stave Co. in Lebanon, Ky.
The rye whiskey sat an additional two months in those freshly toasted barrels, with the hope of adding delightful notes like warm caramel, vanilla and baked fruit to the already spicy whiskey.
Brauner says this release will be the first of many more to come, and he’d eventually like to get into contract distilling and eventually opening up a distillery of his own some day.
“This is something I’ve always wanted to do,” he says. “I’m building a brand with this release — it’s innovation within the borders of tradition.”
Brauner having fun at a private barrel selection at Maker’s Mark in 2018. | Photo by Sara Havens
He’s been working on the concept and brand for years, in between running a successful restaurant, raising kids and even welding on the side. In fact, the name of his company — Buzzard’s Roost Sippin’ Whiskeys — has two meanings for him.
The first is more literal, as Buzzard’s Roost was the name of a nearby road on a property he was eyeing for the distillery. And the second refers to the type of whiskey he prefers to drink — the slow-sippin’, savory kind.
“I like to let it sit, sip and roost awhile,” he says.
After this initial batch, Brauner will continue to sample more sourced bourbons and whiskeys for future products and will most likely release another rye whiskey or two. A barrel-proof whiskey is definitely on his short list as well.
And all the while, he’ll continue looking for interested parties and investors who share his passion for quality craft spirits. Once he has the backing needed to fund his own distillery — he even has a reputable master distiller on board — he’ll likely have to dip out of the restaurant business, as it’s illegal to both distill liquor and run a restaurant that serves liquor.
But for now, the focus is on Friday.
The Buzzard’s Roost Release Party will run from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, July 26, at The Wine Rack, 2632 Frankfort Ave. Samples of both whiskeys will be available to try, and bottles are limited to one per person (of both kinds).