Four Inane Questions with Restless Spirits’ Benay and Mike Shannon

Restless Spirits Benay And Michael Shannon Travis Carrol Photography

Courtesy Travis Carroll-Photographer

Let’s raise a glass to Restless Spirits, a family-owned, Irish-style craft distillery founded in 2014 by Benay Shannon, a retired science teacher turned award-winning distiller, and her husband, Mike Shannon, a whiskey lover and successful brand executive. 

If you’ve visited their tasting room in North Kansas City, you’ve likely spied the 500-gallon copper pot they dubbed “Darby O’Still.” The duo have been producing their magical elixirs in NKC since 2015.  

Along with their clear spirits, they’ve also ventured into producing Irish whiskey. The partnership started when a Restless Spirits team member had a chance encounter in an elevator with whiskey legend (and industry giant) John Teeling. 

Even better? Benay is the first woman master distiller to run a DSP (distilled spirits plant) in Missouri. She earned a New York International Spirits Competition Distiller of the Year and a Gold Medal in late 2016. (Truth be told, they’ve won multiple gold awards.) And if that weren’t enough, Restless Spirits has partnered with three sports teams and is expanding distribution of their extensive product line to 14 states—and counting. 

We caught up with the talented twosome to inundate them with our inane-briated questions. We asked. They answered. And we’re pretty sure we bought a round of shots for the house. 

The Pitch: What’s the only way to drink your tea or coffee? Oh, and could you drink the other’s concoction?

Mike: Black coffee is the only way to go! I’ll never forget my first engagement with John Teeling when we were traveling with him by car from Dublin to Dundalk to tour his distillery. We stopped at a service area just off the highway for a coffee break. He was absolutely amazed that I would not put cream or milk in my coffee to cool it down.  

We were on a tight schedule, no time for coffee to cool down. I think I got three sips, and we were back in the car.

Benay: My morning go-to is three parts coffee (medium roast) and one part skim milk. Right now, I am tolerating using our Keurig because my De’Longhi single cup with grinder died recently, and I haven’t replaced it yet. My bougie favorite? It’s a mocha orange—iced or hot—if I can get it. Orange seems to be a seasonal special item. Drooling just thinking about it! Someone help me out here. We have so many great coffee shops.  

Mike likes his black. Nope. Not for me. If I have no other option, I just go without.

What’s a song you love that the other loathes? 

Mike: Either “Hair of the Dog” by Nazareth or anything from the Rush 2112 album. Basically, both must be played as loud as possible without clipping out the speakers. Benay + loud music = not so much.

Benay: Yacht rock radio makes my skin crawl. Mike has it saved on two memory buttons. I think the only music I would listen to that Mike would rather not are Disney songs. But I do have “The GitUp” by Blanco Brown saved, and he didn’t much like that.

Name one minor luxury item you absolutely, positively could not live without.

Benay: Are books a minor luxury?  I can’t live without my books, journal, and pens. I won’t journal without my Bic Pro Intensity Fineliner 5mm. Hmmm—is that luxury? Or just super-picky and weird. And I’ve gotten pretty addicted to the backup camera in my car.

Mike: Charmin? No, wait—I was going to say adaptive cruise control, as I got pretty used to that in my Charger, but I’m agreeing with Benay that the backup camera is a must. Parallel parking is as easy as docking a spaceship with that little gem. (Like I have any experience docking a spaceship!)

You can get backstage to any concert. Who you choosin’?

Benay: Pentatonix would be my first choice. They do amazing things with vocals. And so talented! It would be super-cool to see a sing-off, or better—a collaboration between Pentatonix and Manhattan Transfer! Or wait–Maybe Carrie Underwood? She is super inspiring. Such a great storyteller, songwriter, and vocalist.  

Mike: If I didn’t say Bobby Watson, he’d kill me. [laughs] He’s a dear friend and the greatest saxophonist alive today. Kansas City is blessed to have him in our community. 

But honestly, given my passion for the saxophone, I’d want to also add a time machine to the equation and go back to the 1940s and hang out backstage with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie for a serious bebop session. It would be amazing to hear what went through their heads before unloading the artistry that they delivered at each and every gig.

Bonus 5th Question: What’s the best place in town to get the best food that’s the worst for you?

Mike: I’m going with The Peanut on this one. That Triple BLT is to die for—figuratively and literally! I absolutely love their BLT, as it’s just like the one Grandma used to make for me. But, more than one of those in a month, and you probably need to consult a cardio physician.

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