Restless Spirits Distilling Company leans on Irish heritage for Gullytown Whiskey
With an Irish background, Benay and Michael Shannon founded Restless Spirits Distilling Company back in 2014, aging whiskey since day one. Now, the fruits of their labor are beginning to turn over, with their earliest whiskey barrels finally flowing down the mouths of many.
“Since day one, this is what I’ve been working towards is getting them released,” Benay says.
On Thursday, Restless Spirits Distilling Co. will host a public tasting event of three new expressions of their brand, Gullytown Whiskey. The three distinct whiskey expressions are straight American single malt, American single malt, and double barrel-aged American single malt.
It has not been an ordinary journey for Benay and Michael. With Michael’s background in branding and marketing, mixed with Benay’s background as a former Park Hill South high school science teacher, the two put their expertise together to start their business after they met at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
That is when they decided to return to where Michael’s family tree belongs: Kansas City—better known as Gullytown until 1853. The Shannon family were among the city’s earliest Irish settlers in the region when Michael’s great-great-grandmother and grandfather left their native land to escape the Great Famine in 1853.
Local politics at the time had the Democratic party split between two Irish factions: goats and rabbits. The Shannon family, now and then, heavily sided with the rabbits. A tradition that has carried on to today, you can still see different imagery of rabbits throughout their branding.
Michael’s great-grandfather, Oliver, owned Shannon Storage and Moving Company in 1905, which kept the family afloat during the early 1900s. Not only do the family’s roots stem from being business owners, but they have always had ties to whiskey.
In 1923, during the time of prohibition, Michael’s great uncle, Harry Shannon, made the local news. He was caught bootlegging 15 gallons of whiskey by Kansas City police at 29th and Main, according to the article from the then Kansas City Times.
Michael says that he found the article from a cousin of the family after starting his new career with Benay.
“That’s history that, honestly, I would have never gotten if it had not been for this business,” Michael says.
Persistence pays off
Now, after the family had once been seized for their form of consumption, they have made it a way of life.
Attributed as an award-winning master distiller and the first woman to receive a distilled spirits plant license in Missouri, Benay holds herself and the company to a high standard.
“I don’t put anything into a bottle that I don’t like,” Benay says. “So if it doesn’t taste good, we have to fix it, or we don’t use it.”
This is no different for the three new expressions that Restless Spirits Distilling Co. is releasing on Thursday.
The double barrel-aged American single malt is double-distilled in traditional Irish copper pot stills before aging nine months in new charred oak barrels, ultimately finishing for a minimum of two years in used bourbon barrels.
This expression smells like chocolate cherries with a smooth taste and finish of what almost seems like caramel to the blind tongue. This version of their whiskey is the most savory out of the three releases.
The American single malt is also double-distilled before aging for a minimum of six years in used bourbon casks. It is made with 100% barley and tips the cap to the family’s homeland as the most authentic Irish style of the three expressions.
Slight scents of vanilla effuse from this expression before gracing the taste buds with its smooth consistency. The American single malt does not have as many heavy barrel notes as the other recent releases, allowing for a more gentle flow.
The last of the three expressions, the straight American single malt is double-distilled in 100% malted barley, then aged for a minimum of four years in new charred oak barrels.
This form of whiskey is the richest of the three expressions, also giving off slight scents of vanilla and brown sugar. While it may be the boldest, this spirit is still quite smooth, leaving for a soothing finish of creamy vanilla and spice. Due to its full-body nature, this expression is great in the form of a cocktail.
Welcoming whiskey lovers
All three Gullytown Whiskey expressions will be available for tasting and purchasing on Thursday. Not only will there be whiskey flowing, but there will also be fun and games.
There will be a giveaway of different merchandise, as well as six editions of the novel Gully Town: A Novel of Kansas City, signed by the author, G.P. Schultz.
Both Benay and Michael look forward to hosting the public on Thursday at their tasting event and presenting the products that have been in the making for several years. “It’s kind of exciting, like having a baby,” Benay says.
Having earned several double gold awards at international competitions and named Missouri Distillery of the Year every year since they started production, Gullytown Whiskey is yet another stepping stone of success for the family.
The tasting event will be held at Restless Spirits Distilling Co. at 109 E 18 Ave., North Kansas City, MO 64116, where the public can enjoy whiskey served in a flight, feature cocktails, or bottles.