The Plight of A Bourbon Retailer

by Jonathan Gaby on April 5, 2018

*Editor’s Note: The below is the full text of an op-ed written by Rachael Peak and published at the State Journal on Tuesday, March 27th, 2018. The actual article appears on the State Journal’s website here:

By Rachel Peake

Guest columnist

There are things we all hear often enough at our jobs that, when we are trying to sleep at night, we hear them again — voices, questions, comments and patterns of words.

Those of us lucky enough to be working at any liquor store in Kentucky during the past few years, during the “Great Bourbon Shortage” we’re all currently experiencing, are quick to tell about the sound they hear the most. It’s the sound of the phone ringing, and the familiar question “Do you have any Pappy?” A hopeful voice, anticipates possibly reaching a secret treasure trove of a liquor store with all sorts of goodies stored in a dusty box somewhere.

We hear this question multiple times a day, in phone calls, in person, through emails, through social media. Our employees can pick up the phone and practically mime the question before anyone says anything, especially in September and October when the phone calls go from a few a day to 40 or 50. The “Pappy” (Pappy Van Winkle bourbon) arrives to most stores at around that time.

And our answers, although truthful, always tend to be disappointing.

Yes, our store is just a mile away from the distillery that makes Pappy. Yes, we have great business relationships; yes, we order as much as we can from our distributors, and, even though we are proud to be one of the few truly independent liquor stores left in Kentucky, that doesn’t help us — we just can’t get our hands on enough of the stuff to make everyone happy. Nobody can.

The bourbon shortage around the entire country is real, and it isn’t just Pappy that we’re talking about.

The other bourbon products made by Buffalo Trace Distillery are picked over the minute they arrive whenever they do arrive (which is more or less monthly) right from their boxes — products like W.L. Weller, Eagle Rare, Ancient Age, Blanton’s, and the elusive Elmer T. Lee and Rock Hill Farms.

At a recent Frankfort Bourbon Society board meeting, I decided to bring a couple of new bottles of bourbon and have everyone taste them “blind” in unmarked cups. These folks are used to tasting and trying products and generally have what we consider “good palates” — that is, they are used to tasting and evaluating the aromas, flavors, texture, aftertaste in products and can use verbal or written descriptions in ways that everyone can understand. Better way to see how the product might do in the market than have the experts taste with me?

“Blind” tastings are fun and one of my favorite ways to taste because we don’t know what we’re tasting, and we have to use all of our senses to figure out what it is. One of the products had lots of floral and fruity aromas, reminiscent of honeysuckle and oranges. The color was relatively light, and it didn’t look like any of the bourbons that most of us might be accustomed to drinking.

The comments were spot on. Most could tell by blind tasting that it was indeed a “young” bourbon. Most could tell it was a “bourbon” rather than its cousin, the spicier “rye” whiskey, and most thought it was unusual. And, when it was revealed as a less-than-two-year-old “bourbon” (as opposed to a “straight bourbon” which must be aged for at least two years) the colorful label and cool package shown, the distiller and unique process revealed and the price revealed (less than $20), we generated some interest — which, in turn, led to sales.

For times like these, when some of your favorite bourbons are out of stock on a sporadic basis, try gathering a few friends together and share some bottles in a blind tasting manner. You can find lots of suggestions about how to conduct blind tastings online or talk to some Frankfort Bourbon Society members about the more clever ways they explore each other’s collections.

Rachael Peake is the owner of Capital Cellars Wine and Spirits Café Market, 227 West Broadway in Frankfort.

*Editor’s Note: The below is the full text of an article written by Alfred Miller at the State Journal on Tuesday, March 27th, 2018. Capital Cellars’ owner Rachael Peake is quoted. The actual article appears on the State Journal’s website here:*

In a bid to boost downtown business, some local leaders are lobbying for the removal of restrictions on the sale of alcohol on Sundays.

In recent days, Downtown Frankfort Inc. has circulated a proposed resolution among various groups, including the local tourism commission, economic development agency and chamber of commerce, that endorses “the amendment of local ordinances to eliminate restrictions on Sunday alcohol sales in Frankfort,” according to a version of the resolution KCDC has already passed.

The resolution notes that Frankfort hosts many looking to “experience the heritage, tradition and deep-rooted legacy that is associated with the bourbon industry,” but that “opportunities for these visitors to stay in Frankfort and spend money are particularly limited on Sundays.”

Currently, similar city and county ordinances bar the sale of alcoholic beverages at retail and allow their sale, by the drink, after 1 p.m. at some restaurants and private clubs. Changes to these ordinances would require the approval of local government, but not a referendum, since after a jurisdiction has gone wet, the terms of sale are a local decision handled by ordinance, according to Franklin County Alcoholic Beverage Control Deputy Administrator Eric Cockley.

Capital Cellars owner Rachael Peake told The State Journal that the city ordinance, which requires establishments selling alcohol by the drink to derive at least half of their income from the sale of food and totally bars package sales, have forced her store to remain closed on Sundays.

“We are in a unique position in downtown Frankfort. We have to tourists looking for a place to go and they can’t get a tasty beverage on a hot summer day,” said Peake. “They see a closed-up downtown.”

Peake said a change in the ordinances and an agreement among downtown businesses to remain open on Sundays would help change Frankfort’s reputation as a “tiny little dead town” on Sundays.

Not everyone agrees, however, that downtown Frankfort needs a shot of Sunday alcohol sales to boost the local economy.

“The last thing we need is more alcohol downtown,” said C. Michael Davenport, a local property developer and outspoken critic of the promotion of alcohol consumption.

Davenport, who describes the Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels lining Frankfort’s downtown streets as a form of indoctrination, says his views on alcohol were shaped by his being struck by a drunk driver at a young age and his witnessing alcohol abuse firsthand. The businessman said great products — other than alcohol — are all downtown Frankfort needs to thrive.

Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells told The State Journal he would oppose allowing Sunday alcohol sales during church hours but added that current ordinances — by allowing sales by the drink at restaurants while barring package sales — promote drunk driving.

“Let’s don’t promote drinking and driving,” said Wells.

Frankfort Mayor Bill May said it was too early for him to say whether he’d support DFI’s proposed changes.

“I have to see and talk to more people to see how it would affect local business owners,” he said.

DFI Vice President Harry Carver, who drafted his group’s proposed resolution, described the push for Sunday alcohol sales as part of a broader effort to attract people to downtown Frankfort on Sundays. Carver noted that even the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, which he called Frankfort’s Smithsonian, is closed on Sundays.

“I think Sunday afternoon is our big hole, and it’s bigger than Sunday alcohol sales,” Carver said.

A New Years Eve Eve Toast

by Jonathan Gaby on December 30, 2017

We always love to have you as our guest to celebrate the wide variety of occasions throughout the year, St. Patrick’s Day, the Kentucky Derby, just to name a few. The one celebration we love to host is that of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

As it turns out this year, New Years Eve falls on a Sunday and according to our antiquated ordinances we aren’t legally allowed to be open on Sundays, no matter what festive occasion it is.

But, that’s okay because we’re open all day and night tonight (Saturday December 30, 2017) to help you find that special bottle or two, or six or twelve (please inquire about our half-case and case discounts!) to ring in the new year with friends and family in your private parties!

And, starting at 6pm we will be offering our guests (that’s you!) complimentary hor d’oeuvres and food.

At 8pm we’ll have a champagne-ish toast for all our guests, friends, and patrons. So, please come and visit us to get your New Years Eve started a little early and on the right foot with great food and great beverages with Capital Cellars!

Whiskey Wednesday: Bottled in Bond Features

by Jonathan Gaby on December 13, 2017

Today is Wednesday, which means we highlight bourbons that we think you might want to try. We always want to help you in your quest for that next favorite bourbons. This week we are featuring bourbons bottled in bond! Come enjoy a flight for $20 from 5-8pm

Whiskey Wednesday - Bottled in Bond - Willet Old Bardstown, Old Grand-dad High Rye Mash Bill, Henry McKenna 10 Year, E.H. Taylor Small Batch

What exactly is “bottled in bond” bourbon? Well, the term denotes meeting special requirements, that the bourbon be:

  • the product of one distillation season (January-June or June-December)
  • produced by one distillery by one distiller
  • aged for a minimum of 4 years in a federally bonded warehouse
  • bottled at 100 proof

This is all part of the Bottled in Bond Bourbon Act in 1897 and was established to protect the quality of bourbons in America from poor quality and to provide a standard for bourbons.

Willet Old Bardstown
“The nose is “Fun Dip” candy, that sugary stick dipped into cherry flavoring. The palate is a cherry hard candy, an oily mouth feel, vanilla caramel candies and notes of oak. This is the best value in Bourbon for 2016.” – Willet Bourbon

Old Grand-dad High Rye Mash Bill
“Old Grand-Dad was a distiller named Basil Hayden who made his name by distilling a bourbon whiskey made with a higher percentage of rye. Basil Hayden passed along the art of distilling to his son and then, in turn, to his grandson. It was the third generation distiller, Colonel R.B. Hayden, who honored his grandfather by naming his justly famed whiskey “Old Grand-Dad.”” – Beam Suntory

Henry McKenna 10 Year
“This high proof, Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon was named for Henry McKenna, the Irish immigrant who adapted his family’s whiskey recipe to work the grains he found in Kentucky. Henry McKenna is the longest aged Bottled-in-Bond available today, resting in the barrel through 40 Kentucky seasons. Critics agree that this is perfectly balanced Bourbon.” – Heaven Hill Distillery

E.H. Taylor Small Batch
“As founding father of the bourbon industry, Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. left an indelible legacy. His dedication to distilling began at the close of the Civil War when he purchased O.F C. Distillery. There, he developed innovative techniques that are still in use today. Made by hand, this Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey has been aged inside century old warehouses constructed by E.H. Taylor, Jr.  Barrels are evaluated and selected to create a perfect blend of distinctive character that is like no other. This bourbon is a true sipping bourbon that honors the uncompromising legacy of E.H. Taylor, Jr.” – Buffalo Trace

Mark Your Calendars: Pappy Van Winkle Drawing December 12th

by Jonathan Gaby on December 11, 2017

We’ve heard rumors. Rumors that we are holding our next Pappy Van Winkle drawing tonight, or this week. These rumors are patently false and border on #fakenews. We’re writing this post to correct the story and set straight the record.

Mark your calendars. Add this to your iCal program. Write this on a Post-It Note and stick it on your monitor at work. Write this on your mirror in the bathroom (don’t use a sharpie).

Our next Pappy Van Winkle Drawing is going to be held on December 12, 2017 at 7:00PM at 227 W. Broadway in Frankfort.

What’s going to be drawn? We can’t share it with you yet, but make sure that you’re there to find out for sure.

We can’t wait to see you there!

A Special Wine Tasting Fundraiser for The Kings Center

by Jonathan Gaby on December 8, 2017

We know that you love to drink great wine that you can’t find any where else in the region. That’s why you come here to Capital Cellars. Sometimes though, we also know that we should give back to the community and support other organizations that strive to make this city a great place to live, work, and play.

Therefore, we’ve partnered with The Kings Center for a paid fundraising wine tasting event tonight, Friday December 8th, 2017.

If you don’t know about the good work that The Kings Center does, this will be a perfect time to learn more.

Volunteers of the Kings Center will be guest wine servers for a free tasting and to sell bottles of wine.

Members of the board will also be on hand to share with you about the work they do as a community center in the heart of Frankfort serving children, adults, and the community at large. They’ll be set up to accept donations as well.

As this is a recognized 501(c)3, your donations are tax exempt, so this is a perfect opportunity to make a year-end gift.

You’ll be glad that you came to this event to taste wine and do a little good for the community. We hope you’ll come.

In fact, RSVP to this event on Facebook Here:

RSVP to the Facebook Event!

Whiskey Wednesday – Brown-Forman Edition

by Jonathan Gaby on December 6, 2017

This week’s Whiskey Wednesday features brands from our friends at Brown-Forman. Brown-Forman, headquartered in Louisville, KY owns Jack Daniel’s,  Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, and Cooper’s Craft bourbons, and also Sonoma-Cutrer wines.

Whiskey Wednesday - Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style, Old Forester Classic 86 proof, Old Forester 100 Proof, Jack Daniels Rye Whiskey

This Whiskey Wednesday will feature Old-Forester and Jack Daniel’s bourbons. These bourbons have been on our mind recently and we know you’d love to have the opportunity to taste these bourbons yourself!

If you’d like to reserve your spot, click the button below to purchase a ticket.

Reserve your Whiskey Wednesday Ticket

Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style
“This 115 proof expression is the third release in our Old Forester Whiskey Row series and celebrates the brand’s continued distillation during Prohibition. For 13 years, the production, transport and sale of alcohol was strictly prohibited. However, Old Forester was granted a permit to continue distilling on Louisville’s Whiskey Row. The 115 proof expression represents a barrel sample that company president Owsley Brown I would have batched at the beginning of Prohibition.” – Old Forester Bourbons

Old Forester Signature 100 Proof
“A favorite of bartenders, Signature 100 Proof honors the legacy of founder George Garvin Brown, who put his signature on every bottle. And this bourbon is definitely one he would be proud to have his name on today.  Handpicked from select barrels, Old Forester Signature 100 Proof is a rich, complex bourbon. Spicy and robust, Signature is bottled at 100 Proof to maintain its distinct character and full flavor profile.” – Old Forester Bourbons

Old Forester Classic 86 proof
“Created in 1870, Old Forester is the only bourbon continuously distilled and marketed by the founding family before, during and after Prohibition. At 86 proof, Old Forester delivers a genuine bourbon experience, with rich, full flavor and a smooth character that is ideal for sipping neat, on the rock, with a splash of water or in a classic cocktail.” – Old Forester Bourbons

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye
“Introducing rye whiskey made Jack’s way. Crafted with our 70-percent rye grain bill, natural spring water from our own Cave Spring Hollow, and Jack’s time-honored charcoal mellowing process, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye is a whiskey that could only come from Lynchburg, Tennessee. Master Distiller Jeff Arnett and the whiskey makers of the Jack Daniel Distillery have created a unique rye that’s undeniably spicy and complex yet sippin’ smooth. It might be one of our first new recipes in over 150-years, but if you know Jack, you’ll know Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Rye.” – Jack Daniel’s Whiskey


Last of The November Wines Tastings

by Jonathan Gaby on November 30, 2017

Can it be? It’s the last day of November and tomorrow will be the last month of the year! We’ve seen a lot of action this year and we’re looking forward to a December filled with fun, festivities, and a merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Wine Tasting - Line 39 Chardonnay, SIMI Merlot from Sonoma County, Chateau Tour de Tourteau Cotes du Bourg, Benchmark No. 8 Brown Sugar

Today we’re going to feature some new wines that might go well with any of your get togethers, parties, or even a nice quiet, relaxing evening after shopping or running the kids around.

Line 39 Chardonnay
“Our Chardonnay is a rich, medium-bodied wine with hints of oak and lush tropical and stone fruit flavors on the palate. Crisp and refreshing, this wine can be enjoyed with a variety of fish and chicken dishes or all by itself on a warm summer afternoon.” – Line 39 Wines

SIMI Merlot from Sonoma County
“Our 2014 Sonoma County Merlot is deep garnet with a ruby edge. The nose is a compelling mixture of sour cherry, blackberry, and red plum with cocoa, clove, and earthy hints of cedar, bay laurel, and smoky bacon framing the bright fruit. On the palate, bright red fruit, red plum, black cherry, blackberry, and wild berry meld with light toast, vanilla, and a hint of fresh, sweet herbs, while spice lends depth and weight. The wine finishes with toasty oak and spice. 87% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec” – Simi Winery

Chateau Tour de Tourteau Cotes du Bourg
“The harvests are mechanical and followed by a 20-days maceration in stainless-steel vats. The bottling is carried out at the Château two years after the harvest. Château Tour de Tourteau has an intense robe with deep garnet-red hints. The bouquet is powerful, intense, with candied red-berry fruits aromas, ending with dry fruits and tobacco notes. On the palate it is fleshy, mouthful and it reveals robust tannins.” – Grands Vins de Gironde

Benchmark “Brown Sugar” Bourbon
We’re offering a bourbon to sample along with our wines. While this is a flavored bourbon, verging into being a liqueur, we wanted to highlight this as an option for when you’re making cocktails at home to add a new dimension to your drinks.


Whiskey Wednesday – 1792 Bourbon

by Jonathan Gaby on November 29, 2017

Capital Cellars has always been a destination place for Bourbon fans and aficionados alike to come and try and buy bourbons from around the state. Lately, we’ve noticed that people are coming from all over to see what makes us so special.

Whiskey Wednesday - 1792 225th Anniversary Bourbon, 1792 Small Batch Bourbon, 1792 Single Barrel Bourbon

This evening from 5-8 pm we’ll showcase one of our favorite bourbons, from 1972. We’ll showcase the 1792 225th Anniversary, the 1792 Small Batch, and the 1792 Single Barrel bourbons for Whiskey Wednesday!

1792 225th Anniversary
“Tasting notes for this bourbon describe it as having “an intricate aroma consisting of spices, toffee, and subtle fruity notes. The taste is oaky and bold, with notes of butterscotch, vanilla, almonds and rich honey. The finish is smoky and dry with a lingering yet smooth spiciness.” – 1792 Bourbon

1792 Small Batch
“Sophisticated and complex. A distinctly different bourbon created with precise craftsmanship. Made from our signature “high rye” recipe and the marriage of select barrels carefully chosen y our Master Distiller. 1792 Bourbon has an expressive and elegant flavor profile. Unmistakable spice mingles with sweet caramel and vanilla to create a bourbon that is incomparably brash and bold, yet smooth and balanced. Elevating whiskey to exceptional new heights, 1792 Bourbon is celebrated by connoisseurs worldwide.” – 1792 Bourbon

1792 Single Barrel
“In order to create this unique bourbon, the finest barrels are selected and tasted from the best aging warehouses. Only those barrels deemed “exceptional” are then bottled individually, one by one. This preserves the distinct character of each barrel. This superior bourbon has flavors of rich butterscotch and caramel notes, delicately balanced with hints of fruit of toffee.” – 1792 Bourbon

We’d love to have you in our shop today to sample these bourbons. You’ll get 1 oz of each bourbons for $20!

And if wine is more your thing, we always have buy one get one half off of our wines by the glass menu and no restaurant fee for other bottles opened in the store!

Capital Cellars Pappy Van Winkle Report – Nov 21, 2017

by Jonathan Gaby on November 22, 2017

Capital Cellars held our first Pappy Van Winkle Drawing of the year yesterday on November 21, 2017. Last night, Pappy hopefuls lined up from the door of Capital Cellars and stretched all the way down Broadway, past the Ky Coffeetree and Completely Kentucky all the way to Serafini’s restaurant.

Over 125 of you got out on a chilly day for a chance to buy a bottle of the best bourbon in the world. We loved having you here! It was also a special day for the Capital Cellars family because Capital Cellars opened exactly 11 years ago on this date! We’ve come a long way and have a lot of people to thank for supporting Downtown Frankfort’s most unique business that combines a bar, retail, and restaurant operations.

While we had over 125 people vying for a bottle of Pappy, we could only sell four bottles. Who won? Well, they are all pictured above. From left to right they are:

  • Chris Alfaro, 12 year
  • Al Wink, George T. Stagg
  • Jenny Richardson, 10 year
  • Jerry Estill, 10 year

Stay tuned for our next Pappy Van Winkle Drawing by signing up for our email list, and follow us on Facebook!