Thinking green is easy this time of year, especially at Restless Spirits Distilling in North Kansas City, where Mike and Benay Shannon have parlayed their Irish heritage into a modern brand.
“We’re at a time when immigration has a negative connotation to it,” Mike says. “There are times in history when it was a very positive force. The people who came here from Ireland contributed enormously to this country. Their craftsmanship and creativity built Kansas City, and we just want to honor that.”
Mike’s Kansas City roots run deep. His great-great-grandfather immigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1853, and his great-grandfather settled here in the 1890s. The family lived in the Ninth Ward among the Rabbits, as those who were aligned with political boss Joseph Shannon were called.
Indeed, there’s a rabbit on the label of Restless Spirits’ all-corn, 90-proof Duffy’s Run Vodka. It’s one of two products sold at the distillery; the other being Builders Gin, a 92-proof gin crafted with 11 botanicals.
“Rosemary and juniper are in there, to give it that underpinning,” says Benay, who taught high school science before becoming Kansas City’s only female distiller. “The citrus and floral elements, the lavender, rose and meadowsweet, balance the combination.”
Benay is also producing whiskey from a blend of four malted barley varieties, using a 500-gallon copper pot still that features a gooseneck-shaped head similar to those in Ireland.
“It’s true, traditional distilling. We want to capture as much flavor as we can in our whiskey,” says Mike, who’s applying a career’s worth of branding and product management experience to Restless Spirits.
Their whiskey will initially be matured in 10-gallon barrels and then combined with aged Irish whisky (without an “e”). It will be released in May as Stone Breaker Irish and American Blended Whiskey. Later, Benay plans to fill full-size used bourbon (as the Irish do) and charred new oak barrels to create various expressions of their own whiskey. Unaged poitin (“pot-cheen”) and Irish cream liqueur will be offered seasonally, and tours and event space are available.