Experimentation and adventure drives the spirits made by Michael Stuckey and Kyle Claypool, co-owners of Lifted Spirits, a distillery in Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District. Since opening in 2016, the pair have launched an impressive line that includes gin, vodka, absinthe and, now, a wheat whiskey.
You released your wheat whiskey in October. Why did you decide to move into barrel-aged spirits? Whiskey was always part of our plan – it just took us two years because everything we do starts from scratch with local grain. With whiskey, unfortunately, that means it sits in a barrel for a long time. We started working on our whiskey close to two years ago. We love the deep, rich tradition of whiskey and how many different ways it can be interpreted. What grains do you choose, how do you distill them, how do they age, and you can create things that are so different with so few variables – that always fascinated us.
Why a wheat whiskey? We really fell in love with 100-percent wheat whiskeys, and it’s kind of a rarity. Bourbon is mostly [made with] corn, and people are familiar with rye whiskey – but not so much wheat. Our whiskey falls somewhere near an Irish style with the spicy note of a rye. Irish whiskeys tend to be smooth, a little bit sweet and often much more accessible than Scotches or most bourbons. Rye whiskey has that spicy grain note to it, and you get a nice combination of those two things with ours. It’s got this smooth vanilla-caramel-toffee character.
Tell us about your barrel-adoption program. We’re a small operation with a shoestring budget, and the financial model for starting a whiskey program is really rough. You’re incurring all the costs up front to buy the barrels, put the whiskey in and let it sit for a while. That’s tough for a brand-new small business. [Some distilleries] start their whiskey [program] by sourcing whiskey from a factory, so they can sell something under their brand while they’re waiting for theirs to age, and that didn’t feel like us. Instead, we created a barrel-adoption program. People were able to pay the cost of filling a barrel to get our whiskey program started. We had a couple events where we brought the barrel adopters in, and they got to participate in the process and bottle it when it was ready. At the end, they got their money back, plus a case of whiskey from their barrels. It was a different approach, and a fun way to let the rest of our community participate in making a truly local whiskey.
Lifted Spirits, 1734 Cherry St., Crossroads Arts District, Kansas City, Missouri, 816.866.1734, liftedspiritskc.com