238 – The Story of LeNell’s and Red Hook Rye

Red Hook Rye… that bottling might be what made LeNell a household name among bourbon unicorn chasers, but LeNell has a story to tell when it comes to the spirits industry. Her story is filled with fortunate encounters that propelled her name and eventually put her little shop in Brooklyn on the map. Like any endeavor, her story has highs and lows. LeNell shares what owning a store in Red Hook was like back in the day and how she has gone back to her roots in Alabama. We also touch on secondary pricing of her famous private label. Now, before you go any further, this podcast does contain some explicit language so don’t say we didn’t warn you. You get to hear the real LeNell Camacho Santa Ana.

Show Notes:

  • Jim Beam Article: https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-beams-are-americas-first-family-of-bourbon
  • This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about the Super Bowl.
  • When was your first taste of whiskey?
  • Do you care about Alabama football?
  • Where did you get the idea of LeNell’s?
  • What were your early days like?
  • Did your store ever experience any crime?
  • How did you get into the liquor business?
  • Why did you focus on bourbon?
  • Talk about Straight Bourbon.
  • How did Red Hook Rye happen?
  • Tell us about the process of selecting Red Hook.
  • Do you have any Red Hook left?
  • What are your thoughts on the secondary pricing?
  • What hurdles did you face opening up a store in Alabama?
  • Why was this store so important to you?
  • Do you feel like it is better now as a women in whiskey than in the past?
  • Tell us about the success of your store.
  • Are you helping other businesses open in your neighborhood?
  • What is your newest project?


I love bourbon, but I’m not ready to restart my career and be distiller. I have a bachelor’s degree and I want to continue to use those skills in the whiskey industry. So check this out. The University of Louisville has an online distilled spirits business certificate. And this focuses on the business side of the spirits industry like finance, marketing and operations. This is perfect for anyone looking for more professional development. And if you ever want to get your MBA their certificate credits transfer into u of L online MBA program as elective hours. Learn more about this online six course certificate at U of l.me. Slash bourbon pursuit.

Now hold on Kenny we have to anytime I talk to someone from Alabama. I gotta find out. Are you an Auburn fan? Or tide fan? Neither I don’t give a shit.

This is Episode 238 of bourbon pursuit. I’m one of your host Kinney, and it’s time for a bit of bourbon news. Lou Bryson and acclaimed bourbon journalist and author wrote a captivating story called America’s first memory of bourbon, the beams. I’m going to give you a little bit of context about the article and hope that you go read the rest of it because it gives a historical timeline of James bullguard beam, better known as Jim Beam, and distilling bourbon before prohibition, what he did after prohibition ended, and how this family lineage just as tie spreading all across the bourbon industry. Now during Prohibition, he tried other businesses including a rock quarry, and an orange grove that ultimately failed. So he found investors in Illinois to fund a new distillery after prohibition ended. Along with his son and two nephews. They built a distillery in 120 days and open on March 25th 1935. Jim was 70 years old at the time, and before prohibition, the beam family brand had been a

Old tub bourbon whiskey. To Jim’s dismay, he learned that the rights the name had been sold during Prohibition. Despite this setback, he was undeterred. And that’s when the whiskey officially became Jim Beam bourbon. The story then dives into this mid 1700s with Johan is Jacob beam. And then from there, the family lineage starts really spreading and talks about how they helped create early times distillery toddies liquor, heaven Hill, and their ties and estates of Weller Maker’s Mark Frankfort distillery JW dance for roses, mixers, and so many more. You can read the full story with the link in our show notes to the daily beast.com wilderness trail one of the founding distillery destinations on the Kentucky bourbon trail craft tour has advanced to join the Kentucky bourbon Trail Adventure becoming the 18th stop on the world famous journey that showcases America’s only native spirit. co owners Shane Baker and pat heist are recognized globally as leading fermentation specialists to their original company.

firms solutions, consulting with distilleries around the world to develop products and enhance production. And you can listen to Pat and Shane back on episodes hundred and 21 and 130. They’re open for tours Tuesday through Saturday, and the visitor experience includes a 45 minute walking tour and an educational tasting seminar in the tasting room. You can learn more at wilderness trail distillery.com Talladega Superspeedway has announced that Clyde maze whiskey has become its official whiskey. Roy danis Chief Executive Officer of konica brands, which has Clyde maize and its portfolio said the partnership with Talladega Superspeedway is particularly resonant for Clyde maze because they have a similar origin. Stock racing was invented by moonshiners who use fast cars to escape the law. Clyde Mae was an Alabama farmer and a moon shiner who dodged Olam self a few times. They are the official state spirit of Alabama and Talladega is one of the most famous venues in the state. Clyde may himself

What has been proud to know his legacy continues through this Talladega partnership?

Now you heard it when we start started the podcast but I want to say thank you to our returning sponsor, the UFL College of Business and the online distilled spirits business certificate. We had a few listeners enroll last time, so perhaps it’s time for you to give it a look. Make sure you go check it out at U of l.me slash bourbon pursuit. Now, Red Hook rye. That bottling might be what made l&l a household name among bourbon unicorn chasers over the years. But lamelle has a story to tell when it comes to the spirits industry. Per story is filled with encounters that propelled her name, and eventually put her little shop and Brooklyn on the map. We hear the story of owning a store in that area back in the day, how it was like and Holly she has now gone back to her roots, opening up a store in Alabama. Now, before you go any further, this podcast does contain explicit language. So don’t say we didn’t warn

You, you get to hear the real lyndale Camacho Santa Ana. All right, it’s that time. Let’s see what jover barrel has to say. And then you’ve got Fred minich with above the char.

I’m Joe Beatrice, founder of barrel craft spirits. each batch is its own unique expression of our blending process. Find out more at barrel bourbon calm.

I’m Fred MiniK. And this is above the char. Here we go into the Super Bowl. Oh my gosh, this is a great matchup if you’re a sports fan, you get to see two amazing rushers in the San Francisco 40 Niners up against one of the most explosive offenses I have seen and some time. I mean, Patrick mahomes is this guy that you know, he may be down 25 points and he’s like, Oh, yeah, I’m going to show you and I gotta tell you, I am so so glad that we have the matchup that we have because it is a

It is kind of like a football fans dream, great offense against great defense and one really good offense against a really good defense that you know what’s going to give here. Anyway, this is not a football podcast. This is a bourbon podcast, so I should probably get to it. The reason why I bring up the Super Bowl, it wasn’t until 2017 that the NFL even allowed spirits advertisers, so for years they had a ban on distilled spirits advertising within the NFL. Now, you got to remember to spirits had not been advertising on television until 1996. The industry had put a self imposed ban on advertising from spirits having this kind of notion that you know, if they promoted themselves, they could be drawing the ire of the prohibitionist this this held true until the mid 1990s until a small group

From Crown Royal that we call a code breakers broke the code of the distilled spirits Council and did a small little test ad in the Corpus Christi Texas market that went into like the spirits council changing their basically changing a lot of their their code. And so now you see spirits being advertised consistently. However, sports teams still struggle to bring in booze advertisers because what happens at these games people get really drunk. They make fools of themselves. I mean, there have been many incidents of people getting hurt. I think there are many people being killed by you know, drunken assholes before. And so it’s often a bad look in the eyes of people who on these NFL teams to associate themselves with the liquor brand. Well, in 2019, the NFL actually changed their their belief they relax their policy on alcohol sponsorships, and allow the league to expand this game.

expand the use of basically allow a brand like Jim Beam to partner with a player. And that’s the first time that anyone had ever done that. And if you recall a few years ago, you had Richard Sherman on the podium talking about how the NFL wouldn’t allow people to partner with alcohol brands. So I’m glad to see that the NFL has relax those policies. I hope that it will continue because there is not many things better than enjoying a great football game with a good bourbon. So while you’re watching the Superbowl, think about it. You’re actually kind of witnessing a little bit of spirits history too, because I’m sure we’re going to see some cool spirits ads. Let’s just hope they’re not blocking. And that’s this week’s above the char Hey, if you want to learn more about the history of bourbon and advertising, check out my book bourbon, the rise fall and rebirth of American whiskey and make sure you’re subscribing to my YouTube channel and checking out my new podcast. Just search my name Fred minich. Until next week,


Welcome back to another episode of bourbon pursuit the official podcast of bourbon getting in Fred here today. And this is going to be talking to really it’s it’s kind of like two facets of it. We talk a lot about having retailers on the show and sort of what has that meant in regards to the bourbon boom and the business and, and really how they are changing their strategy of going forward and how they’re, they’re really marketing the products inside of their their walls to these newer consumers. But on the other hand, our guest today also comes with a pretty storied past. She’s had her name on sides of bottles and all these things before that has kind of took her to a new level of fame where she’s had write ups in multiple magazines and articles and blogs and stuff like that. So I’m really excited to talk to our guests today. Fred, how did you come to know our guests

Well, I think, honestly, it was through will it like I, I, I learned of her very early on

when I was writing my book, whiskey women, and she was kind of became like this, like this kind of like folklore legend, within, like, within the legends of bourbon, you know, I, I find

our guest today to be one of the most

underrated heroes of bourbon, and I’m a really American whiskey. And I genuinely mean that because she’s very humble. She doesn’t like attention. She doesn’t want to be in the limelight. She just loves whiskey. And at the end of the day, I think that that’s why most of us adore her. Yeah, I think I think he’s

said it, right? It was funny when we were when I was talking to our guest lyndale today about getting her on the podcast and I was trying to say like, oh, like, you know, I promise like it’ll be good like, here’s our number she goes I don’t give a shit about your numbers. You know, it’s really funny. She’s like, I just shy she didn’t care. And and most of the time you talked to a lot of people in this industry and they kind of want to know what your reaches like, what are you going to help them and she’s she was she’s very humble about it. And hopefully that that’s really going to shine through as we start talking here. So without further ado, let’s go ahead and introduce our guests. So today on the show, we have Lynette Camacho Santa Ana, she is she the boss of one L’s beverage boutique in Birmingham, Alabama. So Linda, welcome to the show. Thank you. Well, we’re very excited to have you on and kind of before we get into the story of you and Lynn Nels and the Willetts and all that kind of stuff kind of talk about like your introduction to whiskey. Can you were

Remember that sort of first bottle that first taste, you know, we’ve had other distillers on and they say oh, we’ve had my, my grandpappy gave me a wee nip when I was a little little young lad like what’s what’s your what’s your story there come from a teetotaler background so there was no drinking in my youth had an alcoholic grandfather so my introduction to whiskey was him coming home drunk, beaten the fuck out of my grandma. So there’s some reality of our business right there.

I did not drink until I was 21. So my best recollection of like a first whiskey would have been

probably jack daniels passed around a campfire, like many folks and in the south.

kind of talk about your, your, you know, where you come from your youth and all that sort of stuff as well, because I think you kind of talked about a pretty interesting background. I grew up here in Alabama, in North Alabama. I left Birmingham

in 2000

went to New York. I was in Birmingham for 10 years before I went to New York. I was in New York for about 10 years before I moved to Mexico. And now back in in Alabama as of 2011. Now hold on Kenny, we have to anytime I talk to someone from Alabama, I gotta find out. Are you an Auburn fan? Or tide fan? May there I don’t give a shit.

Would you say you might be the only Alabama that does not care about college football? Well, I’ve always been a critical thinker. And growing up I never understood why my family were Crimson Tide fans when nobody in my family had graduated from high school, much less gone to college. So I always question like, Where did that start is some kind of like heritage thing, like who woke up one day and said, Oh, Roll Tide.

That’s hilarious to me. So I kind of want to also touch on sort of the history of you and how the

Brand kind of got started, can you can you really kind of take us back in the history books and and sort of like where did the idea come from to open up the first boutique? When I mentioned in your My goal was to really just deep dive into the industry and fate and figure out my path and I didn’t move to New York in 2000 with the goal of opening the store, but I worked in retail, I worked in restaurant and done bartending.

I had a master’s degree in Public Administration, I was in university admin before I left Alabama and went to New York, but it was time to really pursue my heart and just take the risk to jump into the industry with both feet. So

after work and pretty much all aspects of the business including sales,

rep five different wine books in New York

before I opened the store, and I didn’t know whether I was going to do the store or bar first.

But it just fell into place.

made sense for me to go with the store first my goal has always been to open an on and off premise business situation at some point but the the on premise never happened in New York.

And in 2003, I opened the store and Red Hook Brooklyn after finding a little hole in the wall that I could afford to. To get started with it was boarded up. storefront actually had concrete blocks in the window.

It wasn’t just boarded up it was concrete blocks. And the neighborhood that was

pretty rough around the edges. There was a meth clinic around the corner and

a whole lot of shenanigans in that neighborhood. The median income was $10,000. three fourths of the population lived in subsidized housing.

But it felt like the right space for me and they turned out it was incredibly successful in red Hook’s crazy now with real estate but um

Wow, it’s it’s amazing.

seem to think about this. But, you know, you were part of the story of turning around. Red Hook. Yeah, I was part of that story. I wasn’t. Yeah, I can’t take credit for all that went on in Red Hook, but I was definitely a part of it.

Good or bad. I mean, the word gentrification has lots of connotations and I don’t ever feel like a ginger fire because I think there’s a certain level of income has to come with that. And I’ve scrapped a whole lot in my life to be where I am today, but I did come with a trust bond open up anything.

But yeah, I think the same thing here in my neighborhood and Birmingham, I found this property and it felt right and everybody thought I was crazy, just like they did in Red Hook Brooklyn. And I said, why not? What Why doesn’t every neighborhood deserve a good liquor store? No matter what the economics are? Yeah. What were those early days like me who was like your average customer? What were you selling? There in Red Hook? What was that like?

was all over the place and it’s really funny to go back and look, one day I run across some some old notes from the like the first few months it was hilarious because it was like

well painted my nails sold a bottle of Pappy

was just like slow and sleep because I nobody knew me you know and opening here in Birmingham was just like, night and day like we hit the ground running and we’ve been just packed from the beginning. But um, you know, our early customers were a lot of neighbors in Red Hook, spanning the demographics, black and brown and young and old and all economics. And then once people discovered what I was doing, it just became like this Mecca destination spot where people came from all over New York as well as you know, when I’d be trapped people be traveling to New York, they make the effort to come out Red Hook was like a 45 minute

schlepped from the closest subway stop, so it wasn’t an easy place to get to people had to really want to be there.

Now in that first in that first year, like we we see on the nightly news of, of liquor store robbing robberies all the time, and that was certainly the neriah at the time when you you mentioned, you know, some of the shenanigans that were going on when you were moving in. Did you ever have any incidents early on or was there any like times you you like you were afraid to open up or closed or anything like that because of I never had any crime and I fully believe that you attract what you put out. And if you walk in fear, then you attract reasons to be afraid. I walked out of that store many nights with thousands of dollars after midnight and walked in my apartment. I never had anybody bother me. And this is a great story. I love telling this story because there were you

A lot of people like I said three fourths of the neighbor population lived in New York’s biggest housing project

and there was a gentleman who came in the store in the the early days of it opening and

you know, the kind of guy that might my warning bells would that you know, you get the racist shit with you grits everybody does it don’t matter what how much you gonna say you ain’t racist. We all have stupid, runs their heads, he walks in the door and I was like he’s backed me up.

Gold grill he just looked like he was ready to come in there and race somehow with me. I’m

trying to just suppress all the crap that was running through my head and treat him like I was going to treat anybody else and he became a great customer. He was a man of few words. He would bring his friends in. He bought the banana vodka to begin with. We finally moved him up the Shark Bay so

he’s buying like sharp I blood orange like it

but the end of that story is

One night, we got over here him talking to some friends. And he said,

Yo, man, have you been to that woman’s store? She treats you with respect. There’s no bulletproof glass, and she’s got really nice things in there. Boom. I mean,

here’s a man living in the housing projects. And it looks like he might be the kind of guy who’s gonna like, take you down. And yeah, he wants to be treated with respect, just like anybody else.


And again, I think that kind of goes back to what we were talking about earlier. And just, you know, the personality you kind of show it through there and what that means. But you know, one thing I kind of want to touch on one more time before we go too much into the your time here in New York. Because you said that you were going to go all in, but what was what was that like? pivotal moment or what was that idea that said, Yeah, I do want to go all in. Because you know, you had you had come from a background that

Didn’t have any any alcoholic you know you didn’t drink anything growing up you kind of abusive in the grandfather era. So kind of talk about like what made you want to do that as well? Well, I got custody of 14 year old sister when I was 21 years old and

I needed like many people who get into the liquor business and some form of bartending to make money and so I was bartending and cocktail waitressing on the side, just have some income to better support our household.

got bitten by the bug and for years, I just kind of dabbled in that way. I wasn’t doing it full on.

But you know, sitting in my office at university one day pushing a bunch of papers around my desk, I realized I was really spending a whole lot of my office time plucking off and researching drinks.

I was like, you know, maybe I need to really rethink this had a very cushy job with great benefits, but I’m

Friend of mine who’s a librarian once gave me a book. It’s been around for a zillion years in a million iterations called What color is your parachute. And if you actually go through that book and you do all the exercises, which are not easy, it really makes you sit and dig deep. It will give you an idea of what your heart’s passion is career wise. And so at the end of that, I was like, I need to be in the liquor business, and I need to move to New York. So I literally just like yeah, I quit my job, sold my house, sold my car, and then packed a moving truck and went to New York. But now

as there’s often in a story that involves involves New York, there’s there’s a romance aspect of that because I was dating a guy long distance for a long time in Indiana, and he had to said, let’s finally get together. We’ve been together for four years. He’s like, you want to go to Atlanta or New York and I was like, fuck Atlanta, let’s move to New York together. And he broke up with me before I actually did the move, but I took red lipstick and wrote on my mirror for me and I did it anyway.

That’s awesome. I mean, cuz

That’s actually I was getting ready to ask like why New York of all places, right? Because sometimes, you know, my wife she spent a an internship in New York one year, it’s not an easy place to live it’ll it’ll chew you up and swallow you up because it’s, it’s, it’s very, very expensive to live and some of the parts of it and stuff like that. So, interesting story and just, you know, if you want to be in the liquor business, because everybody wants to be in New York, so you have tremendous access to things but um, I went to New York when I was 18 years old or seven, I was 17 for a high school senior trip, and it was the first place I ever felt like I was home. Yeah, I mean, it’s it’s a melting pot of all kinds of races and cultures and, and everything right there. And I think the one thing that I love about New York is least when you go is you could go to a different restaurant every day, your life and you could never run out of places to go eat. Yeah, I wish you could run out of money. Yesterday real quick.

Well, you could live in New York. I mean, yeah, everybody wants talk about rent and real estate, but you can live in New York.

economically. I mean, I did it for years. Hmm. Alright, so let’s get back to whiskey business here. So what was let’s let’s talk about, you know, it’s a package store. And we understand that most of the time that it’s not whiskey that sells and keeps the door open. It’s everything else that’s that’s around there as much as Fred, to his chagrin, he has to understand how that works, right. But kind of talk about now, unless maybe unless you live now. So kind of talk about like, was there a, like a niche or a market for whiskey that you saw when you were pushing it, like kind of talk about how you you started getting into that business? My main thing was how I started focusing on bourbon. When I opened my store. I didn’t know shit about bourbon. That’s just being honest. But it was my Southern connection. And so when I was sitting down and just trying to like, vision board, my store concept was like, it just makes sense for me to make a big focus

Because of this store be my Southern connection. And so of course, you know, bourbon, why else not? Um, so, you know, those first month the store was incredibly slow and I would, we were open till midnight, things were definitely slow from 10 to midnight. So every night 10 to midnight, I would pop sounds and taste it and I be on straight bourbon calm, like, What the hell was everybody saying? What is this, you know, get out there. Just try to like, soak up as much as I could. And

it just sort of, you know, I was preaching bourbon before it would became cool. And it wasn’t even that, you know, I wasn’t like trying to create a trend or whatever. I was just really just trying to be true to myself and raise. Well, I think if you’re on straight bourbon, you were one of the early people that were really talking about it. I mean, that’s that’s the big board, if you will, well, you know, it was General Nelson. Everybody would gather for every bourbon festival and and so did you kind of foster because I know that a lot of people from straight bourbon still hang out there.

They’d still do the the kbF kind of gatherings and stuff like that. It Were you a part of that that early group in those sort of gatherings too. Oh, yeah. Yeah, you know, I always had rumors.

Yeah, Sam I met Chuck Cowdery. We had his

straight bourbon book launch at one of the members houses there in Kentucky and

but once the store became so busy, it was just impossible for me to stay as active on the board.

I had to pull away of course, I couldn’t, couldn’t sit around and fuck off on the computers.

Absolutely. And so I guess was that just business taking off just in general? Because you had mentioned at the very beginning? Yeah, you painted your nails soda bottle. And then I guess I guess at some point you hit like the inflection point. Yeah, I made. A mentor told me when I opened you’re going to think you’re dying for three years. And then something magical happens in the third year.

And that’s exactly what happened. It was like, third anniversary came around and then all of a sudden they just took off.

So you start getting into whiskey. Talk about like the selection that you you started off with and did it grow over time like as you got into bourbon and you tried to

get my hands on in New York, and there’s, you know, a lot of availability there. And it didn’t matter what it was. You know, if it said Barban on it up, put it on my shelf.

We did what we call cats and dogs, tastings and do whatever it wasn’t just all about, you know, trying to have Julian Van Winkle come in store. Um, you know, even a funny story. The first time I met Julian was at

one of the whiskey festivals in New York and I was scared shitless

I was like, I said, I just gotta rock this I just put on some like pink suede pants and black. Hi Oh birds, Walker Banyan.

A sea of drunken men and walked up to God and and handed him my business card and said, You don’t know me, but you need to and I just walked away.

We, you know, made friendships over the years. And we tell these stories, and it’s hilarious, but he was like, I just like, hell is this.

So yeah, we came to my store, and we did a bottle signing in those early days. And I had people just like, packed and then the black cars came from lower Manhattan. And he just was looking at me, he’s like, what the hell, I’ve never done an event like this. And I was like, well get ready. It’s common. If you don’t know it, you’re about to just be blown away and he was like, Okay.

So, you know, I was an early believer in what he was doing with the Pappy label, and when I close the store 2009 I still had I still had Pappy on the shelf. I started right around the show. Wow. You know, it was that in my basement for years.

So speaking of Red Hook, right

Let’s let’s get into that. How did that happen? Uh, much in the same way as anything. I believe it happens. It just happens naturally. That wasn’t anything I clamored for drew and I became friends through the industry.

I remember the first time I met him, he came to one of the whiskey festivals in the room was all a buzz because, you know, Evan had been a hermit for so long. And he was there’s a Causeway near Oh my god. Andrew, like me was very Matter of fact, just like, cut through the bullshit, just tell things like it was and we hit it off, stayed in touch. And once I think we were just like hanging out in Bardstown and he said you should do we should do a barrel we should we should do a label for you.

And we didn’t did and wasn’t a whole lotta not a whole lot of thought process. Just say Sure. Why not. Let’s

kind of created this iconic label. You know, first of all, Red Hook ride just has such a

Beautiful name to it. And even if you’re not familiar with the Red Hook area, like you could live in Boise, Idaho and not be familiar with that area, you’re like, wow, Red Hook is such a cool name. And then you see that and you see that arm with the tat it just was that your idea? I mean, who came up with the name and that art? I came up with the name because I was trying to do something to honor my neighborhood.

Amanda alliteration, so that was a natural thing.

The artwork was the the Brooklyn artists who did my postcard artwork, and I don’t know if you ever saw him on postcards, but they were incredibly racy.

He was just hilarious and he would always push even for me would push my boundaries of racy


I was talking to marketing forums about design and the label and he just showed up and he was like, Can I give it a go? Can I just like, throw something that

Gather and you tend to whether you like it or not, before you like commit to these big firms to design a label for you. And he showed up at the store one day, and he was like, Well, you know, I’m trying to be you, you’re trying to be true to the neighborhood. I call it red and grind like to be true to the history of the neighborhood. And

this being on the waterfront of Brooklyn and stevedores being a part of the history of, you know, big burly man on the Datsun loading ships and whatnot. And so yeah, he just presented it and I was like, done. That’s the label right there.

I mean, seriously, it is. It is a kind of a showstopper, you’re walking around, you see that label, even if you don’t know anything about whiskey, or you want to taste it, you want to look at that beautiful piece of art, because that’s what it is. It’s art. So it’s gorgeous. Yeah, he was so much fun to work with and just trying to do things outside the box. I mean, there’s so many boring whiskey labels out here.

I’m working on another one right now. That’s going to really make you

laugh a lot. Oh, they like nails crazy as hell.

It took a break. She was like, we just got to do this. And it’s using a local artist here in Birmingham.

And I’m keeping it under wraps for that.

Well give us till the end of the show to get it out of you.

Take us take us through the process of selecting the whiskey for Red Hook, right because yes, the label is gorgeous. But I’ve got Red Hook rise one of the top five rise I’ve ever tasted. I mean, it’s it’s incredible. So take us through selecting that whiskey. As you know there were four barrels and the first barrel drew a night with a couple other folks are just in the warehouse, literally like just walking

over barrels and

popping bongs and tasting whiskey and passing it around like yes, no, yes. No, yes. No. And that number

One is still my favorite of all four barrels. I mean you know what’s really just being able to paint kind of the cream of the crop the the barrel was phenomenal. Do you remember some of the the ages that were on these? Cuz I can’t I can’t bring up my notes right? That first one was 23 years and the rest were 24 you know, not a lot of people know that to make happy 2030 stocks. I don’t even drink it.

The age of bourbon it at that level is usually mean it’s over worded and it won’t hold up in a glass. tell people all the time you can spend a fortune on Patrick 23 like let it sit on your counter for half a second come back and it’s like, you know, oxidized and cloudy and funky.

But you know what made that whiskey so special with that he said they had dumped the barrels that they had initially bought and refilled bourbon barrels with the rye so that whiskey could sit there for a little longer at that age.

not be so over the top with wood. And we didn’t really talk about that we didn’t market it. But that that’s one thing that made those all those barrels so special. And then the, you know, it’s been so long I don’t remember who was with me on each pit, but at one point I drove down with Don les from New York who had worked with me a little bit in the shop, and he’s now you know, cocktail rock. He’s like a Barton and God is he’s amazing. And I really treasure him. He came down with me and another. Another guy got started just kind of working with me in the shop. We had one at one point. They each came I can’t remember which barrel that was.

It’s been so many good barrels. He came. Well, when he was there. I remember you know, we were just passing glass around. We all had to agree on it. It was you know, it was I had to pass my lips first and I thought it was worthy and then I passed

sit around and we were all like, man, yeah. Or maybe it had to be like a like all out like, Yeah, that one. So very scientific process kind of.

It sounds like exactly what happens in barrels selections nowadays. So it’s just, you just, you know, you just had the luxury of being in there quite early when Yeah, like that was around. Yeah, yeah, that’s never gonna happen again. You know, I’ve had so many people reach out to me. There’s a store in Red Hook that asked me if they could buy the rights to it. And I was like, dude, that’s not going to exist anymore. I that label is done. There’s a Red Hook rye beer. Like if somebody’s been trying to launch that today they’d be sued by somebody making beer that wouldn’t like that label to be around.

So now I’m going to be your agent here the the asking price they so they want to come in and they want to buy that the the Red Hook right rights. What do you think and Kenny started out a 15 million. That a good that a good number? That’s up there.

Right. Maybe maybe five

That’s a five. Okay, so we’re going I was going to high. Alright, so now we’ll we’ll come in and negotiate this for you get a 5 million deal. We won’t even we won’t even take a cut. We just want the whiskey.

Well, what Red Hook right? Red Hook right? do you have left? I don’t even have any. I don’t have any left. I’m not I sold all of it to raise money to finish my store. I had such a struggle getting the money I needed to finish construction.

It took me seven years to get open here. Wow. I really didn’t even realize what I was sitting on. I’ve been out of it for a bit as a new mom and haven’t been out of the country for two years. And my ex husband kept saying you have got all this whiskey out. You have no idea. It’s like everybody at my bar is asking me if you if you’ll sell it to them and I’m like whatever. I come on. Got some Pappy and some record Rob big deal. And then one day I called and talked to drew and I was like, Hey, man, I’m really hurt and I need I need to get this business.

I’ve been

divorced and you know, things were really tough. It’s a single mom. And he’s like, Well, I know, Doug sold some of his bottles for like 3700 or something. So I know you can can get around that, you know, and I put the whole set of four out

bottles number two, and I couldn’t get anybody to offer me more than 20,000 for all four. And I had everybody under the sun messaging me and, you know, some even like calling me names. It was it was a side of the sex is bullshit in this business that I hadn’t been exposed to in a long time and kind of threw me I was so disrespected in that process. And you know, and then you see now like those same guys who were like, call me a con or trying to sell for number two’s for $20,000 or turn around now and sell one for 16.

So I’m like, Okay, well, I’ll just stick to my retail and y’all can play around with the bootleg. And I’m done with that. Yeah.

Isn’t for that is unfortunately a really

nasty side of our culture that you know it’s very much very pocketed to the enthusiast side like you don’t really see that but I’m sorry you went through that I really am sorry you went through that as as as somebody who loves this community and

i’d love I’d love it if that would stop but sadly it won’t and and i will tell you that they they attacked you for being a woman you know they say similar things to man they just that I’ve seen this time and time again and those groups is like when it comes to this stuff people go overboard and the private messages and then they get very dirty very mean. And I’m very sorry you had to go so different from the environment of like a straight bourbon com or bourbon enthusiast calm experience I’d had. Well, yeah, there

Be a TIFF, Aaron there, but it was overall a very civilized and yeah, the level of bourbon mania going on in these secret pages is something that really disgusts me. And here’s the thing to live now, how much of those people really know? And what do they really add to the conversation? Yeah, I mean, just wanting money grew, you know, Drew and I’ve had many conversations about that kind of thing. And you know, I’m grateful. I’m grateful that that exists in many ways.

Because I did end up selling my bottles and that money put the roof on my store, but at the same time, there’s a I don’t know, I’ve always been about building the relationships. It’s never been about just the business or barely whiskey for me. And when it gets to this level of just doggy dog, who’s who’s got the biggest collection and who can get the most money for it. I just bores me.

Yeah, absolutely. And it’s

And I think you’d kind of hit the are you said it right there. Last time I checked, I think some of those red hooks were 15 even up to 18,000 bottles, something like that. And I guess like what is what’s your thought on that valuation or price?

With the careers of master distiller spanning almost 50 years, as well as Kentucky bourbon Hall of Famer and having over 100 million people taste his products. Steve nalli is a legend of bourbon who for years made Maker’s Mark with expertise and precision. His latest project is with Bardstown bourbon company, a state of the art distillery in the heart of the bourbon capital of the world. They’re known for the popular fusion series, however, they’re adding something new in 2020 with a release named the prisoner. It starts as a nine year old Tennessee bourbon that has been finished in the prisoner wine companies French oak barrels for 18 months. The good news is, you don’t have to wait till next year to try it. Steve and the team at Bardstown bourbon company have teamed up with rack house whiskey club rack

Whiskey club is a whiskey Month Club on a mission to uncover the best flavors and stories that craft distilleries across the US have to offer. Their December box features a full size bottle of Bardstown suffusion series, and a 200 milliliter bottle of the prisoner. There’s also some cool merchant side. And as always, with this membership shipping is free. Get your hands on some early release Bardstown bourbon by signing up at rack house whiskey club.com use code pursuit for $25 off your first box

what is what’s your thought on that valuation or price? I mean, is that something that I know you probably never dreamed it would be like that but like what is your What is your really like your gut thought? Do you really think you really think it’s worth that you kind of like man, it’s just that’s just crazy shit. Like, you know, you’ve heard this a million times is anything worth it? I mean, that’s object and if you think it’s worth it, you got that kind of cash and it’s worth it but you know, I spent

$17,000 on my

Business property $5,000 on my house I’m living in. When I say these kind of numbers, it makes me quiver a little bit because I’m like, wow, like that’s, that’s like a place somebody could live and you’re just going to piss that in a couple of hours. So yeah, it’s a little disturbing sometimes. But then, you know, if that’s the kind of cash flow you have, who am I to judge you for spending that kind of money on? escape? I mean, there’s people who had that’s just a blip in their bank account. So you know, I bless it and saying, may you be even even better and and more well off to benefit somebody.

So Kenny, there’s a retailer in California selling a bottle of Red Hook rye for $30,000. Well, you say selling they might have it out there, but that doesn’t mean it’s being bought. And it’s just like the guy

in New York with 50. I mean, Lee Lee taqman bought that set that I just mentioned, the number two’s he bought some other bottles.

For me as well. And then when you put that Red Hook where I set out $475,000 on this website, it went like wildfire. And I messaged him, I was like, like, I like you. You spent less than $4,000 a bottle on some of that stuff. So like, Where’s that number coming from? And he just laughed. He’s like, Man, it’s just marketing. Everybody’s talking about it. And it went viral. And he was a marketing genius for doing it. He brought ton of people to his business because they were all like, Oh, my God brought $475,000 That’s crazy. But you know, people came to the store to talk about it or see what else he had. Somebody sent me a link the other day Christie’s auction house had a Red Hook. Right? Let’s starting bed of 20,000.

Okay, I think we’ve we’ve talked about the Red Hook. rhyolite and just the crazy valuation goes, I know bottle for 50,000 Okay, get my checkbook out.

got here. 60. Okay, well, let’s, uh, let’s wait until the next. Maybe that should just be like the new index like it’s the Red Hook right?

index to see like how how crazy is the bourbon Richter Scale getting year after year? Maybe that’s what you should do with your stuff. Guineans, the just start pricing it 1000 to $5,000 a bottle and then people go crazy for it. See what happens. I’m all I’m all about it

is Red Hook ride number one I saw bows for $75 a bottle

but even back then, this was what what year was this? 2008 nine um I think the rennaker I started in what was it? 2007 I can’t remember the year but yeah, even back then 75 is a probably might have been a lot for a lot of folks, you know? Well yeah, I mean, it was but a barrel for went up to 350 and people were like, Whoa, she’s getting crazy.

And so let’s let’s kind of like move that forward because you know, those those bottles help build the business down in Alabama. So kind of

Talk about you know, seven years to get this this up and running kind of that. That’s That’s a long time to really work on something I mean, kind of talk about what was there, you know, other than getting money I mean, were there any other kind of like hiccups and hurdles that you had to face along the way to make that happen? Because everybody knows that an Alabama it’s really easy to just open up liquor stores. Opening is pretty easy. I mean, it’s, it’s not difficult to open a private store here.

The liquor licensing process is not dreadful at all. Um,

I figured what control states it’d be a nightmare. It’s not at all and it was even cheaper to open here than it was to open in New York as far as licensing and everything. You know, the challenges were it was mostly financial. And I said I would never do this again, unless I own the property. I bought the property thought that it would be pretty easy to get financing having done this before, and I learned real quickly that since I’d been closed for so long, it was considered

At a new startup, I brought my husband here from Mexico and we had to go through naturalization for him. I got pregnant, you know, there was just a whole lot of stuff on my plate, then, you know, it was a great lesson and what a woman goes through when you decide to start life again

as a single mother, because

it was very difficult for me to

one make living while I was trying to open the store and there were plenty of people were like, yeah, we don’t mind you know, come up here and Bartana bartended a shit ton of private parties.

Like, pamper myself out made things work. But the financing like so many people be like, Oh, yeah, you know what you’re doing. But you know, once you’ve been open for three years,

get money from us. That’s the classic you know, like once you’re once you don’t need it, you can get it and that there’s a lot of systemic racism and I call that out regularly.

And that doesn’t go over real well. Neighborhoods who are predominantly African American really struggle with getting investment money from banks oftentimes. So yeah, there was a whole lot of challenges to jump through. But yeah, I just took it. I took it one day at a time, one moment at a time. And it took me seven years, but I did it.

I’m glad you did. And I’ll tell you, I don’t know

the strength that you

have exuded in that timeframe. Most people would give up.

Yeah, it was really tough. But you know, it made me go deep. And I think the biggest thing and going through that challenge.

I, I had become a caricature of myself in New York in many ways. I had built this business and I had built this character called lamelle. And going through what I did to get open again here, I feel like I am more

true to myself and more rooted and grounded in the core of my being and ever before so that’s good there’s always some good to come through those difficult times. So I’m just just just thinking about if I were to put myself in in your shoes if I if I were a single parent and having to go through all that and face the banking challenges I probably would have moved on to something else. And and so I kind of like just the human element of us all you know why why didn’t you give up? Why was this store so important to you to start?

Um, I knew the impact this business can have on this neighborhood and I’m I’m very much a believer and impact of business on social justice have always been that way. And this neighborhood when I came to visit it to look at this property just grabbed me by the heart and wouldn’t let go and neighbors just were like, We need you here and we’re behind

You here and I had neighbors who said when I first came here

I didn’t even know me while you’re trying to figure stuff out here live in my house or here we’ve got this you know, I showed up here with a suitcase and next thing I know like people had just like showed up with stuff to like help me get through

that moving from Mexico period. So I felt that in Red Hook to there was a sense of community and so there was Yeah, there I really did feel like I was being pulled

by higher calling through that whole process.

And I knew that was going to be bigger than what I even understood and I many times, I’ve had conversations with beautiful souls like Brit calls me and just sit and say I just in tears, like, I don’t know why this is happening the way it is, but there is something on the other side of this that I meant to do. And

one of my big things with opening the cafe constant

Next to the store that I feel so strongly about is that this business is ready to be turned on its head. And we’ve beat up people in hospitality. We overwork them. We don’t respect homelife, you have souls like Sean Brock who claim to shit up and he’s been really outspoken about this too.

We’ve lost a lot of people in this business. People don’t want to talk about it, but it’s over consumption and drug use and just not taking care of themselves. And I really want my whole business concept with the store and the cafe concept next door to me about hope and healing and and how can you have an alcohol business and I’m still figuring this out, but have the message that you can build community around consumption and it not get to the level where we’re fucking ourselves.

And I know that’s deep but that’s where I am. That’s where we need to go. I mean, in the last

you know, from Sasha

kreski to

you know, the gentleman we lost and Miami to Anthony Bourdain, and we’ve lost so many iconic people in the hospitality space. And, you know, I’ve been covering this this industry for a long time. And we’re looking at tells you the cocktail. And almost a quarter of the seminars are about taking care of yourself. So the industry knows that we have to change or we won’t have an industry anymore, or at least we won’t have the talent. Yeah, no, I’m very thankful that you’ve seen this and you’re pushing for it well, and as a mom, too, I see how hard it is for women to stay in this business and raise a family because I don’t care how wonderful you are as a dad. Nine times out of 10 the woman is still doing most of the childcare. And so to still be like the one who’s taking care of the babies and more than likely doing the laundry and washing the dishes and running a business or staying in you know, as a manager of a restaurant or

Whatever it is, it’s really difficult for women and I, that’s another aspect of what I’m hoping to do with this businesses is proved that it can be done in a way that respects and supports women. You know, I was a breastfeeding mom when I was working

behind the bar and, like, who offers a woman pump breaks behind a bar? Nobody. You know, my breasts are being gorgeous. I’m like, freaking out, like, What am I supposed to do? Like, like, how do I had a breast pump in the bathroom and a paper towel holder.

Those conversations need to be had, you know, it’s not just about young folks that we just like we’re out to their bodies won’t handle it anymore. We run everybody out of the business that you know, has a lot to contribute to the business. So

I have a proposal for you. What’s that? Let’s do a seminar tells the cocktail next year. Oh, Lord, I boycotted towels back in 2008.

I know it’s now. Yeah, it’s just

Kenya, I gotta tell you, it’s it’s this kind of a passion that is really outside of whiskey. But within whiskey that to me, is is the future of our culture. You know, so our culture cannot live on whiskey alone. It has to it has to come together as a community and this recognition that there’s potentially substance abuse problems. That is huge. That is huge. And she brought up Sean Brock, you know, friend of mine friend of yours, and, you know, he is he’s had a very public battle with alcoholism. I mean, Sean, that guy can’t even go to the grocery store without getting in the New York Times. But yeah, it’s covered a lot but I want to come back to you, a little you something you brought up as you is.

Is the woman angle and I’m very passionate about this of like, you know creating a an environment in the whiskey industry that is women feel comfortable in its big reason why I wrote the book I did. And then I love going back to your label you kind of have a little bit of the Rosie riveter angle feel to it. Do you feel like it is better today than it was 1015 years ago

as a woman, uh, taking out the the creepy guys on on the bourbon secondary markets, but do you feel like today is better than it was 1015 years ago as a woman in whiskey. Although, of course there’s been tremendous progress and we have more women in the business, you know, in leadership capacity than we ever have. Probably.

Okay, I mean, of course the answer is yes. Yeah. And it’s it’s made progress. I mean, there’s still like a shit ton of rain. Yeah.


what are some areas we need improvement upon?

marketing? It’s you know, I’m sure you hear this from so many women. We’re all tired of saying the good old boy marketing when Matthew McConaughey got involved with wild turkey there’s always Oh, I’m gonna reinvent wild turkey I’m like, oh, it still looks like I got all boy backslapping club. Okay, well how was that? So like groundbreaking.

I mean, commercials are beautiful but like what what did that what boundary did that push?

marketing? Yeah, I mean, it doesn’t need to be like, Oh, look at this beautiful space drinking some whiskey. And it needs to be real, it needs to be wrong.

That’s one of the in marketing is powerful marketing not only with with real women, but people of color.

let’s let’s let’s talk about some, you know, LGBTQ up in here to just throw all that up in there. And so we’re just starting to scratch the surface of

Conservative whiskey world. I agree. Do you see a lot of that today and hopefully we can see more of that change in progress you know as as this comes along and I think having a voice like yours being really outspoken in you know, there’s there’s a lot of industry people that listen this podcast and they’re going to hopefully take note of that too and, and kind of see that change. But we are trying to work on website ideas. My website is still a landing page and looks like shit. But I’m, you know, talking to companies about website ideas. And I’m saying the same kind of things. I’m just saying to you like now we need images, images that reflect my customers, you know, why can’t we have two black hands toasting or

two women looking like they’re celebrating their wedding? And then the market marketing guys at these website companies are like, Well, I mean, those images don’t really exist for us and I’m like, Okay, well then let’s take some frickin pictures. Let’s create the images. I don’t just give me this excuse some light. You don’t have those images and some stock model.

Yeah, that’s powerful. Like what we say what becomes the norm? I’ve seen a lot of those photos, I think you need new marketing people exactly right. This is why my webpage still sucks because I haven’t found the right company.

So we are kind of running up on the top of this out real quick. And I kind of want to circle back to just to your story again to kind of wrap this up and, and so seven years the doors open, kind of talk about what business has been like because you mentioned the first store it was kind of like all right, it’ll build up there’s an inflection point like and you said this one was just hit the ground running on day one, kind of kind of talk about what what that’s been in, you know, and whether it’s been a blessing or curse with work and everything else. It’s been a huge blessing. I’m very grateful. And it’s

it’s just a I’m amazed when I opened in New York, really work the store pretty much by myself for three years, and my boyfriend at the time when he got off work would come in and I put in time and


but it took really in New York three years before I could, I could hire a full on team and I have two full time staff right now and I’m interviewing to hire two more so I have a total of four in the first year I’m already there. I’m at sales and in one year here that it took me four years to get to in New York City. Wow, that’s impressive to be able to do that in Birmingham in New York, and you know, I just did my employees annual reviews

with a sip of Appleton 50. No Berman

It’s okay. You’re still speaking to Fred spreads heartstrings there

15 minute good. It wasn’t oh my god is so good. I’m makes me want to definitely go do a staff trip to Jamaica.

Yeah, one of the things that came out of that it’s my staff’s like, you know, you have kind of been backslapping that you’ve not been in the store.

Managing because in New York It was very very difficult for me to walk away and let employees do their thing. Because I had just like I Uz that store for so long I mean I’m many times I slept on the floor of that store and got up and just kept going. But to see the success and just for me to be at a place of growth to

I’ve been able to let go and trust employees already to start managing things. It took me years and New York to get to

it. So we’re going to start working on the cafe concept. That’s the next thing and that’s going to be probably about two years out but it’s a huge project we’re taking on a big Greek Revival on the store calm it’s right next to the store. That’s going to be pretty amazing project.

JOHN brought come down and play with me Ben.

sent a few text messages. I did but you know, we haven’t snagged him yet.

So we had, we did have one question in the chat that came from Mikey Conrad. And you know, because you’ve got this history of kind of opening up businesses that are more like in impoverished areas. And he asked a question, are you working with other organizations or partnering with other stores to help in that sort of same socio economic background to help start their business and Kickstarter, Kickstarter it off the ground as well? That’s a great question. And it’s something that I do feel very strongly about. Um, there’s been some talk about trying to form like a Business Association, the Merchants Association in this area, this area, does not have a whole lot of business at all, the old business quarter is pretty much gone.

There’s a lot of talk of with connecting our neighborhood, we have millions of dollars of deltan development going on a mile down the road. So there’s been a lot of talk of time to connect that and

how we do that to keep mom and pop businesses a part of that and not just the whole bunch of chains. But, you know, my goal, my long term goal is to really get to a point where I can mentor

And help other especially women get started in business in a way that I think is so needed. Women have got to support women financially, and getting our businesses off the ground because we understand each other in a way nobody else is.

As far as the I especially, like, balancing home wife and kids and everything, and, um, yeah, I don’t have any definite plans, but that’s something that I think a lot about. I haven’t had it haven’t had a free moment to focus on that right now, but I will in time.

That’s great. And so as we close this out, I got one more question to ask of you. So, you, you went and you sold all your red Hook’s, you know, I’m sure that there’s some part of you that that is that has a little bit of a hole in your heart, but maybe maybe that that whole sort of getting filled by knowing that you’re building something bigger and better. And then earlier this year, you had done two more well, epics, you done your light side and your dark side. Tell me you kept at least a few bottles of that, and you’re not going to

You’re not gonna do the same thing again. I did. I had a few friends here like Don’t be stupid this time. And I wouldn’t call it being stupid. I mean, I just was like, whew, everybody enjoy the enjoy the whiskey before.

But I didn’t keep a lot. I can’t bottles one through six of each one.

So what is the what is the new project you have? Remember, this won’t come out for a long time. So no one’s gonna know for a while. I mean, I’ve talked about it somewhat. I’m not going to give out all the details. But um, there’s a distiller here in Alabama that I’m excited about stuff that link and yeah, he’s cool project we’re working on together.

No, it’s not going to be a 23 year old rye. But I went down and met him and tasted out of barrel and he had it he had one barrel it really pulled my heartstrings that it’s going to be fun. You know, he sent me some stuff to that, to me was really reminiscent of a couple honey barrels that I’d had from from

Well it so I can see. I could see I could see like your your heartstrings lining up. They’re like no, he’s a good distiller. He’s a good person. And again, it’s I like with Dre, that project just happened because we were building a friendship and happen naturally. So I’m not out here trying to replace a Red Hook ride, that’s never gonna happen. I just I felt the butterflies when I went down and met with Seth and so I’ve told him when I feel this feeling, I gotta follow up on it. So let’s make this magic happens. That’s fantastic. So as we kind of wrap this up here, at least we got a little bit of teaser. We’ll see what’s happening next. Maybe we’ll get back with you here in a year and we’ll kind of see where you are with that project and be good to get a kind of

a whole full circle feedback here. But for anybody that wants to go to the nails beverage boutique and find out more about it, how do they do that?

Like I said, the website sucks. Our Facebook page is very active. All our social media is atla now’s the him at La

ls BH am? And what’s your address because I have a feeling that someone’s going to change the direction of where they’re driving right now as you’re listening to this more. We’re at 12 32nd Street North we’re a mile up from Top Golf.

There you go. Get your pint and head on over to Top Golf. Save yourself a few bucks. You’re trying to fight that in little

man Come on. Oh, no pints there. Okay, never mind. Never mind. Bad Kinney or boozy, or boozy. We don’t sell pints over. I call it cheeky. There you go.

So what I want to say thank you again so much for coming on the show. I mean, for us, I mean, it was a I had met you originally at the the willit bar opening about a year maybe two years ago now. And and really this opportunity to kind of really sit down capture your story, and really be able to spread the message of really what you’re doing not only just for whiskey whiskey is one aspect but the human

element and what you’re doing to really promote that. I think it speaks a lot for yourself and and what you’re trying to do to help impact and change the industry. You know, it’s just one person trying to try to really kind of scale that up too. So thank you again for coming on the show and doing that. Thank you for being a gentleman in your chase to get us to sit down together. Absolutely. I do my best for that. And if you want to know more about us, you can follow bourbon pursuit on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, if you liked the show, you want to support the show, you want to ask questions and see this live as we do these recordings, you go and support [email protected] slash bourbon pursuit. And if you want some good reading material, make sure you go check out bourbon plus magazine as well. We’ve got a we’ve got some things going on with our Patreon community and getting perpend plus subscription. So make sure you go and do that. Thank you everybody that was watching this live. It’s been a pleasure. And we’ll see everybody next week. Cheers.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

2 thoughts on “238 – The Story of LeNell’s and Red Hook Rye

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *