Meet the Makers: Spiritless

It’s a weeknight, and you’re meeting a coworker for happy hour. Before you know it, the late afternoon has rolled into evening, and your coworker is ordering another round. You don’t want to miss out, but your early morning plans demand a one-drink limit. Been there? Us, too. And so had Lauren Chitwood, Abbey Ferguson, and Lexie Lancaster Larsen, co-founders of Spiritless, a distilled non-alcoholic spirits brand.

Born and raised in Louisville (their “beloved, bourbon-soaked hometown”), Chitwood (CEO), Ferguson (CRO), and Larsen (COO) connected with consumers and trade professionals while working for some of the largest spirits conglomerates in the world. They noticed a recurring theme: Customers wanted an alcohol-free drink that was more exciting than a soda water with lime. As career-oriented mothers, they also felt the strain of after-work cocktails leading to sluggish mornings and unnecessary calories. They wanted to find something better—for both consumers and themselves.

spiritless

Lauren Chitwood, Abbey Ferguson, and Lexie Lancaster Larsen 

“We craved a product that would allow us to have our nightly drink but still feel clear-headed and ready to tackle motherhood, business, and whatever life throws at us the next day,” Chitwood tells us.

And so they set out to do something that had never been done before: create an American-made, non-alcoholic distilled bourbon that retains the signature notes of the original without the “kick in the mouth” feeling or the inevitable hangover.

Their first spirit, Kentucky 74, is crafted in two distinct processes. It begins with select oak in a variety of chars and a high-proof neutral spirit. “We use a still to perform an extraction that emulates the evolution of oak barrels in a rick house,” says Ferguson. Finely tuned temperature variation and vapor capture result in a high-proof, intensely flavored spirit. The second step is to run their newfangled, high-proof concentrate containing robust notes of oak and smoke through a process known as reverse distillation. “It’s exactly as it sounds,” says Larsen. “We remove the ethanol and retain all the oils and tannins, giving us Kentucky 74.”

Unlike other alcohol-free spirits brands, Kentucky 74 has no artificial ingredients. It’s the real thing with a proprietary distillation process, boasting the core flavor building blocks of bourbon: oak, smoke, vanilla, caramel.

While it makes a delicious booze substitute, you can also add it to your favorite bourbon, which will reduce the drink’s alcohol content. “Spiritless Kentucky 74 allows us the flexibility to go fully spirit-free or to lower the ABV by enjoying our favorite cocktails ‘halfsies,’ with half Spiritless and half full-proof bourbon,” says Chitwood.

The women aren’t stopping with Kentucky 74. “Our next two spirits are in development right now,” says Ferguson. “We are staying laser-focused on providing the major building blocks of a cocktail bar. So, gin, tequila, rum, cognac, brandy. You name it, and we want to offer cocktail freedom, no matter your drink of choice.”

kentucky 74
Chitwood, Ferguson, and Larsen say Spiritless is best enjoyed in a classic cocktail. Try a Spiritless Old Fashioned with Liber & Co.’s Fiery Ginger Syrup:

2¼ ounces Spiritless Kentucky 74
3 dashes bitters
Orange peel for garnish
Combine in a double rocks glass and add ice. Stir until chilled. Garnish with orange peel.

Written by Daniela Johnson