Earlier this year, Stuart Stein made waves when he announced that he was starting a gin-based spirits company while working as a corporate executive chef at Brown-Forman.
While Brown-Forman owns no gin brands, Stein ended up stepping down from his position at the Louisville-based company to put 100 percent of his energy and efforts into Transformation Spirits, a botanical-based spirits endeavor he started with Tara Ogden, who serves as chief marketing officer as well.
The two got started on contract distilling at the Distilled Spirits Epicenter and have created two flagship products — a London Dry Gin and a Limited Release Bourbon Barrel Rested Gin.
Even before bottles hit store shelves, both products took home bronze medals at the annual American Distilling Institute Craft Spirits Awards Competition in March.
And now that both products have made their way to area bars and liquor stores, Stein is in promotion mode.
On Monday, July 16, Stein and Ogden are hosting a launch party for Transformation Spirits at Butchertown Grocery, and all (21 and over) are welcome to come sample the products. The party runs from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and $10 admission includes a flight of the gin, one cocktail of your choice made with the gin, and appetizers by Chef Bobby Benjamin.
Stein tells Insider he’s looking forward to the launch for two reasons.
“We are excited to show off our products to a number of the local businesses and suppliers that helped us get on the shelves and on the back bar,” he says. “And, we have a number of colleagues and friends from around the state and around the country who will be tasting our products for the first time. It will be a great thrill to see Butchertown Grocery’s mixologists pouring our bottles.”
Stein says they plan on contract distilling and bottling with the local Distilled Spirits Epicenter for the foreseeable future, but eventually, they may build a small distillery of their own.
The London Dry Gin, at 84 proof, is a neutral corn-based spirit infused with juniper and coriander botanicals. And the Bourbon Barrel Rested Gin, at 90 proof, is the London Dry Gin that has been finished in used bourbon barrels for around six weeks.
Both products are Kentucky Proud certified.
Stein plans to release other botanical-based spirits in the next few years, including a limoncello, and he’s working with a horticulture professor at the University of Kentucky on sourcing local and native botanicals.
He believes there’s room for gin in Bourbon Country and mentions that gin sales have grown in the U.S. 10 percent to 12 percent over the past few years, according to the Distilled Spirits Council.
“We have talked to bartenders throughout Kentucky, and they tell us at their grass roots level, customers are asking for specialty cocktails made with clear spirits, especially gin and especially locally made,” Stein adds. “We love our bourbon, but we also want options.”
Before Stein gets to work making martinis for Monday’s launch party, we asked him some very important questions …
What’s the most surprising thing on your Bucket List?
I earned my private pilot’s license about 10 years ago and have flown a number of single-engine airplanes all over the U.S. I have always wanted to fly a World War II P-51 Mustang.
What poster was on your wall in junior high?
Poster of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album cover. Yes, I was one of those kids.
If you were mayor, to whom would you give the key to the city?
Ann Curtis, managing editor of Edible Louisville & the Bluegrass and board president of Slow Food Bluegrass. Ann is a champion and one of Louisville’s greatest cheerleaders for promoting local, sustainable, clean, fair food for all.
What are your preferred pizza toppings?
I apologize to those who may be offended, but I have traveled to Naples, Italy, and there is only one true pizza — Neapolitan pizza “Margherita,” with fresh buffalo mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil and extra-virgin olive. Cooked in a wood-burning oven of course. I am still trying to find the best version here in Louisville.
If you could be any age for a week, what would it be?
My current age (52). I am a live-for-the-now kind of guy. I have spectacular memories, but I love experiencing what is in front of me right now.
What famous person do people say you resemble the most?
I have been told I look like Al Pacino, especially when I had my goatee. It could just be my fiery personality.
Who would you most like to be stuck with in an elevator?
He is not alive currently, but Humphrey Bogart. I love Bogey’s movies, but he was a founding member and the original leader of the Hollywood Rat Pack.