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Starting in January 2018, thanks to the passage of HB 100 in Kentucky, it’s legal for liquor stores and bars to buy vintage spirits. Cork ’n Bottle (located in Crescent Springs, Kentucky) now has a Vintage Bourbon Library a few doors down from its store that is open by appointment only. Brad Bonds runs the library, which houses approximately 150 vintage bottles. The oldest bottle dates back to 1889. / Image: Leah Zipperstein, Cincinnati Refined // Published: 7.10.18
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There’s A Vintage Bourbon Library Hiding In A Strip Mall In Crescent Springs, Kentucky

If I had to guess, the Buttermilk Pike exit in Crescent Springs, Kentucky likely doesn’t rank toward the top of your most-frequented highway exits. Unless you live off of that exit, find yourself hankering for dinner at Bonefish Grill, or are in need of liquor for an upcoming backyard barbecue, why would it?

Perhaps it should, though. If nothing else, allow the GPS to lead you there at least once. Why? One word: bourbon. Wait, two words: vintage bourbon. Because in the same strip as Bonefish Grill (and in association with Cork ’n Bottle) there’s a completely indiscernible Vintage Bourbon Library just waiting to be discovered. Thanks to "bourbon librarian" Brad Bonds, we recently discovered this amber gold mine of Pappy Van Winkle's dreams.

Cincinnati Refined: How did you get into the vintage bourbon business?

Brad Bonds: My interest in vintage spirits began about five or six years ago. I was frustrated when I couldn't find new, limited-edition bourbons and Pappy Van Winkle releases. I waited in long lines, putting my name in bourbon raffles and was still not able to get a good bottle. So I started thinking outside of the box, asking friends and family for leads on vintage bourbon. I also went to estate sales around the city, essentially whatever I could do to land a rare bottle.

CR: How did the partnership with Cork ’n Bottle come about?

Brad: Last spring Kentucky passed new legislation—“HB 100,” which starting January 1, 2018 allowed for liquor stores and bars to buy vintage spirits in Kentucky. I already had a great relationship with Ed Bley, who manages spirits and barrel picks at Cork ‘n Bottle. We began talks of starting our own Vintage Bourbon Program. I felt it was a great partnership for both of us. Cork ‘n Bottle is the Ace Hardware of liquor stores—not too big and not too small. Someone is always willing to help you find what you need. They have a great selection of niche spirits. Why not carry vintage options as well?!

CR: Roughly how many bottles do you have in the library?

Brad: We currently have around 150 vintage bottles in our library. But we are always looking for more bottles.

CR: What’s the oldest bottle in your archives?

Brad: Our oldest bottle is Old Hermitage, dating back to 1889. It was made at the Old Crow Distillery. It's an amazing piece of bourbon history.

CR: How would you describe the aesthetic of the library?

Brad: When creating the Bourbon Library, we wanted to make visiting a special experience for people. The library itself is adjacent to our store, but not open to the public. And by design, you would never know it’s there. (Signage reflects a previous business that was in the location… we kept it that way to throw people off.) Dim lights provide an old vintage feel. Once inside the main storeroom, there is even a fake book shelf you have to pass thru to get to the actual bottles. There’s memorabilia and great ambiance, and I think we nailed it. I’m very happy with how it's turned out. So far, our visitors have responded really well to the experience. The library is growing and so is the interest in these often rare and dusty bottles!

CR: What’s the cost of a tasting?

Brad: A vintage tasting at Cork ’n Bottle starts at $50 per person and is available by appointment only through me. We also offer private events at your home or office. Please email me directly with any questions: B.bonds@corknbottle.com.

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The Vintage Bourbon Library is located in Crescent Springs, Kentucky just a few doors down from Cork 'n Bottle at 584 Buttermilk Pike (41017).

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