Lexington is getting a new distillery that will push the spirits envelope at bit. Lexington Liquor Works will produce absinthe, vodka and a lemony hybrid, according to owner Don Salamie.
What about bourbon?
"Four different types of bourbon," he said.
Four types? An extra-smooth bourbon without back burn, he said, and one with a burn, because some people like it that way. And two double-wooded bourbons — one finished in hickory and one finished in cherry.
Salamie's bourbon is produced using a proprietary rapid-aging process on equipment he invented.
"If you baby the barrel properly, you can age it much faster," he said. "We incubate it like it's an egg."
The distillery buys barrels, then custom toasts and chars them, then puts the distillate in and carefully ages them for more than a month, he said. Salamie wouldn't say exactly what they do, except that it involves "turbulence."
"This will make a lot of bourbon snobs say they're never going to come, but they will be missing out," Salamie said.
Bourbon experts are indeed skeptical of rapid aging processes, favoring the traditional maturation in rackhouses, preferably in Kentucky where the temperature changes force the whiskey into and back out of the charred wood of the barrel, picking up sugars and caramel flavors.
Salamie plans to locate his distillery at 441 Hayman Avenue, next to the popular Country Boy Brewing, to capitalize on foot traffic.
He has been making absinthe, the lemony absinthe and his bourbons in Charleston, W.Va., but said he realizes they need walk-in business to take off. He is looking for another location as well as expanding into Kentucky.
His absinthes, produced under the HipsLipsFingertips label, are called Gossamer Fury and Lemon Fury. One bourbon is called Gun Barrel Traditional.
Salamie hopes to have the Lexington distillery running this summer, he said. According to a building permit filed with the city, he plans to spend $15,400 remodeling the building on Hayman.
Ultimately he wants to franchise the process and let others take his equipment into other locations, he said.
"We can locate anywhere we want. You don't have to have a huge barrel farm. The necessity of having lots of acreage, lots of barns ... don't have that," he said.
But Salamie prefers to focus on the absinthe, the drink of bohemians that is enjoying something of a modern revival. The high proof drink was once banned in France, as artists and writers celebrated its supposed hallucinatory properties.
"The Green Fairy — that's what all the bohemians did in Paris," Salamie said.
Absinthe typically comes in two variations — green and clear — and often is flavored with anise to give it a licorice taste and usually is served heavily sugared to hide bitterness. But Salamie's versions are different, he said.
The clear 80-proof Gossamer Fury has just a little bitterness but more floral notes, so it doesn't need the anise or the sugar, he said.
"The world's only clarified absinthe," he said. "It mixes well with citrus like grapefruit juice, or tomato and makes a great margarita."
The Lemon Fury is a true liqueur, with cane sugar to sweeten it, said Salamie, who predicted it "is going to be our most popular item."