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Benay Shannon is the Co-Founder and Co-Owner of Restless Spirits Distilling Company in Kansas City, Missouri. She went from teaching high school chemistry to making beverage alcohol for a living, sort of like Walter White but clean and legal. Her current best-seller is a gin, but she’s got an Irish Whiskey and is aging an American Single Malt.
BW: So there you were, teaching high school science. What made you realize you wanted to walk away from that and start a distillery?
BS: I think it was more of a stumble than a walk. I sort of accidentally ended up being a distiller. It started as a way to support my husband’s dream of starting his own company and designing his own brands. In the process I discovered I have a gift for producing delicious products with stills and barrels – and here we are!
BW: What does a typical day at the distillery look like for you?
BS: First of all – there is rarely a ‘typical’ day. We do what needs to be done for that day. It is a treat that my son has been willing to manage a lot of the warehouse and production duties and schedules so we work together every day to plan and do each day’s tasks. Tasks ranging from mashing barley, doing a spirit run, soaking botanicals and distilling gin, proofing and bottling, filling barrels, counting inventory, sweeping and mopping, scrubbing tanks.
BW: What product are you most proud of and why?
BS: This is difficult to answer. All my products are my creation and are like my children – so it’s hard to pick favorites. But I’m most proud of my gin. Builders Gin was an afterthought and something I created in my kitchen as a special request and with great reluctance. I did not like gin and was (almost) completely certain that it would be impossible to make a gin I would like. And I will not bottle anything I don’t like. But that challenge was one I did not run away from. So I crafted a gin for non-gin drinkers. It also happens to be popular with the gin lover crowd as well! I received so many awards for it, and it has brought us partnerships with 2 Major League Baseball teams.
I expect to be just as proud of my Straight Single Malt when we release it as well (it’s still aging )
BW: What advice do you have for women wanting to pursue a career in the distilled spirits industry?
BS: Do it if you love it, not if you’re trying to prove something. And get comfortable with the idea that you will probably need someone stronger around to help. There is a lot of HEAVY lifting.
BW: Tell me about your perfect whiskey weekend in Kansas City, Missouri.
BS: Ooooh – that’s tricky. I love sitting by my fireplace with a StoneBreaker Sour (preferably batch 18) and a good book. I also love sitting at the bar at Rockhill Grille sipping on a Brooklyn Bridge (Mikey’s creation with Stone Breaker) and watching him experiment. (he always lets me taste!)
Photos Courtesy of Benay Shannon