West Bottoms Whiskey Co. isn’t just named for the neighborhood where the distillery opened earlier this year. For owner and master distiller Alex Lindsey, the West Bottoms has a crucial tie to the spirit of the whiskey he makes—a sense of innovation and optimism that can be traced from the neighborhood’s early days as the epicenter of Kansas City industry and commerce.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the West Bottoms,” Lindsey says. “What I really love is the history around it.”
He pays tribute to that history with the distillery’s Kansas City Whiskey, which uses the pre-prohibition practice of rectification. To keep up with high demand and avoid taxes, which were determined by how much whiskey went into a barrel, distillers started adding a bit of sherry to give it more color and soften the flavor. Rectification was rediscovered and implemented by Lindsey’s neighbors at J. Rieger & Co., who proved to be a big help as he adopted the practice. Ultimately, Lindsey created West Bottoms Whiskey with a spicy rye and bourbon that are combined with a 15-year-old oloroso sherry.
“It took basically three very, very drunk nights and three very, very sh*tty mornings to come up with that blend,” he recalls. “What it came down to was I wanted to offer a whiskey to Kansas City that was whiskey-forward, that drinks like you would drink it neat or on the rocks.”
In addition to that cornerstone whiskey, Lindsey is also working on micro batches, which will be available as limited releases a few times per year. First up? An American malt whiskey he played around with years ago and still considers the best thing he ever created. Made on a ten-gallon still named Hephaestus after the Greek god of fire and metalworking, the spirit is then put in small barrels so it can age in three to five months as opposed to three to five years—keep an eye out for the release this fall.
Guests can get a taste of the mainstay whiskey and special releases at West Bottoms Whiskey Co.’s intimate tasting room, which offers a craft whiskey cocktail list designed for whiskey lovers and more apprehensive drinkers alike. Naturally, you’ll find the horsefeather, a Kansas City staple, as well as the sweet and creamy Whiskey Waker coffee martini and a take on the Boulevardier, made with Rondo Spritz, amaro, and a couple dashes of bitters. (It’s Lindsey’s personal favorite—and for a spicy twist, order the off-menu Southwest Boulevardier, which gets a habanero kick.)
The cocktail menu also features the drink Lindsey and co. dubbed “The Best Old Fashioned in Kansas City.” The name started out as a joke, but he does consider it a contender for the title. When you order it in the tasting room, a whiskey barrel stave is sprinkled with orange bitters and hit with heat, creating an orange fog inside the glass. That little element aside, “It’s a really, really simple recipe,” Lindsey says. “We try to let the whiskey speak for that one.”
Although a smoked stave might not be on the menu for your home bar, the cocktail can be.
The Best Old Fashioned in Kansas City
- 2 ounces Kansas City Whiskey
- .25 ounce maple syrup
- Angostura bitters
- Chocolate bitters
Stir with ice in a shaker and pour over a large cube with a dehydrated Mandarin orange and a Luxardo cherry.