What do you get when you mix an industrial designer and a mechanical engineer that spent six years together running one of the largest shows on the Las Vegas Strip – Cirque Du Soleil’s The Beatles LOVE ? You get a pair of friends that met years earlier in high school that foresaw the future of spirits that would one day open their own craft spirits distillery in the thriving metropolis of Ludlow, Kentucky.
This is the true story of Rick Couch and Carus Waggoner the only distillery owners that can honestly say they left the circus to build a distillery. The two took inspiration from their time in Las Vegas and co-founded Second Sight Spirits; a distillery with visions of the future and a goal to create an experience that would excite, engage and entertain their guests.
They opened their artisan distillery to the public in early 2015 and now make rum, corn whiskey, hazelnut liqueur and of course bourbon. Being designers and engineers by trade they are hands-on makers at heart. Together, they’ve built nearly 90% of the distillery themselves including the heart of the operation a 50 gallon pot still and a copper condenser that sits inside a salvaged crystal ball. The one marquee piece they outsourced was the hand-hammered onion that sits atop the still in the shape of a Swami’s headdress.
Building of the Pot Still Complete with Fortune Teller
“Being self funded we knew that we didn’t have an extra $60,000 laying around in the bank just for a still,” said Waggoner. “We sourced this stainless steel pot off Craigslist from a guy in Tennessee who was making wine out of it (we didn’t ask any questions.) We have the world’s only crystal ball condenser which is actually a street light replacement part. The worm on the inside is 30′ of copper pipe that Rick hand bent with a torch, some sand and a custom jig he made. Now that our ball is full, it weighs just over 300 pounds.”
The turban-clad fortune teller was hand-made in Ohio at Bucyrus Copper Kettle Works. The company formerly known as D. Picking & Co. was founded in 1874 and has been has been making hammered copper kettles and timpani drums for more than 140 years. It’s a shop runs deep in history and is home to three belt driven hammers that were originally part a 1915 Ford Factory in Cincinnati that once manufactured Model T automobiles.
Bucyrus Copper Kettle Works doesn’t normally make stills but they took on the challenge to make the cap for Second Sight Spirits. In fact, they were so excited to create this unique project that they cranked in out in only three days.
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A Spirited Approach to Distillery Tours
When coming up with the concept for their distillery they knew they had to do something different to compete with the historic larger distilleries to attract a fan base. Waggoner explained, “We took five or six distillery tours in a day and we thought man, we can’t compete on that level. How can we make this engaging and different and more about our customers and we found that the future is a great universal. That’s why we are called Second Sight because it means ‘having visions of the future‘ because we are all thinking about the future so it’s more of a two way conversation than us trying to vouch for some Great Grandfather that we didn’t know.”
Having said that the duo do have distilling history that runs through their veins ironically on opposite sides of the law. He corrected himself and admitted he and Rick are 1st generation legal distillers. Carus’ Great-Great Grandpa used to run a ton of shine in West Virginia and Rick’s Great Grandpa was a Sheriff and used to bust moonshiners.
The Second Sight Spirits Expansion
The guest experience part of the distillery is relatively small with only room for 17 guests at a time. When the space next door to the distillery came open it was an opportunity for Second Sight Spirits to expand. The new space will allow them to accommodate up to 94 guests at a time. With the additional space they are also adding a full-service bar, coffee house and stage for entertainment.
A Mysterious Interactive Backbar – Was that Abraham Lincoln?
The new space allows for the creative juices to once again flow. The quirky Vegas like theme will be picked up and fully implemented in the new space.
“We are trying to make our space very interactive,” said Waggoner. “So that gold mirror on our back bar will become a giant piece of Plexiglas that will eventually be a one-way mirror. Then behind that we’ll have a monitor. And then we’ll have a couple sessions where we video our friends dressed as historical spirits and then that way when you are having a cocktail at the bar, you’ll see like Lincoln popup and walk behind you in the mirror like the old Haunted Mansion ride at Disney. Just more things to engage people, we knew being this small that we had to be kind of urban legend-ish. We have a bunch more interactives planned.”
Part of the expansion was made possible by a $25,000 grant from Duke Energy and Catalytic Fund. Waggoner added, “Expanding into a new space will allow us to hold more visitors; both locally and those on The B-Line – Northern Kentucky’s Bourbon Tour and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour, as well as serve cocktails in a lounge setting and feature a stage area for events.”
Do You Want to Know a Secret?
Second Sight Spirits distillery is still open and fully operational during renovations with a grand opening celebration for the new space scheduled for around April 20, 2019. During their initial opening they didn’t cut the ribbon with scissors, no, anyone could do that; they cut their ribbon with a man blowing fire out of his mouth into the ribbon. I can’t tell you what the late April grand opening will include but I’m sure it will be epic.
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