While Bourbon & Barns normally focuses on Kentucky distilleries, we venture away from the Bluegrass State today to explore the world of Bourbon in South Carolina. Fans of Bravo TV's reality show Southern Charm may already be familiar with a distillery in Charleston, SC, called Gentry Bourbon. Created by John David Madison and named for a racehorse owned by his grandfather, Gentry Bourbon has grown to more than 40 employees with distribution in 35 states. Bourbon & Barns recently caught up with the Public Relations Division of Gentry Hospitality Group to learn a little more about the distillery seen by millions each week on Southern Charm.
BB: How did Gentry Bourbon get its start?
GHG: Gentry Bourbon is a family owned, handcrafted small-batch American bourbon born and bottled in the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina. Honored by Southern Living Magazine as the 2016 Bourbon of the year, Gentry was crafted and created by John David (JD) Madison of Charleston, South Carolina. JD’s vision was to develop a prized Bourbon to honor his familial roots. JD’s grandfather, John Gentry Madison, was a seasoned real estate developer before he retired and fell in love with thoroughbred racehorses. Over the next few years, Madison collected and trained champion racehorses across the country, from Kentucky to California. Through his journey, he discovered and later trained a championship horse with a lineage dating back to the famous War Admiral. He eloquently named the horse, Gentry, and his dream was to take Gentry back to Kentucky to win the big race. However, he passed away before he could live out his dream. In a realm of tradition, romance and legacy, Madison decided to name his Charleston-born bourbon in honor of his grandfather.
BB: How big is the Gentry operation today?
GHG: Gentry is distributed nationwide and has a team of over 40 dedicated employees in Charleston, SC. We have brand managers and ambassadors in every state that we are distributed in and growing the brand to all 50 states hopefully by year end 2017.
BB: Do you distill your bourbon onsite or does it begin its life elsewhere before being aged in the Holy City of Charleston, SC?
GHG: Gentry Bourbon is the choice bourbon for the next generation. Even though the most educated bourbon palates will enjoy Gentry, the trend in Bourbon drinking is also with millennials and Gentry is sure to please any Bourbon connoisseur, Modern yet complex, with an amazing balance of heat and sweet, Gentry Bourbon has a subtle bouquet with a palate that suggest a touch of light char of oak, vanilla, and the familiar warmth you expect from a bourbon. At Gentry, we are most proud of the finish that is completely unprecedented of a modern bourbon, with hints of mocha and green apple citrus, leaving your palate ready for more… smooth like a 21-year single barrel premium bourbon. Gentry Bourbon is distilled and barreled in Kentucky and Indiana, then brought to Charleston, where it is ricked, staved, and bottled, honoring Gentry’s commitment to our community and the home of its creator.
BB: I understand Gentry uses a unique process to make its bourbon. Can you describe that process?
GHG: Gentry requires the utmost care and respect when it comes to creating our unparalleled small batch bourbon. First, we transfer our bourbon from an American Oak Barrel to another barrel that has been aged itself in port wine. This transfer allows the bourbon to pick up a certain smoothness that can only be accomplished over an enormous amount of years. Second, we embrace the TerrePure process. This process creates a rapid aging that beautifully smoothens the liquor. We then place our bourbon into a large container that resembles a barrel, yet creates rapid temperature changes aging the bourbon quickly.
BB: Does Gentry offer (or plan to offer) any products other than bourbon, such as a rye whiskey?
GHG: There are no immediate plans to offer any new products for the next few years.
BB: Where can readers find Gentry Bourbon? Is it available outside of South Carolina?
GHG: We are available online in over 35 states at present. www.gentrybourbon.com
BB: Many readers might recognize Gentry after seeing it on Southern Charm, a reality TV show set in Charleston. How has Southern Charm impacted the business?
GHG: Southern Charm was a great way to get the word out on Gentry. With over 4.5 Million viewers per episode, there certainly has been exponential interest in the brand. Readers will see even more about Gentry this season on the hit Bravo TV show airing Mondays at 9PM ET starting April 3.
BB: I understand the founder of Gentry Bourbon, John David Madison, is also interested in horse racing. Can you describe his history with the sport? Is he involved in the sport today?
GHG: Because of the nature of the brand honoring JD’s grandfather, there is a huge interest in polo, horse racing etc. Here is more on JD: A seasoned Charleston entrepreneur, JD Madison is well-known for some of Charleston’s most celebrated destinations and experiences including Sermet’s, Gents Barberspa and Ladies Pamperspa, and an extraordinary Gentry boutique hotel coming soon, all celebrating the spirit of Charleston and Gentry. Gentry Bourbon is the natural next addition to the Gentry Hospitality Group with JD’s passion in the food, beverage and hospitality sector and strong roots in the Low Country. Over the past two decades, Madison has made significant contributions to the Charleston community and its economic vitality. Madison is well-poised to continue his commitment with a nod to the South with Charleston’s very own Bourbon for both the region and the nation’s sipping enjoyment. Gentry Bourbon is a privately held company and supported by a diverse group of investors in select industries.
BB: What is the future of Gentry Bourbon?
GHG: Gentry looks to expand the brand nationwide. It is also in talks with a huge retailer to carry the brand nationwide as well. In the immediate works, Gentry is opening a flagship restaurant in Charleston, SC being coined as The Gentry Bar and Room that will feature hand-crafted cocktails and an inspired shareable plate menu from Celebrity Chef Marvin Woods. Go to www.gentrybar.com formore details.