Jon Grooms and Michael Beaver co-founded Bourbon Buddies, a bourbon-tasting club within Ballantyne Country Club.

Bourbon Booms

Surging interest in distinguished whiskey brings people together

By Pam Glass | Photos by Raymond J Photography

South Charlotte is booming right now, and it has nothing to do with the real estate market. The area’s spotlight has found a new star in an old-timer: bourbon. The iconic whiskey stands at center stage with loyal and fresh imbibers alike.

The American-made caramel-colored drink has always had a loyal fan base; after all, it’s been flowing into many people’s glassware for centuries. Yet, the last decade has seen the frontier-born spirit explode with growth, and tightened supply levels have sparked a frenzy of demand.

“It’s a phenomenon that no one can explain,” says Drew Podrebarac, general manager of Southern Spirits, just south of the Ballantyne® campus in Indian Land.

“Outside the iPhone, I can’t think of another product that collectively attracts all ages, races, genders and backgrounds.”

Many of these “bourboners” are not just consumers but avid collectors. When a rare bottle hits the shelves, enthusiasts swarm the store.

A snapshot of The Ballantyne Hotel's collection of bourbons.

“Customers start lining up before we’re open,” says Podrebarac of new releases of rare and allocated (limited-supply) bourbon. “The line extends out and around the building.”

This outbreak of bourbon fever is not unique to the retail market. Public events, social gatherings and private tasting groups have cropped up in Charlotte and beyond. In other words, bourbon is burgeoning across the United States.

“I just wanted to buy a barrel,” says Michael Beaver, joint founder of Bourbon Buddies, a bourbon-tasting club within Ballantyne Country Club. A barrel will typically produce a yield equivalent to 180 bottles. Therefore, he needed to find buddies to share in the cost.

Initially, Beaver says, “I found 10 friends to go in with me, and through word of mouth, we are up to 45 people. That’s how the club got started.”

Joining the trend is The Ballantyne, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Charlotte, which offers its own monthly whiskey club.

“The club is designed to bring whiskey lovers together for tasting, socialization and education,” says Kasey Connor, director of sales and marketing for The Ballantyne Hotel.