Both Kinds of Barrels

Marianne Eaves, Natalie Newberry, Molly Wellman and Julia Jaksic at Castle & Key Distillery.

Adventures in shotguns and spirits

By Janice Carter Levitch

The barrel of the gun I was staring down was a different kind of barrel than the one gin gets aged in. During my first experience trap target shooting at the Indian Creek Shooting Center, it was exhilarating to learn gun safety and what it was like to pull the trigger on a 20 gauge, Tristar shotgun.

Wanda Seitz, co-owner of the business, has to be one of the most confident women I’ve ever met. She talked to me about the business while her son and co-owner Jason Seitz guided me through the shooting process. “We began our shooting center by focusing on trap shooting and have expanded to sporting clay, skeet and group sessions,” Wanda said.

Jason quickly put me at ease as we walked to the shooting range. A modern-day cowboy, Jason nestled the shotgun across his forearm and carried it as carefully (with the safety on, of course) as if it were a newborn baby. Once I was ready, he handed me the shotgun. He loaded a shell into the chamber and told me to lock it in place and get in position. The first target went flying into the air. Determined to hit the mark, I carefully aimed. Several attempts later, with more guidance from Jason, I finally hit the trap.

Janice trap shooting with Jason Seitz at Indian Creek Shooting Range.

A different kind of barrel can be found at Castle & Key Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, which is home to some mighty fine gin that was just released. Their recent cocktail competition at the distillery with 10 bartenders competing for the award for best gin cocktail was certainly a refined shindig. Guests had the chance to taste 10 different cocktail samples as they wandered through the dreamy, outdoor garden areas designed by Jon Carloftis. Marianne Eaves (formerly known as Marianne Barnes), in case you’ve been living under a rock, is Kentucky bourbon’s first female master distiller. Along with founding partners Will Arvin, Wesley Murry and Brook Smith, this distilling quartet has made their collective voice heard loud and clear in the spirit industry.

“This cocktail competition gives us the opportunity to showcase a spirit, gin, that we – I mean Marianne – worked on for a long time,” Wesley noted. “It illustrates the symbiotic relationship between us and bartenders, which is something we place a lot of value in because the bartenders have an understanding of the product they are serving.”

The participating bartenders were an array of creative individuals who have a passion for ingredients along with the awareness for getting it right. “The inspiration for tonight’s cocktails has been a collective focus on our gin and how it mixes with certain ingredients,” Will said. “To see it come together for our first (gin) product we’ve made here at the distillery totally from scratch is very rewarding.”

Wanda Seitz, Jason Seitz and Johnathon Seitz at the Indian Creek Shooting Center.

The judges were Marianne, Molly Wellmann, Julie Jaksic. The winning cocktail was “Falling Through a Field” created by Natalie Newberry representing Henley Brasserie located in Nashville, Tennessee. The recipe included green beans and absinthe, making it unique indeed. As the winner, Natalie will receive an all-expenses paid trip to the Spirit Festival in San Diego, California, in August. It’s an amazing prize that includes VIP access to the festival accompanied by the Castle & Key Distillery team.

“It’s been an incredible journey to get from a distillery in ruins to an operational distillery, and now having our first spirit-focused event utilizing our product is a momentous day,” Marianne said. “Garnering interest from such high-caliber industry partners and to have sold out the event to our fans is just so special.”

You can book an experience at Castle & Key Distillery by calling 859.873.2481 or visiting VT