Oak & Eden Lets You Play Whiskey Maker With Its Unique “In-Bottle Finishing” Process
Build your own bottle at the company's flagship store in Bridgeport
In 2016, Joe Giildenzopf sampled some of his brother’s homemade whiskey. Since barrel-aging was not an option for this DIY operation, his brother put a piece of deconstructed barrel into a Mason jar along with the unaged whiskey, hoping to impart wood notes into the liquid. Giildenzopf was intrigued and realized this practice wasn’t exactly used industry-wide. After some research, the entrepreneur filed a patent for “in-bottle finishing” and set out to create a new kind of whiskey company.
Giildenzopf teamed up with Brad Neathery, who owned a creative agency and had more than a decade of experience building brands. Together, the duo co-founded Oak & Eden, a first-of-its-kind operation that debuted in 2018 as one of the only spirit brands to hold a utility patent.
“I figured this would either get ripped to shreds, or it might work, and it could shake the industry up because there’s something here,” says Giildenzopf. “It’s not just novel — it’s effective.”
Rather than distilling their own spirits — a massive undertaking for any new company — Oak & Eden sources aged whiskeys from MGP, the Indiana distilling behemoth that makes a wide variety of grain recipes and is responsible for supplying juice to popular brands like High West and George Dickel.
It’s common to source mature whiskey and then finish it in a second barrel, thereby imparting a unique character to the liquid. But Oak & Eden charts a different course. Inspired by that fateful Mason jar of moonshine, they insert an oak spire straight into the bottle. This spiral-cut piece of wood is fashioned from the same species and treatment as barrel oak, so it enhances the whiskey’s flavors by yielding extra tannins and a creamier mouthfeel. Consumers also have more control of the finish.
“The spire is not the innovation — it’s a tool,” says Neathery. “We’re not here to speed age or force-replicate an old, legacy heritage technique,” he says, referring to the whiskey industry’s long-standing tradition of aging its spirits in barrels. “We’re here to give consumers the power to customize and innovate their own products.”
Oak & Eden’s releases include a trio of bourbons that vary in composition and finishing technique, with options that feature an in-bottle American oak spire or French oak spire available at different char levels. There’s also a rye whiskey finished with an American oak spire, plus a series of “infused whiskeys,” in which the spire was first soaked in Caribbean rum, cabernet sauvignon or cold brew coffee. This fall, the company will release Wheat & Honey, a wheated bourbon that’s finished with a honey-soaked American oak spire.
Giildenzopf says that whether you keep the whiskey in the bottle for six weeks or two years, the flavor will essentially be the same. But he adds that the mouthfeel does become creamier over time, so he suggests giving it at least six weeks, and tasting the whiskey each week to see how it evolves.
Oak & Eden products are available to purchase online via the company’s website and at select liquor stores around the country. They’re also creating an online tool for people to build their own bottles and get them delivered, which should be live by the holiday season or early next year. But the best experience comes at the company’s flagship store in Bridgeport, Texas.
Walk inside and you’ll find a cocktail bar and tasting room, plus bottles available for sale. To take things a step further, book the one-hour Bottle Customization Experience. You’ll begin by tasting a flight of various experimental whiskeys from the brand’s library before being guided through the process of building your own custom bottle. Choose your base whiskey, proof, wood spire and infusion option, then walk out with a one-of-a-kind whiskey and more knowledge than you came in with.
Oak & Eden will soon expand its footprint with a second location at the Clearfork development in Fort Worth. It will feature a full kitchen and cocktail bar, indoor and outdoor seating, and a similar library-style tasting room as the flagship, where customers can create their own blends to take home.
This custom, hands-on approach is how Oak & Eden hopes to differentiate itself from the hundreds of bottles available on store shelves.
“Bourbon is a precious, heritage spirit with a lot of rules about how it’s made and what makes it bourbon,” says Neathery. ”But as we move into customization with consumers, there’s an emerging generation of people who want to interact with spirits, rather than just buy them.”
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