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J.H. Bards Spirit Company opens for business

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

Founders of the J.H. Bards Spirit Company recently held an event at the reception room of the Business Innovation Center in Fairlawn to celebrate the opening of their new enterprise.

Jason D. Hardy and Jayson Hudson are cofounders of the company, which has its headquarters in the form of a tasting room and production facility in the Business Innovation Center. So great was Hardy and Hudson’s love of distilled spirits that back in 2017, they decided to form the Bourbon and Rye Drinking Society.

“It comes from a passion for Whiskey,” said Hudson. “We started a whiskey club for some folks in the area and that kind of morphed into the idea that we go a little deeper. We realized we could start our own thing and while it could be hard, it also could be a lot of fun. That grew into talks about a distillery and here we are.”

The company was named J.H. Bards Spirit Company because both founders have the initials J and H in their names and Bards comes from the Bourbon and Rye Drinking Society, which by the way, is still active.

Jason Hardy works full time as a Commercial Relationship Manager at Carter Bank and Trust and is president of the J.H. Bards Spirit Co. Jayson Hudson is Vice President of operations.

“I’m a restaurant guy,” said Hudson. “Most recently I was the bar manager at 623 North in Blacksburg and now this is my job. This is what I do now and it’s literally the best job I’ve ever had in my life. It’s exciting. It’s a lot of fun. It’s great to have the community behind us. A lot of restaurants in the New River Valley have brought us on already and we feel like it’s only going to keep going from there.”

So far, about a dozen restaurants in the NRV have agreed to carry bourbon, rye and vodka from the J.H. Bards Spirit Company. In Pulaski County, these include Al’s on First, Fatz Cafe, Preston’s at The River Course and the recently reopened Nesselrod on the New.

It’s important to note that even though J.H. Bards distributes the liquor, they do not yet distill their own product.

“We are actually not distilling currently,” said Hardy. “We are partnered with a master distiller down in Southwest Virginia. He distills for us. We bring it in. Sometimes we put it into another barrel to age it further. We blend the whiskies to make the flavor profile that we are looking for. We bottle it. Jayson hand writes the batch number and bottle number on every label and then we market it and sell it. We have plans to obtain a still and begin filling our own spirits but that’s further down the road.”

So what’s the difference between Bourbon and Rye whiskey, anyway?

“Bourbon has to be 51% corn and aged in brand new barrels made from charred White Oak,” Hardy explained. “Rye has to be at least 51% rye and you can age it however long you want.”

What’s to know about the J.H. Bard’s bourbon whiskey?

“It’s all produced by the same guy,” said Hardy. The bourbon is a very small batch bourbon. Our small batch is two barrels. We chose a two year for its youthful energy and a four year for its nice smokey flavor that shows up in the finish when you’re drinking. We blend it together.”

“In the case of the single malt, our distiller had it aging there,” Hardy continued. “We tasted it, loved it and if we had not loved it, we would not be offering a single malt at all right now.”

“The biggest part that we do is not only the fun of the drinking and the fun to learn about whiskey but it’s the education piece and teaching people about whiskey and what it all means,” said Jayson Hudson.

“For us, education is remarkably important,” added Hardy. “We want people who are inexperienced and experienced to come see us and we want to teach them a couple things about whiskey, like how it’s made and how it comes 100% from the earth. From the ingredients to barrels, everything is part of a fully natural process. It’s been happening for hundreds of years. So we can go into some educational history and we can go into the science.”

It’s not clear whether or not Chairman of the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors Joe Guthrie will be sampling the wares of the J.H. Bards Spirit Company but bringing new business to the county always seems to bring him a smile.

“On behalf of the Board of Supervisors and county leadership, I can say we are very excited about the opening of this new business at the county’s Business Innovation Center in Fairlawn,” said Guthrie. “We are delighted that these entrepreneurs have chosen Pulaski County to begin this new venture. They could have gone anywhere, but they wisely chose Pulaski County. We’ve got a great location for them until they hopefully outgrow it and expand. Our economic development team is unsurpassed in successfully recruiting new businesses and providing them the technical support and expertise they need to make a successful start. And we have a fresh, new, robust climate for business here that will help make this venture and many others in the county very successful in the future. J.H. Bards is also a nice new addition to the quality of life for the county because of its uniqueness. I think a lot of people from Pulaski County and around the New River Valley are going to enjoy it.”

The sipping room for the J.H. Bards Spirit Company is open from noon till 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and from 1 till 6 p.m. on Sunday, but will be closed Easter.

“We want it to be a full blown experience,” said Jason Hardy. “Not just tasting but also enhancing knowledge and what better way to learn about whiskey than while you’re sipping it?”

Anybody else thirsty?

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