We were on our semiannual company retreat to Palm Desert last month when we finally found time to catch up on some reading. No, it wasn't the latest New York Times best selling novel we dug into as we sat by the pool, but the dozens of food, wine, and spirits magazines that pour into our office every month. The story that got us talking right away was in The Bourbon Review. A few pages in we saw this photo of two young and handsome men standing in front of a wall of bourbon barrels. I mean, it doesn't get more interesting than that.
Turns out the men are Robert Grajewski II and James Broyhill II who own the artisan furniture company, Heritage Handcrafted in North Carolina. The two of them have been best friends since they were kids and even share the same birthday. James comes from a long line of skilled furniture makers and Robert has been developing and launching businesses with his savvy entrepreneurial skills since graduating from Wharton MBA School. Together they've found a way to turn used bourbon barrels into beautiful wooden creations, from benches to chandeliers to kitchen sinks.
It's safe to say that we instantly fell in love with their products and quickly got on the phone with Robert to learn more about his company. Here's what we asked:
J & J:How much do you know about what was aged in the barrel before it arrives at your carpentry shop?
Robert: We have a very good idea of what is aged in our barrels before they arrive to our shop as we have deep relationships with the distilleries who provide us our barrels. Heritage Handcrafted is unique in that once the barrel is often emptied and its contents bottled, its next stop is to Heritage Handcrafted to be turned into unique gifts and furniture. There is no way to get furniture and gifts closer to the distilling process than from Heritage Handcrafted.
J & J: Most experts agree that 60-70% of a bourbon or whiskey's flavor comes from the staves it's harnessed by. When you're reusing the wood, do you notice differences in the staves or can we only taste those subtleties in our glass?
Robert: We certainly notice a difference in the colors and charring of the staves themselves between brands as well as the unique smells and aromas. Both these unique colors and subtle aromas carry over to the furniture and gifts that we manufacture. It truly makes our furniture and gifts one-of-a-kind.
J & J: A lot of great whiskey and bourbon distilleries are within driving distance of your headquarters. Which are a few of your favorite labels to sip while sitting in one of your beautiful adirondack chairs?
Robert: From an artisan standpoint, we are a big fan of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve from the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery and Belle Meade Bourbon from the Green Brier Distillery. From a more national, global brand we enjoy Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey.
J & J: Your products are catching the eye of a lot of people who are looking for quality, originality, and personality. Besides what you currently offer on your website, what are your plans for new designs?
Robert: We have recently launched a line of unique gift items such as cuff links, ballpoint pens, and bottle stoppers that are all made from whiskey, wine, and scotch barrels. Likewise, we are often tinkering in the workshop on new furniture and gift designs. The best place to find these items are at www.Heritage-Handcrafted.com and to join our mailing list.
J & J: We've got plans to put a speakeasy in our home. Does heritage-handcrafted design custom furniture for home bars?
Robert: We certainly are able to make custom furniture and gifts as well as monogram the current products that we offer on our website. The best way to inquire about these opportunities is to email us at inquiries@Heritage-Handcrafted.com.
J & J: When you walk into a bar, what's your favorite cocktail to order and why?
Robert: It really depends on the bar. If we are able to smoke cigars, than a nicely aged whiskey neat is our go to drink. If we are out watching the game with friends, a Whiskey and Coke or a Whiskey and Ginger are always good options. Simple to make, but satisfying.
We encourage you to visit their website to learn more about this impressive company and to see which former bourbon barrel will look god in your home.