Nashville Barrel Company: Small whiskey business launches, survives and thrives throughout pandemic

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Posted at 7:05 AM, Nov 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-15 08:05:56-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Names like Maker’s Mark and Jack Daniels make whiskey synonymous with Kentucky and Tennessee. It’s a point of pride for Kentucky and Tennessee, and the bourbon business is booming. In the game is a new name in town that’s playing with the bourbon big boys.

Just two miles from Broadway’s bright lights lies Nashville Barrel Company. In the new building — which calls Fesslers Lane home — is its two creators: Mike Hinds and James Davenport. Bourbon brought them together. Hinds left his corporate job in Nashville and poured his heart, soul and savings into Nashville Barrel Company.

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Mike Hinds

"Part of it was because of my love for the bourbon community, sharing that passion… so when we decided actually do this, so really wasn't a money grab as much as let’s do something we're passionate about and we can share with others,” Hinds says. Hinds needed help, however.

In comes Davenport, a veteran and Middle Tennessee native, who worked the retail side of whiskey and had the palate to pick great barrels that people pine for. "People liked them. Then people started coming for each barrel pick, so you know after that that there was a want… and continued with it,” says Davenport.

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James Davenport

The problem? Hinds and Davenport officially launched their company in February of 2020, weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic nearly shut the country down.

"[People] weren't going out to bars. They were looking at what else they could do to occupy their time,” says Hinds. “Times are good, times are bad... people are gonna drink,” insists Davenport.

"James and I had a following on social media. So it didn't take long for word to get out.”

Hinds says many in the Tennessee whiskey community wanted to try some of the barrels he and Davenport were picking, “and it just kind of really took off.”

Now, despite their early success, they’re not immune from COVID-19 related business impacts — like supply chain issues. They’ve had to switch glass bottles, and think essentially six months ahead. But, they’ve gotten creative and it helps when so much is done in house. Barrels are literally in the back. They’re getting it done with only a handful of employees. 

If you know whiskey, you’ll see they’ve thought of everything at their location. If you’re new to the spirit, their inviting atmosphere has the sense of community many people crave.

“Everyone who walks in our door, if you're new to whiskey or a pro… leaves here having a great time,” says Hinds. They hope you’ll come in to taste a bourbon and rye flight at the bar, but stay for the fellowship.

Davenport, who runs the company’s single barrel program says “being able to talk through and explain, you know, the different mash bills and the difference between rye and bourbon is a lot of fun." You can bring your business group, buddies or charity in to pick a barrel to enjoy or raise money. Hinds is all about giving back. “We work with different charities every month on raising money."

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You can also purchase a custom whiskey for a colleague, friend or family member, and it’s as simple as a stop in their gift shop. “We do custom labels that have your face on it your logo on it whatever you want to make that gift extra special,” says Hinds.

In that sense of community with Nashville Barrel Company, they're partnering with community businesses on some upcoming projects. They're working with Matt Bolus, the Executive Chef of The 404 Kitchen in the Gulch, Southern Grist Brewing Company and even a father and son beekeeping business out of Lewisburg.

Locally, these guys are often viewed as whiskey legends. It's that Tennessee humility that helps keep them humble. 

“As much as 10 years from now I'd love to say we're rivaling Jack Daniels... but the truth is we're just trying to focus on one day at a time,” concludes Hinds.