Revival Vintage Bottle Shop is Proof That Good Spirits Have a Long, Delicious Shelf Life

Revival specializes in rare and vintage bourbons, but the selection also includes Scotch, brandy, tequila, rum and gin.

Mar 8, 2023 at 5:21 am
click to enlarge Revival Vintage Spirits and Bottle Shop in Covington, Kentucky. - Photo: Brian Cross
Photo: Brian Cross
Revival Vintage Spirits and Bottle Shop in Covington, Kentucky.

This story is featured in the March 8 print issue of CityBeat.

Situated in Covington near the northernmost point of bourbon country, Revival Vintage Spirits and Bottle Shop has become a destination for those seeking the finest bourbons and other spirits of yesteryear.

“We’re people’s first stop on their way to Bardstown and Lexington,” Revival co-founder Shannon Smith tells CityBeat

If you’re wondering why there aren’t many vintage liquor bars around, it’s because Ohio and most other states don't allow them. However, Kentucky passed a law in 2018 legalizing the sale of vintage spirits. 

That opened a new market that Smith says gave her and co-founder Brad Bonds an opportunity to turn their passion for bourbon into a business. Smith’s background as a bourbon lover and attorney with her own firm positioned her to navigate the legal side.

“When that law passed, it allowed Brad and I to legalize that market.” Smith says. “That was it. It was a huge business opportunity.”

Revival specializes in rare and vintage bourbons, but the selection also includes Scotch, brandy, tequila, rum and gin. Since opening in 2020, the shop has grown from 200-300 bottles in inventory with 15 open for tasting to more than 4,000 in inventory and 120 open bottles, according to Bonds. 

Unlike vintage wines, which continue to develop flavor while stored and usually reach their peak within 50 years, vintage spirits taste like they did when they were bottled. 

“Vintage spirits are a time capsule to their own selves. As long as they’re closed, they’ll last forever,” Bonds tells CityBeat

Of course, proper storage, handling and a bit of luck are necessary to ensure that a 100-year-old bottle remains drinkable. 

“At the end of the day, Father Time is either kind or not kind,” Bond says.

Bonds is the spirited spokesman and buyer for Revival, often found behind the bar educating patrons on the history behind the products.

“This is like the greatest sporting event in the history of time for me, and every day is my Super Bowl,” Bonds says.

But Bonds says he isn’t content to run the shop like a hands-off antique consignment store. He’s all about sharing the experience with patrons of all stripes – you don’t have to be rich to indulge in the Revival tasting experience, he says.Every day, Revival offers $5 tastings on several selections along with other discounts at the tasting bar.

“The average person can come in and taste something that might be older than them or older than their parents,” Bonds says.

Bonds says the customer base runs the gamut. 

“There’s probably a little more younger people curious about it than older, but it’s all across the board. You never know who’s going to come in the door. We’re seeing a lot of women coming in, too,” Bonds says.

“It’s been really cool, because I don’t see a lot of women in whiskey.” adds Smith, who sits on the distilling committee of the Bourbon Women Association’s Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati chapter. 

“I started with them [the association] five or six years ago, and you just didn’t see a lot of gals around. And now you’re seeing a lot more ladies coming into it, and it’s really cool to see and share,” she says. 

With the growth Revival has seen in the first two years, Smith and Bonds decided to expand both their space and their offerings. 

In August last year, Revival announced plans to move into an 8,000-square-foot space adjoining the new North by Hotel Covington. Smith and Bonds say construction of the new location has been slower than expected, but they’re hoping to open there this summer. The space will house a full bar, a second-floor bottle shop with vintage spirits and cigars, party rooms for events and eventually a rooftop patio.

The current shop doesn’t have the space to offer cocktails made with the spirits, but the new space will open that door for them. Bonds says they plan to partner with mixologist and cocktail historian Molly Wellman, who will curate the cocktail list. 

“I’ve been telling her for a very long time when she was at Japps, ‘You research these old recipes and bring back these old cocktails but you’re using new spirits. The two of us get together, you can be like Bob Ross and I’ll have the vintage paint. We can paint happy trees, like, all day,’” Bonds recalls. 

Bonds says other plans include ticketed tasting events during which the two will tell the history of Revival’s “time capsules” and the cocktails made with them.

“I’m super excited for down here,” Bonds says. “My goal I’d like for us, hopefully day one: be one of the top-ten cocktail bars in the world for the price point and the options we’re offering.”

Revival Vintage Bottle Shop, 5 E. 8th St., Covington. Info:

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