Non-alcoholic spirits maker pours into Austin with first booze-free libation

Non-alcoholic spirits maker pours into Austin with booze-free libation

Spiritless founders
Spiritless co-founders Lexie Larsen, Abbey Ferguson, and Lauren Chitwood plan to release a full line of non-alcoholic spirits. Photo by Amy Campbell Photography

Who says you need liquor to create a dazzling craft cocktail that will impress any party guest? Not the innovative ladies behind Austin’s new non-alcoholic booze biz, Spiritless. And now Austinites can judge the company’s rebellious product for themselves, as Spiritless, which has just established its headquarters in the Capital City, debuts its first product: Kentucky 74, a distilled non-alcoholic spirit crafted to evoke all the sensations of traditional whiskey and bourbon, but without all those troublesome aftereffects.

Though whiskeys and bourbons have long been brewed up in Kentucky, Spiritless co-founders Lauren Chitwood, Abbey Ferguson, and Lexie Larsen — who launched the company in 2019 to appeal to cocktail lovers looking for a less alcoholic option — poured the biz out of its Louisville base in favor of headquartering the company in Austin.

Though Spiritless was founded in the heart of bourbon country, the co-founders realized the company could be bigger in Texas, especially in the health-conscious mecca of Austin.

“Spiritless is thrilled to be taking root in a dynamic, fast-growing, wellness-focused community,” CEO Chitwood says. “Shifting global drinking culture and expanding the repertoire and inclusion at the bar is an audacious goal, and as the world’s eyes are on Austin as an epicenter for innovation, we want to be a part of that story.”

With the move, more than half of Spiritless’ workforce, including Larsen, is now based in Austin. And the company’s largest source of funding came from 99 Proof, a Dallas-based fund that targets high-growth companies in the spirits industry.

With its new headquarters finalized and after months of refining its patented reverse distillation process and setting up blending and bottling facilities in Waco, Spiritless has officially launched Kentucky 74, its first product.

Ideal for bourbon cocktails, Kentucky 74, the co-founders say, features notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak, offering sippers the sense of imbibing the familiar barrel-aged spirit, but “without the intoxicating effects or the accompanying ethanol burn.” It’s all-natural and has just 10 percent of the calorie count of boozy bourbon.

“Their unique process of creating a wood-aged, non-alcoholic spirit is extremely difficult, but the women behind Spiritless succeeded in making an amazing product that truly stands out in the market,” says 99 Proof partner Mike Solow.

Of course, non-alcoholic drinks are nothing new. In fact, Austin bartenders have long been happy to mix up booze-free craft cocktails, and the success of groovy spots like Austin’s Sans Bar, dubbed “the first alcohol-free bar in Texas,” prove the non-alcoholic concept has legs, even in an alcohol-centric party town like Austin.

Spiritless’ Kentucky 74 is available in 750-milliliter bottles at Total Wine liquor stores throughout Texas, and the company says 2 percent of proceeds from every bottle sold this year will go to Step Up, a national nonprofit that works to “inspire women to inspire girls.” The Spiritless funding will enable the charity to provide mentorship and after-school programs that encourage girls to become “confident, college-bound, and career-focused individuals who are ready to join the next generation of professional, entrepreneurial women.”

While Kentucky 74 is the first product from Spiritless, the co-owners say they plan to upend the beverage industry with the creation of a comprehensive line of high-quality alcohol-free spirits. We’ll raise a toast to that. And why not make it a double?