In Central Ohio, downtown Versailles lures city slickers some 90 miles north from Cincinnati to its more intimate locale. Last May, the small town of less than 3,000 permanent residents saw the grand opening of a new boutique, Hotel Versailles, that embodies the charm of the area.
The 30-key hotel was born from what operations manager, Jack Olshan, explains as a genuine boutique philosophy with a truly local experience that focuses on working with local vendors and artisans. This caught the attention of nearby Hayner Distilling and a partnership was born.
“To truly be a boutique hotel means to tell the story of your region, history and people,” says Olshan, explaining the origins of the collaboration between Hayner Distilling and Hotel Versailles that resulted in their proprietary 100-proof single barrel bourbon. The hotel itself is on a site that dates back to 1865, hosted the Town Hall in 1876 and saw its hospitality roots first blossom in 1945.
“Some operators see working with a distillery or winemaker in your home state as keeping it local,” says Olshan. “We take that and ratchet it up several layers: find a distiller in your backyard with a similar history and passion for doing something unique and that pays homage to the past, collaborating to do something that truly marries your two worlds to give your guests an experience they cannot get anywhere else, because it doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
After Hotel Versailles prioritized its local pours, the bar amped up their offerings further with a series of ultra-luxury tasting flights for guests, as well as an onsite bourbon steward – which all provide guests a peek into the region’s impact in the bourbon industry (it has the fourth largest domestic whiskey market) and beyond.
The $500 flight experience, for example, honors some of the global greats with an ounce pour each of a rare 56-year Scotch from Last Drop Distillery; Louis XIII Cognac and Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition.
Below, Olshan shares more about how the bar programming has evolved since partnering with Hayner Distilling and why it’s such a meaningful collaboration.
Jillian Dara: How did the idea of creating a proprietary 100-proof single barrel bourbon amenity come about?
Jack Olshan: I am passionate about Bourbon; both professionally and personally. This was such a unique concept that I didn’t even know was possible until getting introduced to Hayner Distilling in my own backyard of Troy, OH. The collaboration started there and bloomed into what we’ve developed today.
JD: What about the bourbon is most unique to the property?
JO: The bourbon exists using a proprietary mash bill created from sampling historic bottles found at the original Hayner home. Hayner, founded in 1866, is a nod to the great heritage of this brand just as Hotel Versailles is a nod to all previous hospitality operations that stood before us; beginning in 1865. That cannot be a coincidence.
JD: Who did you work with to launch this bourbon and how did you decide on these key partners?
JO: We worked with Greg Taylor of Hayner Distilling because of the history being preserved, which led to working with Bardstown Distillery, one of the premium bourbon makers of Kentucky. What resulted was something truly authentic, to the history, to the region and to the people. We like working with people who have skin in the game and care about who they’re working with. Greg is that type of collaborator.
JD: How has the amenity or offering evolved since launching?
JO: We first started with our single barrel of Hotel Versailles Bourbon, which merged into the creation of the Hotel Versailles Flight of this bourbon as 118 proof, 100 Proof and 95 proof. Additionally, once the barrel was emptied, we delivered the barrel to The Winery at Versailles (five miles from Hotel Versailles) where we created a Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet that is truly exceptional. We have also expanded into offering airplane size bottles of this bourbon in all our guestroom private bars.
JD: Do you see a shift in guest’s demand when it comes to your bar offerings?
JO: People who love great spirits, love a great experience and when the two can be combined, that’s a winning combination. Bourbon drinkers take that to the extreme, they seek out the unique, the interesting and high quality. What gets more unique than a bourbon created for a singular boutique hotel, from a historic local mash bill from a revitalized company that didn’t survive prohibition and has been brought back to life. It’s not enough to just be booze in a bottle anymore, there has to be a reason, a story and a history behind it to make it truly stand out.