Years ago, two childhood friends set out on a mission. Today, we have them to thank for the taste sensation that is Penelope Bourbon.
What began as a passion project— drinking bourbon—turned into a full-blown business venture for Danny Polise and Mike Paladini. “We got to talking one day, and next thing you know, the concept of Penelope Bourbon was born,” says co-founder Polise. He, with a background in the restaurant industry, and Paladini, a tech and e-commerce pro, set out on the ultimate quest: “a very easygoing bourbon that still has a lot of flavor,” he says. “Our combined skill sets had us poised for success. We just had to learn how to create the optimal, palatable bourbon.” A task that is not for the faint of heart.
But as luck would have it, highlighting the enthusiasts’ choice bourbon characteristics—softer with a wheated, creamy flavor, and rye and corn flavors, respectively—was the winning combination. “Of course,” Polise says, “it took a few runs for us to come up with the perfect mash bill [the mix of grains used to make bourbon], but when we did we knew we had something special.” And Penelope Bourbon was born.
Now, a mere year since its inception, the brand has already received prestigious accolades, including double gold at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and produced two superb expressions: Penelope Bourbon ($35), which has a dynamic aroma profile and notable flavors of fruit, syrup, candied sweetness and slight savory grainy notes; and Penelope Bourbon Barrel Strength ($60), with robust smoke and savory grains, followed by a body of orange peel, fruit, caramel and oak notes. Up next, Paladini and Polise will release a new French oak cask finish line—coming to a bar cart near you later this summer.
“I’ve been visiting out East almost my whole life,” says Polise, who drew inspiration from summers in Montauk when creating Penelope Bourbon. Along with his love for the spirit, the beach town’s singular culture is woven within the tasting notes of the bourbon. “To me,” he says, “the mere thought of Montauk evokes memories of friendships, relaxation, time with family and happiness. These are some of the same feelings we hope consumers experience when they share a glass of Penelope.”
The bourbon itself speaks to a relaxed pace of life. “There’s so much more to it than meets the eye,” Polise continues. “It’s really a laid-back bourbon and very approachable. There’s lots of qualities inside it similar to Montauk because it’s beautiful, almost simplistic, but there’s so much more to it."
With summer now in full swing, Polise reveals the perfect light, refreshing cocktail for the season. Meet The Nellie. “This is one of our favorite cocktails internally here at Penelope!” he says.
2 oz. Penelope Bourbon
4 oz. lemonade (Natalie’s Lemonade recommended)
In a shaker, gently muddle the strawberry, then add Penelope Bourbon, lemonade and ice. Shake well and pour. Garnish with a strawberry. Cheers!
Photography by: Courtesy of Penelope Bourbon