Drinks

Raising the Basement Bourbon Bar

A Kentucky couple pull out all the stops for the ultimate DIY home bourbon escape

photo: Courtesy of the Hanes Family

A homemade basement bourbon bar in Frankfort, Kentucky.

When Logan and Mackenzie Hanes closed on their new home in August 2019, the couple was thrilled by its potential. Located in a newer subdivision in Frankfort, Kentucky, the brick two-story is close to both of their jobs—Mackenzie works at Midway University, and Logan is executive director at the Kentucky Manufactured Housing Institute—and has plenty of room for their growing family, along with a fenced-in yard where their miniature Yorkshire terrier, Blanton, can run.

But it was the basement that sealed the deal. With twelve-foot ceilings, roughed-in plumbing, and access to a large deck and firepit overlooking a small lake, it seemed an ideal setup for Logan to build a custom bar to house his burgeoning bourbon collection. “I knew the bar was happening when we bought the house,” Mackenzie says. “But I didn’t know that a rickhouse was coming.” 

photo: Tom Wilmes
Logan and Mackenzie Hanes.

Logan, who has a background in construction and kitchen design, worked on the project on weekends and after their two young children went to bed. Inspired in part by the history of nearby Buffalo Trace Distillery—where he worked part-time as a tour guide prior to the pandemic—he envisioned a sleek, industrial design featuring rich wood paneling resembling barrel staves and flashes of copper accents. 

photo: Courtesy of the Hanes Family
Logan applied copper epoxy and paint and finished by drumming the bar top with his fingers to create the look of hammered copper.

Along the bar’s back wall, he used wrought iron fixtures to build open shelving complemented by mirrors and hidden LED lighting that showcase his extensive bottle collection. The display includes first-batch bottlings of Kentucky Owl bourbon signed by master blender Dixon Dedman, as well as a single-barrel Blanton’s selected and signed by the cast of the Kentucky-made bourbon documentary Neat. “There’s a story behind most of these bottles,” Logan says. When pressed for his all-time favorite pour, he goes with Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel. His daily drinker is Henry McKenna 10-year, while Mackenzie is fond of New Riff Single Barrel bourbon.

photo: Courtesy of the Hanes Family
A lighting fixture includes a wooden beam meant to resemble those found in old rickhouses.

Working together, the couple stained and installed cabinetry to configure the main bar, adding copper hardware along with an icemaker, mini-fridge, sink, and other bar essentials. To create the look of hammered copper for the bar top, Logan coated a wooden countertop in a copper epoxy, applied a custom paint job, and lightly drummed the top with his fingertips as it dried to add texture. Secured by a block-and-tackle pulley system made from items found at Logan’s parents’ antiques dealership in Western Kentucky, the unique central lighting feature hanging over the bar was a family project. Logan and his father wired and hung single bulbs from a wooden beam they distressed to look like those found in old rickhouses. While those beams are often stamped with numbers indicating their position in a warehouse, this one is stamped with dates of significance to the family. 

“I’ve always had a passion for design, or at least the itch to do something creative,” Logan says. “I’m also frugal in the sense that I want what I want, but I don’t want to spend a ton of money to get it.”

photo: Courtesy of the Hanes Family
Enjoying a pour from one of the couple’s many bottles.

The couple completed the primary bar project by their first New Year’s in the home. The timing turned out to be fortuitous, as the bar top began doubling as their main workstation when they both transitioned to working from home later that spring. Perhaps inspired by a few five o’clock pours, Logan soon hatched a second phase to the plan—a rickhouse feature extending along a wall beside the bar. 

“Working for Buffalo Trace for five years, it never got old walking into the warehouses and seeing the barrels and smelling the smells,” he says. “I thought, how cool would it be to have that here?”

Logan bought seven used bourbon barrels from a local artisan who makes furniture from them and began working out a method for affixing them to the wall. “I’d lay in bed and think, ‘How am I going to do this? Or how am I going to do that?’” he says. “I’ll try something fifteen different ways in my head before I actually physically do something.” In the end, he cut the barrels in half and devised a hanging cleat system to display them, interspersed between wooden posts and backlit with color-changing lighting.

photo: the hanes family
Logan cut used bourbon barrels in half to create the rickhouse feature alongside the bar.

The Hanes have made good use of their decked-out bourbon bar, often hosting tastings for friends and even bringing in a bartender to lead a mixology class. “Working at Buffalo Trace, I learned a lot from [hall-of-fame tour guide] Freddie Johnson,” Logan says. “His big thing is, ‘It’s not what you’re drinking. It’s who you’re drinking with.’ We wanted to provide an inviting atmosphere where people can hang out and tell stories and maybe learn some of the history and science behind bourbon.”