In the Spirit

In the Spirit: Never Say Die Bourbon | Listen

By: Amber Chase

Never Say Die is an award-winning, small-batch bourbon born in Kentucky and matured across the Atlantic. This smooth, drinkable spirit is also the namesake for an unforgettable story of resilience, determination, and defiance against all odds. The Local Palate sat down with co-owner Brian Luftman to recount the bourbon’s historic tale and growing legacy.

The Never Say Die Origin Story

Copy of NSD Brian

TLP: Tell us the origin story of Never Say Die bourbon and how you got involved with the whiskey.

Brian Luftman: I’ll do my best to give the condensed version and still hit all the plot twists. In 1951, a horse was born in Kentucky, and the birth was shaky at best. The foal had difficulties breathing and wasn’t able to stand on its own. A doctor was called in to assist the foal, and, as a last-ditch effort, he sent a shot of whiskey down the horse’s throat to jumpstart his systems. Miraculously, the horse not only survived the night, but was fully active and showed promise as a racehorse. As such, they named him Never Say Die. 

Never Say Die went on to have a budding racing career in the States, then took a gamble and entered the English Classic, a huge derby event with both Queen Elizabeth and Winston Churchill in attendance. With a rookie jockey and mere 33-to-1 odds, Never Say Die outraced the British thoroughbreds, becoming the first American horse to win in over 70 years. 

If the legacy of an underdog racehorse was not enough, the story continues with Mona Best. Best was a woman in Liverpool who was taken with the story of the resilient horse. In a leap of faith, she pawned all her jewelry and bet the profits on Never Say Die at those historic 33-to-1 odds. With her winnings, she purchased a historic Victorian home to transform it into a music venue. Her son, Peter Best, and his friends helped upfit the space and, in return, were allowed to headline opening night. At the time, their band was called The Quarrymen with members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison. This was the humble beginnings of musical legends, The Beatles. 

That single sip of whiskey altered the course of history and stands as a beacon to trust instinct and persist against all odds. The moment a friend of mine told me this story and asked if I wanted in, there were no doubts in my mind.

TLP: How does Never Say Die authentically balance the influences of both Kentucky and England?

Brian Luftman: We planned the whiskey’s journey to mirror that of the horse himself: born in America, raised in Kentucky, journeyed across an ocean, then reaching its peak in England. The bourbon is aged for five years in Kentucky, then palletized for a six week trek across the ocean, where it then lands in Liverpool to complete the aging process for a final year. As of right now, we’re the only whiskey brand with this distinct process. Despite the logistical hurdles of shipping barrels across the ocean, we felt this would be the most authentic way to represent the whiskey and the story. Both England and Kentucky share that strong thoroughbred racing population, so leaning into that culture with this incredible story has been easy.

Never Say Die whiskey next to a cocktail with an orange peel

TLP: Do you see any crossovers between the experience of watching a derby and sipping Never Say Die bourbon?

Brian Luftman: You know, there’s a lot to be said for the storytelling aspects of a derby and the draw that brings. Prior to the actual race, you have moderators sharing the backstories of different horses, jockeys, or causes they might be representing. It’s very similar to how we hope our whiskey is enjoyed. Despite the high costs of production, we’ve strived to keep the price point something manageable so the bourbon remains accessible but is still something to proudly display. We hope the rich origin story of Never Say Die creates this immeasurable allure to the bourbon. When you’re well acquainted with the roots and heart behind a product, it transforms it into a personal prize. 

TLP: What’s your personal favorite way to enjoy Never Say Die bourbon?
Brian Luftman: Honestly, this bourbon is so sippable, I drink it neat in a glass. That said, I’m also a big fan of old fashioneds, and we have a lot of excellent cocktail recipes that are fruit or herb-forward that play extremely well with our bourbons. We also have a rye whiskey launching soon that is the perfect companion to an old fashioned and leaves this really crazy mint finish. That particular bottle displays my signature, and I’m incredibly proud of its unique flavor.

Never Say Die Cocktail with an orange twist

Never Say Die Cocktail

Epsom derby cocktail next to a bottle of Never Say Die Bourbon

The Epsom Derby Cocktail

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