No need to peer into a crystal ball; if you’re trekking The B-Line®, Second Sight Spirits is in your future. Based in Ludlow, Kentucky, the distillery is the only sipping point at which you’ll see a hand-built fortune-teller-inspired still.
Second Sight Spirits was co-founded by Rick Couch and Carus Waggoner, business partners and best friends who met as high school freshmen in Hebron, Kentucky. The distillery’s mystic atmosphere speaks to their background working on the Las Vegas Strip behind the scenes on shows like Cirque Du Soleil and Viva Elvis––Couch in mechanical engineering and Waggoner in industrial design.
After living in Las Vegas, the pair moved back to Northern Kentucky in 2011 and started distilling as Second Sight Spirits in 2014. They knew they wanted to make their approach interactive and entertainment-based rather than about history.
“Vegas taught us a lot about that,” says Waggoner. “Vegas is really immersive and full contact. We thought, ‘How can we parlay some of those experiences into a distillery?’ Once you work for the circus, it’s hard to see the world in other ways, to be honest with you.”
Take a look at Second Sight Spirits; that inspiration is evident in the decor. Some of that influence also comes from being children of the 1980s and, in Waggoner’s word, “dorks.” Their copper still was made in the likeness of Zoltar, the fortune-telling machine made famous by the 1988 Tom Hank movie Big.
When they first moved back, Waggoner said raising cash to start a craft distillery was hard. Feeling dejected, a friend suggested he visit Covington, Kentucky’s KungFood AmerAsia.
“It was cool to see a company whose primary function was to serve amazing food and as a secondary function, they were giving everyone a fortune cookie,” says Waggoner. “It was cool to watch people interact with each other at the tables by trading messages.”
That experience got Waggoner thinking about how fortunes could translate to a distillery. In fact, Waggoner says he drew the original concept for the still on a napkin at AmerAsia.
“I put that on a napkin and gave it to Rick and said, ‘I think it would be really cool if we could do this,’” recalls Waggoner. “And he said, ‘You can’t do that.’ Two weeks later he’s like, ‘This is how you do it.’”
Second Sight Spirits is self-funded. According to Waggoner, when they started out, stills cost around $60,000––a price point they didn’t want to spend. So, they made one themselves. The duo worked with D. Picking & Company in Bucyrus, Ohio––a business that has made copper kettles dating back to the Civil War––to create the large copper pieces. The stainless-steel pot was sourced from Craigslist and the crystal ball came from a company that makes streetlight replacement parts. Inside said crystal ball is 30 feet of copper pipe, which Couch hand-bent using a torch into a worm-shape.
Want to pull back the curtain on Second Sight Distillery? For $14, book a tour at secondsightspirts.com. Learn about the distillation process and how they built the still all while taking in stories of past circus antics. For those 21 and over, tours include a tasting of their Oak Eye Kentucky Bourbon, a few of their fine rums, their locally favorite hazelnut liqueur and, if you’re lucky, maybe even a couple of their moonshines.
Waggoner says when guests walk in, they love to tell them how the company was built from the ground up through connections and happenstances.
“We have a full coffee shop and cocktail lounge where we’ve also added a couple of special things for our guests. We have a fortune teller fish tank. Her name is Fortuna. She’s 100 percent not accurate,” laughs Waggoner. “We also have our own ride to make it interactive.”
The ride––originally a coin-operated kiddie Camaro, the kind you might see outside a grocery store––is also a thrift find from an auction website. They replaced the car with a mustache and for 50 cents, it can move around.
It may sound quirky, but that’s also the point. Waggoner says that they want Second Sight Spirits to be the kind of place you talk about after leaving, even if you don’t necessarily love everything you see, which helps add to Second Sight’s urban legend-esque allure.
“Our primary purpose is to create and connect,” says Waggoner. “That has been the theme pushing forward on how we want to view a distillery.”