The father/son duo of Wendell and Taylor Howard have made craft distilling a destination in Asheville. The family owned business has been crafting innovative versions of much-loved alcoholic spirts since 2015.
With the tag line “Vintage Art. Modern Twist,” Cultivated Cocktails (CC) offers award-wining spirits, crafted locally. The tasting bar and retail shop at 29 Page Ave. in Asheville has doubled its space with a move into a new, renovated space at 25 Page Ave. across from the Grove Arcade.
A Family StoryThe Howards own and operate T&K Utilities, a licensed contractor specializing in infrastructure work. T&K has handled construction aspects of many Asheville-area breweries, including Sierra Nevada, New Belgium and Wicked Weed.
When Taylor attended a bachelor party at Highland Brewing, members of the party wound up next door at Asheville Distilling’s Troy & Sons. Taylor was fascinated by the distilling experience and decided, with his electrical engineering and computer systems education, he could start a distillery. He and his cousin Jacob Howard set things in motion to open H&H Distilling in Fairview.
In 2015, Wendell bought Jacob’s share, and the current ownership of Wendell and Taylor Howard was established.
The H&H name was changed to Cultivated Cocktails in early 2019 — a name Taylor came up with himself.
Since then, the Howards have seen their distilling operation grow at a fast pace. The business doubled in 2019, with a projected 25% increase for 2021. During the 2020 pandemic, when distilling paused and the bar was mandated closed, the Howards helped the pandemic effort by making 20,000 gallons of hand sanitizer for the Dogwood Health Trust. A community effort, the CC hand sanitizer was made with a contribution of beer from New Belgium in Asheville.
Taylor, as founder/owner, handles most distilling operations, while Wendell says his role is the “tasting expert.”
“I’m more our best customer,” Wendell said.
Rounding out the team are Reel Adams, head distiller; Leah Howard (Taylor’s wife), brand director; and Kelsey Bourgeois, shop manager.
A working family partnership has its challenges, but the Howard family is handling it well.
“It’s a blessing to have your son working with you,” Wendell said about the Cultivated Cocktails business. “Also, we’ve worked well together at T&K Utilities.”
A Bit of NostalgiaCultivated Cocktails pays homage to the rich history of the Howard family and its WNC roots with the spirits, product names and packaging.
Hazel 63 is an award-winning premium rum named after Wendell’s grandfather Hazel, and Hazel’s classic 1963 Cadillac. Hazel handed down the car to Wendell — and the lovingly maintained Cadillac still runs today.
“I drove my sister to her wedding in the Cadillac,” Taylor said.
A picture of the family heirloom car is featured on the Hazel 63 label.
Hwy 9 Gin is another nod to WNC. Taylor, who has never lived out of Buncombe County, said his favorite motorcycle ride was riding N.C. Highway 9 from Old Fort to U.S. Route 74.
In honor of Taylor and Leah’s son, Hawkins, a hawk is depicted on each product label.
One of CC’s best sellers is Asheville Coffee Liqueur, based on grandmother Gail Rogers’ recipe, which has long been putting smiles on the Howard’s faces.
Premium SpiritsEach CC spirit in the lineup is developed with the legacy of the spirit in mind, but crafted with art and science.
Hwy 9 Gin is made with nine aromatic botanicals; it’s a complex aroma and flavor — think juniper and citrus for a bright, citrusy finish. The gin won the 2019 Silver American Distilling Institute (ADI) and the 2019 Silver Bartender Spirits awards.
Hazel 63 is crafted with select molasses, crisp mountain water and finished on French and American Oak barrels. It’s described as having the sipping desire of whiskey, the cocktail desire of rum, with a warm dry finish and has been honored twice with the 2017 American Craft Spirit Association Bronze and the American Distilling Institute Bronze medals.
Steel Horse Whiskey is so popular, it sells out almost immediately when bottles hit the retail shop, Taylor said.
Shades of Rosé Gin, a tribute to author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quote that alcohol is “the rose-colored glasses of life,” is finished in red wine barrels, with a more earthy taste than Hwy 9.
The liqueurs are popular, as well. The Asheville Crème de Cacao is made in collaboration with Asheville’s premier chocolate maker, French Broad Chocolate. The Asheville Coffee Liqueur, crafted with Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, is so rich and decadent, it’s good as a topping on ice cream — and even pancakes.
Tastes of Cultivated Cocktail’s spirits are available at the tasting bar, and the bartenders mix many mouthwatering cocktails.
Moving to Bigger and BetterWith the main distillery in Fairview, Cultivated Cocktails operated a tasting room and retail shop in Asheville since 2019. Leah felt downtown Asheville was the place to be, and the bar and tasting room enjoy considerable foot traffic from tourists and locals alike.
Looking to double the size of its tasing and retail shop, Cultivated Cocktails has moved two doors down (to 25 Page Ave.) into the former Pearlman’s Furniture building, with a bigger bar, more room to sit and sip, a small working distillery production area and event space. An on-premises kitchen will serve small dish snacks including wings, wontons and spring rolls.
The new event space is taking bookings and will showcase a Summer of Chow Chow event, Carbon Harvest, on Aug. 28, with flights and bites.
For event space information, call 828-338-9779.
Product AvailabilityIn North Carolina, Cultivated Cocktails can be found in about 75% of the state-controlled ABC stores. Through a partnership with Speakeasy, shipping — although not available in North Carolina — is available in 30 states in the U.S. Product accessories and Cocktail Kits, a concept started by Leah Howard, are available for shipping, too.
View the Cultivated Cocktails kits and accessories at www.cultivated-cocktails.com.
In the future, look for Cultivated Cocktails to offer canned cocktails to go and bourbon, which is currently resting in barrels.