When she made chocolate-bourbon-bacon cupcakes with her husband’s Elijah Craig Small Batch, Marketing Communications Strategist Beth Headrick had no idea she was committing a sin.

“He shook his head, looked at me, screamed, and then asked how much I used,” Headrick recalled. “When I calmly said a half cup and smiled, I could see he was less than impressed. I thought for sure he would be filing for divorce.”

Thankfully, the Headricks are still together, and when it came time to do a team-building exercise between the Schmidt Associates’ Indianapolis and Louisville offices with bourbon as the star attraction, Headrick didn’t participate. However, 36 other employees who appreciate a stiff-aged whiskey did, and what followed was camaraderie and a tremendous learning experience.

“I participated because it was a way to get my foot in the door and make new friends,” said Marketing Coordinator Amanda Frederick. “It was a fun time, and I’m really looking forward to my next trip to Indy where I intend to bust in like the Kool-Aid man screaming, ‘Oh yeah,’ to my new friends.”

The most recent bourbon tasting was the third time it’s been offered via Microsoft Teams since 2020, and each time, it’s drawn new faces.

“Having acquired a Louisville office but restricted by COVID-19 protocols, a tasting and educational concept centered around bourbon using our expertly honed video conferencing skills only seemed appropriate,” explained Landscape Architect Craig Flandermeyer, who organized the tasting. “We promoted it by word of mouth, email, and online. I poured 12 different brands into unmarked bottles that were numbered and sent to participants. Over the course of four weeks, the group tried and discussed the offerings.”

Each session, participants were able to try 12 different varieties for the cost of a single bottle. Over different online chats, the group has been able to check off 37 types, realizing there are countless more to try. One of the pours was Sweetens Cove, the Tennessee whiskey that NFL-great Peyton Manning is behind.

“It was a great value and a way to reinstate the happy hour between our two offices,” Associate Dan Billings said. “All the conversations spearheaded new ideas, and for someone who’s from Louisville, it was interesting to learn about bourbons that aren’t native to Kentucky. I also realized that I like rye. I just hadn’t tried the right one.”

In addition to sampling, Flandermeyer made sure to work in cocktail recipes, expert guest speakers, and the architecture of rickhouses where barrels of aged whiskey are stored. According to the Whiskey Advocate, the building materials and location can affect the maturation process.

“I always try to develop a theme,” he said. “The first time, education was a focus as the Indianapolis group was new to this traditional Kentucky spirit,  I invited a guide from Heaven Hill to join us and discuss the process. The second time, we targeted hard-to-find varieties such as Blantons. This time, I focused on single-barrel, cask-strength whiskeys/bourbons curated by Indy’s best kept secret, the Rural Inn. It’s important to change things up and explore the whole picture.”

For Data Specialist Libby Budack, it was nice to spend time with co-workers, especially those who appreciate a good bourbon.

“My good friend Tiffany likes bourbon, and this gave us something to do together,” she said. “I went over to her house, and we drank with Oakley and Pearl who had to participate in their own way. Being social German short-haired pointer dogs, they couldn’t stand to miss anything. I guess you could say they got to know my coworkers.”

Participation came from all departments of the Schmidt Associates family, including Architecture, Engineering, Construction Administration, Finance, Marketing, Interiors, and Site Design. For some it was the friendship and stories. For others, it was recognizing bourbon isn’t the only thing they have in common.

“There are several cigar aficionados in this group, so I have ideas for future opportunities,” Flandermeyer said. “At the end of a busy workday, it’s nice knowing that people appreciate coming together, that we may talk shop some but can also appreciate the nuance of bottled in bond.”