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Arnold business has unique whiskey offerings | Business

If you are looking for something unique to serve or give as a gift this holiday season, you might want to stop by the new ABV Barrel Shop in Arnold.

Steve Akley and Jim Fasnacht opened the single-barrel whiskey business this year at 6 Fox Valley Center.

The store only carries whiskey, bourbon and rye products that are cultivated in a single barrel, offering a distinct array of products for whiskey aficionados or someone new to drinking whiskey.

“We are very picky,” said Akley, 54, of Oakville. “That is one thing that makes us different. We taste it and make sure it is a great representation of that brand and our brand. We turn down plenty of opportunities to do barrel picks because we are about getting the best whiskey possible. Each one is hand selected for a specific reason.”

Customers may drink two samples per visit at the store, which opened in July.

Akley and Fasnacht said they have identified more than 100 distilleries throughout the country to purchase barrels from and sell in their store. They said a barrel can produce between 25 and 275 bottles that may sell for $50 to $250 each.

“Steve and I go to distilleries, and we taste out of individual barrels,” Fasnacht said. “We will find a barrel that has a specific off profile, in a good way, that is fantastic. They bottle that barrel for us and ship it to us.”

Akley said because each bottle comes from one barrel instead of a mixture of multiple barrels, like massed produced whiskey products, there is a unique flavor for each one sold at the store.

“You get complexities because of (distilleries) use brand new oak, it is pulling a lot of flavors,” he said. “You are talking vanillas, caramels, and crazy things like chocolate and jalapenos. You never know what tastes are going to be pulled from the wood. The whiskeys we sell have a complexity of flavors you won’t find anywhere else.”

Akley, who began the ABV Network media company to promote various brands of whiskey in 2016, and Fasnacht, who selected whiskeys to be sold at Total Wine and More for six years, help guide customers to selections they believe will best suit them.

“You will not find a bourbon snob thing here,” said Fasnacht, 52, of Cedar Hill. “For us, if you are just starting out we can point you to the right things, and if you are a bourbon expert, we can hang with you too.”

The shop offers numerous classes and events with most held at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays and 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Most classes and events cost $25 to attend.

A schedule and ticket information may be found on the ABV Barrel Shop website,

“We have done a breakfast and bourbon class, where we did a doughnut pairing,” Fasnacht said. “We have done a proofing, taking 125 proof down to 100 or 80 by adding lime-stone water by taste.

“We have industry people come through, like master brewers. Jackie Zykan (a St. Louis native who was the master taster for Old Forester before leaving the company to help start ‘Hidden Barn’ spirits) is probably the biggest deal we have here. She is one of the biggest names in the bourbon industry.”

While ABV officially stands for the industry term “alcohol by volume,” Akley said he likes to think of it standing for “Akley’s Bourbon Adventure.”

Akley said he started a path toward the bourbon and whiskey industry in December 2012 following the death of his father, former St. Louis Police Maj. Larry Akley.

He said he was working for the transportation company UniGroup at the time, but he started writing because he always wanted to be a writer.

“I realized if there is something you want to do in life, you have to do it,” Akley said. “I was publishing four to five full-length books a year, but nothing was selling. One idea I came up with was approaching bourbon bars, and say, ‘Would you share your signature bourbon cocktail?’ It was called ‘Bourbon Mixology.’ It took off. In Christmas of 2014, it was the No. 2 seller on Amazon for bourbon products.”

From there, Akley began publishing a bi-monthly e-magazine called the Bourbon Zeppelin in 2016, and now, he also hosts a podcast called “The Bourbon Show” and manages a website,, that covers all things related to bourbon.

Akley also teamed up with Fasnacht to pick whiskey and bourbon products to be sold at Total Wine and More stores.

“We built up a pretty good reputation for our picks, and one day we were sitting around and realized how much money we were making for Total Wine,” Fasnacht said. “We thought, why don’t we try to do this for ourselves? It was a two-year process to go from thought to opening.”

The ABV Barrel Shop is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturdays.

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