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Winter Park Whiskey Brand Celebrates New Product Release

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Eight months after opening their Winter Park blending house and tasting room, Forward/Slash Premium Blended Whiskey co-owners Tim Bradstreet and Michael Buffa are evolving the brand through new partnerships and a landmark product tie-in to the holiday season.

“We wanted to create a holiday whiskey, but also something no one has ever seen before,” Buffa told the32789 of the company’s new Krampus Rye: a limited-edition blended whiskey aged in a spiced rum barrel.

Forward/Slash Premium Blended Whiskey co-owners Tim Bradstreet and Michael Buffa offered special preview tastings of their Krampus Rye at the 2023 Cows ‘n Cabs event.

The idea came during a product sampling at Lugo’s Craft Distillery in Lakeland. “Spiced rum isn’t something that typically is aged, but it just so happens they were working on a project for someone,” Bradstreet explained. Once the aging process was complete, distillery owner Christian Lugo agreed to part with the empty barrel “and we immediately filled it with a blend of rye whiskeys to see what would happen.” The result is a rich color with an added spice and sweetness to the traditional rye whiskey flavor profile that Buffa calls “Christmas in a glass.”

Named after the mythical creature who punishes the naughty at Christmastime, the November 24 Krampus Rye release at Forward/Slash’s 650 S. Capen Ave. tasting room featured holiday decor, a heavy-metal Spotify soundtrack and looped showings of the 2015 fantasy/horror film “Krampus.”

Buffa (center) assists Forward/Slash bartenders Denise Padin and Samir Patel during the November 24 Krampus Rye release.
The tasting room was properly decorated for the first holiday event of the season. Plans are in the works for an ugly sweater party in December.

The process may seem like a happy accident, but trial-and-error is what blending is all about. And the limited quantities that result from unique pairings are what make the Forward/Slash experience special.

Buffa and Bradstreet work with independent distilleries from across the country, choosing and combining the best products based on flavor characteristics. Forward/Slash bottles its own line of whiskeys and a blended vodka, but experiments can often result in small batches of unique flavors that are only served in the company tasting room. Tours provide a glimpse into the Forward/Slash process and include a lesson in blending distillates to achieve specific flavors.

The Krampus Rye label even comes courtesy of a business pairing with Orlando-based Leviathan Artworks.

Cassie and Robert Fischer of Leviathan Artworks chat with guests during the Krampus Rye product debut at Forward/Slash.
Leviathan Artworks artist/owner Robert Fischer created his Krampus design for a t-shirt before Buffa and Bradstreet asked to use it for the product label.
Fischer also created an Atlas-inspired design exclusively for Forward/Slash.

“I had this Krampus shirt design already made,” said artist/owner Robert Fischer. “They saw it and asked about using it for the label.” Fischer also created an exclusive Forward/Slash t-shirt that features a skeleton carrying a bourbon barrel.

“We’ve known Robert for a while, he even had his wedding reception here at Forward/Slash,” said Buffa. “It’s cool when you can work with people who have that kind of appreciation and understanding about you do.”

The Forward/Slash staff is currently serving Krampus Rye pours and cocktails in the tasting room with a yet-to-be-determined number of bottle sales. “We have about 281 bottles,” said Buffa. “We want to have enough to serve in pours and cocktails through December, so we’ll see what we’ve got left after the event.”

Forward/Slash bartenders Denise “Didi” Padin pours a Krampus Rye Old Fashioned.

As for 2024, Buffa and Bradstreet are working on additional partnerships and events. This year, they hosted car shows in partnership with Porsche Club of America, attended their first Cows ‘n Cabs on November 11 and were among the beverage providers at the 2023 Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival.

“We have lots of exciting plans for the new year, but we’re not releasing details on those items yet,” said Buffa. “It’s been a great first year for us and we can’t wait to expand upon the experiences we offer here.”

For more information on upcoming events, bookings and reservations, visit the Forward/Slash website, Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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