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Distilled Tastings

Slowing the World Down One Glass at a Time 

Article by Kelsey Huber

Photography by Thomas Hall Eagle Aerial Solutions

Originally published in Topeka City Lifestyle

It all started during the pandemic. Keaton Vander Hart, a high school business teacher, found himself with extra time on his hands. He convinced his wife to allow him to start diligently "researching" whiskey. “She basically allowed me to drink as many different kinds of whiskey that I could get my hands on,” he laughed. The couple had recently moved into a historic home in Topeka built in 1948. “It had great bones and this really cool stone fireplace in the basement,” he said. “We decided to create a speakeasy down there.” 

With the help of his dad and brother, they added a bar with lots of shelves (to hold over 200 bottles of whiskey), painted the walls a deep green, installed amber lighting, and added some comfy couches. Even the gold ceiling harkens back to the ornamental tin ceilings that were popular in the early 1900s. “My wife and I love hosting friends, but we also have date nights in the basement - no babysitter required!”  

Over the last few years, Vander Hart’s love of all things whiskey has only grown. “It’s a never ending journey, learning about whiskey,” he said. For his 30th birthday, he and his dad and brothers visited the Bourbon Trail - a road trip-style experience to visit Kentucky’s signature distilleries. Last year, it was his father-in-law and his brothers. This year he has a trip planned with his dad, brothers, and some cousins. “It’s a great time and I learn a little more each trip,” he said.

Maybe it’s the teacher in him, but he wanted to share his knowledge with others. That’s when the idea for Distilled Tastings was born. “I realized that I could bring the whiskey and the knowledge to others,” Vander Hart said. “I love sharing what I learn.” So now he creates whiskey experiences in peoples’ homes. He also has access to an event space for larger groups. “I pride myself on customizing experiences that will fit anyone’s needs, whether that’s for three or 300 people.”   

“Whiskey is a sipping drink. It’s different from chugging some beers with your buds,” Vander Hart explained. “We all live such busy lives today. A glass of whiskey invites a slowing down. You can have really deep conversations with people over a glass of whiskey.” 

Sitting and sipping provides an opportunity for your mind to actually think instead of simply reacting to outside stimuli. It allows time itself to take a back seat to the long lost art of introspection, reflection, and most importantly, when shared with others - conversation. 

Vander Hart said Distilled Tastings purpose is to create experiences that deepen relationships. When something is distilled it is "shortened so only the most important aspects remain." He believes this principle is true for whiskey, and also defines what life is all about - slowing down and savoring the moments.

Whiskey Experiences

1) Blind Whiskey Tasting - Think you know the difference between a $20 bottle and a $200 bottle of whiskey? This two-hour whiskey education experience involves a hands-on approach to tasting and includes sensory training in which you are blindfolded to train your nose to guide your tastebuds. It includes four to eight tasting pours with an optional cocktail add on and is the most popular package.

2) History of Whiskey - Learn about whiskeys across the world through this two-hour whiskey education experience. Enjoy one premium cocktail and eight tasting pours. 

3) Create Your Own Whiskey Experience - If you’ve got an idea, share it with Vander Hart and he can create a custom experience for you and your friends.

Distilled Tastings is perfect for a variety of social get-togethers from date nights and work events to birthdays and bachelor parties. If you’re looking for a unique experience, book a whiskey tasting with Distilled Tastings. Learn more at