New Indianapolis whiskey producer cites barrels as key to flavor

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Fortune's Fool
A rye whiskey known as the Prelude is the debut release of Indianapolis company Fortune’s Fool. (Photo provided by Fortune’s Fool)

Juliet Schmalz credits barrels from Northern California for making Fortune’s Fool whiskey taste more mature than its actual age.

Fortune’s Fool, founded by former anesthesiologist Schmalz and her husband, Steve Sorrel, is a new name in Indianapolis spirits.

The company’s debut product, a rye whiskey known as the Prelude, arrived this month in liquor stores, restaurants and bars.

Schmalz said whiskey enthusiasts are surprised to learn the Prelude product was made and barreled in early 2021.

“Because we invested in the world’s best barrels, it tastes much more mature,” said Schmalz, an alum of Southport High School and Indiana University. “We’re surprising everyone. I’m really enjoying watching people drink it, because they say, ‘There’s no way this is younger than three years.’ We made the right investment in the barrels.”

Schmalz said barrels are responsible for a whiskey’s color and a good deal of its flavor. Fortune’s Fool sources its barrels from Seguin Moreau Napa Cooperage, where staves are air-dried for two years.

“There’s a lot of nature interacting there,” Schmalz said. “It helps the wood be able to have more nooks and crannies and an ability to have contact with the whiskey, which is what we want.”

Schmalz describes the Prelude, which is priced at $40 per bottle, as a premium product.

Juliet Schmalz
Juliet Schmalz

She said her medical background brings a perfectionist’s streak to her spirits work.

“I expect the pursuit of perfection out of myself every day as a physician,” she said. “To me, I had a contract with myself and a contract with each and every one of my patients to bring my ‘A game’ every day.”

The Fortune’s Fool brand is influenced by Schmalz’s first name—Juliet—and a classic play by Shakespeare.

In “Romeo and Juliet,” Romeo exclaims, “I am fortune’s fool,” after killing his rival, Tybalt.

Schmalz said a bourbon product is on the horizon for Fortune’s Fool.

“We’ve been saying we’re going to wait four years,” she said. “So that would be January 2025.”

The spirits of Fortune’s Fool are distilled by Bluegrass Distillers in Lexington, Kentucky.

“I like the idea of transparency,” Schmalz said. “It’s our product. I chose the mash bill. I chose the yeast strain. I’m choosing barrel entry proof. But we’re having an expert make our product because they own the equipment and we don’t.”

Schmalz is planning a first-person promotional blitz for Fortune’s Fool.

“Now that the product is out there, I’m going to go talk to waitstaff and tell them our story,” she said. “It’s better to hear the story from the owner than from a salesperson. I’ll go pour anywhere that wants me to pour, and I can talk about the product. I’m proud of it and I want to share it with people.”

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