Gateway Entrepreneur Pours His Passion into Whiskey

Ultra Smooth American Barrels Bourbon Expands Across U.S.

by Yvette Bone

Gateway resident Michael Reed is the founder and CEO of American Barrels Bourbon Whiskey. At only 25 years old, he is a proven trailblazer and well on his way to making American Barrels a household name.

Born in Tennessee but raised in Fort Myers, Michael spent his formative years chasing his ice hockey dreams all over the map, from Southwest Florida to Southern Canada to Indiana. It was during his early college years at Indiana University that the idea of American Barrels was born.

As was custom, Michael and his hockey buddies would meet in the basement of their hockey house and have a few shots before heading down the street to the local bar for $2 Tuesday. The basement was home to a plywood bar decorated by his Texan friend with all things Americana. Behind the bar on the wall was a frayed poster from the movie “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” and to its sides hung a Gadsden flag and a sign that read “Come and Take It.” Early one Tuesday, Michael went skeet shooting with his 12-gauge on a friend’s farm. As a memorial, Michael slipped one of the spent shells in his pocket. That night, while standing at the basement bar with a shot of whiskey in his hand, Michael pulled the spent shell from his pocket. With his eyes locked on the signs behind the bar and the shell smooth under his fingers, he realized he wanted to bottle that moment.

“I wanted to start a movement in the form of a business: the quintessential brand for America-loving and whiskey-drinking Americans.”

Reed grabbed a napkin and began sketching out an idea that ultimately became the company’s iconic look: a bottle shaped in the form of a shotgun shell filled with fine bourbon whiskey, guarded by a rattlesnake and draped in a saluting dog tag. Reed deliberately designed the bottle to be a tribute to the past, and a logo of the future.

Michael moved back to Fort Myers and transferred to FGCU. It took two years of perfecting his brand and testing a lot of recipes before he was ready to settle on the blend in batch 1112, a number coincidently the same as his birthday. He sold his first bottle in August 2014 to the Liquor Wine & Smoke Shop at Fiddlesticks, admitting it took some creativity to get it on the shelf.

“It’s kind of a funny story,” Michael recalls. “I approached the owner and told him I’d love to tell people to come to his store to buy my bourbon. He liked my product, but didn’t say yes. He said he would give it a try when some space freed up on the shelf. So I went in and bought three or four bottles of something and told him he now had space on the shelf to sell American Barrels. He said, ‘Okay.’”

Since placing that first bottle on the shelf of Liquor Wine & Smoke, American Barrels has grown to be distributed across Florida as well as Tennessee, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York, and will expand into Texas and Indiana in 2017. All of the Total Wine stores in Florida carry American Barrels, and you can find it served at many local bars and restaurants – including Ford’s Garage, which will debut American Barrels on its new menu this month.

In paying homage to his love of hockey, Reed last month opened an American Barrels bar at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, home of the Florida Panthers, to coincide with the start of the National Hockey League season. The impressively crafted space features two columns that look like the iconic bottle, with touches of brass and Americana throughout the bar.

American Barrels is described a very fine, mellow bourbon. Reed explains, “It’s incredibly drinkable, ultra smooth, and from the beginning to end you’ll taste a perfectly balance corn sweetness and rye spiciness with flavors of caramel, vanilla, cinnamon, citrus and oak.” He also claims a good mouth heat, a soothing burn and a crisp finish. Michael’s favorite way to drink American Barrels: “Sipping it neat or a chilled shot.”

“My favorite sight is when someone tries American Barrels for the first time,” Reed says. “I get to witness them pucker up and ready themselves for what I guess they are expecting from a shot of bourbon. Once they shoot ours, their shoulders relax, and a giant grin depicting a pleasant surprise beams across their face as they tell me with a smile, ‘Wow!’”

Reed has high hopes for his pro-Americana brand. He wants to see it in every bar and store and for it to be an icon like Crown Royal or Grey Goose. When you sit with the humble and driven entrepreneur you get the feeling that might just happen. His love for America is rooted in the ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Even as a kid, Reed spent his time pursuing those things by delving into multiple and varied hobbies such as competitive ice hockey, building electro magnetic engines, studying history and politics, acting in school plays, participating in Model UN, Teen Court and mock economy classes. American Barrels is his passion, but he has many things he still wants to do.

“I take notes all of the time, I think the last time I checked my iPhone I had something like 6,000 of them and most of them are ideas for projects, articles, commentaries, and the others are notes to go back and read my notes. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that being an entrepreneur, at least for me, was the best chance of realizing the many goals in life I still have on my to-do list. American Barrels is what I am passionate about, and I’m also passionate about where I can go and what I can do with the American Barrels platform.”

To learn more about American Barrels Bourbon Whiskey, visit or follow on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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