Christian Kahle wears a shirt that reads “Champions make their own luck” as he makes his own bourbon.
The Sharpsburg resident, and his business partner Matt Brudnok of West Deer, are playing their cards right with Lucky Sign Spirits in Millvale.
Located at 215 North Ave., the 1,000-square-foot space opened on August 8. While COVID-19 restrictions prevent the Lucky Sign from offering tastings, customers can stop by Wednesday through Sunday to buy bottles of bourbon, rye and gin. The 50-gallon still will soon churn out limoncello, rock and rye, citrus amaro, raspberry liqueur, vodka, dandelion vodka, and rum. The owners hope to get their bottles in bars and restaurants soon.
Kahle and Brudnok were introduced by Sharpsburg Mayor Matthew Rudzki (Brudnok is a former Sharpsburg Borough Council member), who knew they would bond over their mutual love of distilled spirits, even though their individual tastes differ.
Kahle is a straight up bourbon guy who spent five years studying the chemistry of single malts. Brudnok, an Army veteran, favors clear alcohol.
Over the next few months, they’ll be experimenting in their small workspace, which resembles a mad scientist’s laboratory. Driven by the science behind booze, they’re making complex — and tasty — concoctions that stand alone or in a cocktail.
The London-style dry gin boasts 11 botanicals — Brudok was going for “lucky” 13, but the recipe just wasn’t right with that many — and has a natural citrusy sweetness to it. A prototype dandelion vodka takes the often-vilified weed and turns it into something unexpectedly delicious.
Kahle refers to the liquid as a trompe l’oeil, something that misleads or deceives the senses.
“That’s what we’re doing with spirits,” Kahle says. “We want to hide things in there so people don’t know what to expect — they have to drink it and experience it for themselves.”
The pair found a building in Sharpsburg for their distillery at first, but logistical issues forced them to move to Reserve Township. When that location didn’t pan out, they packed up again.
The third time was the charm.
Lucky Sign now occupies a former Isaly’s, which the Pittsburgh natives consider to be a good omen.
They feel fortunate to be part of Pittsburgh’s growing distillery scene and wanted a name to reflect their auspicious start.
“You go into a liquor store to buy a gift and you see all these different labels,” Kahle says. “Now you can give someone luck for a graduation or marriage. You’re not just saying the words; it’s right there in front of you.”