Ok, spent the weekend in Kentucky with my wife. We needed a bit of vacation post sister-in-laws wedding, tax season, sister-in-law moving out ect. Part of the motivation for the trip was I am a Charter Member Maker's Mark Ambassador. This is the Maker's Mark fan club. I joined way back in college when it was first conceived. Anyways, Maker's Mark decided to place each Ambassadors name on a plaque (30 names on a plaque) on barrels of their whisky. I was in the first batch of Ambassadors to have their name on a barrel. It has been 7 or so years and the batch (19 barrels) of whisky is ready. Maker's has given all the Ambassadors a chance to buy a special bottle from their batch but you have to buy it at the distillery, this is what lead to the road trip.
We stayed in Bardstown, a nice central location for a weekend of Distillery touring. Started at MM Saturday morning. It was a wee bit crowded, I guess memorial day weekend is a big weekend to take in all the distilleries. Did the tour (most interactive distillery tour we took, I've done it 3 time now) and got to buy and dip my bottles. Very cool, I think that MM has the most scenic distillery. They have added a new reception area at the start of the tour, redid the old store to look like the house that the owner lived in as a child, had some cool interactive displays about the family history. The end of the tour wound up in the new store, very nice new area. The tour also now includes a taste testing! Yep, free Bourbon Whisky. So I did my tasting and had Kel's as well! Had lunch at a new cafe that has opened on the grounds, they opened it in the old toll house. Had a great pulled pork sandwich that was doused in a wonderful bourbon bbq sauce.
Our second stop on the tour was going to be Woodford Reserve. Unfortunately when we got there it looked like the entire state of KY was there as well. Discovered that the tours where sold out for the day!?! This sucked because it was 3pm (they closed a 6pm) and the website said nothing of the possibility of the tours selling out. Leaving Woodford a bit bitter we decided to try Four Roses Distillery that was just down the road. Pulled up and found out that there last tour was at 3! Dang it. Went inside anyways and found they where running a nice video about the distillery. There where about 6 of us who missed the last tour but the tour guide stopped in and gave us a brief history of the plant and then gave us a tasting of 3 of Four Roses bourbons! Sweet! We tried the Yellow Label, Small Batch and Single Barrel. Single Barrel was sweet. He also let us try a bit of the High Wine or White Dog, this is the pre-aged bourbon. Not as bad as I would have thought is to be but prett harsh compared to the finished product. If you have not heard of Four Roses there is a reason. From 1962 to 2002 Four Roses was owned by Seagrams and was only sold over seas. That meant that even the folks working at the distillery could not buy the bourbon they where producing. In 2002 the company was sold and started selling bourbon in the US again. They have recently expanded outside of KY and are hoping to go nationwide in the next few years. Another very pretty distillery (it looks like an old spanish mission) and the staff was great. Make this a stop on your list.
Sunday we had two more stops, Heaven Hill and Jim Beam. Heaven Hill is in Bardstown and their tour starts at their Bourbon Heritage Center. Very nice new building with tons of history and displays. Tour starts with a video and then includes a nice walk to a very large barrel house. No distillery on site anymore, the original burned down about 12 years ago and instead of rebuild it was easier for HH to buy another distillery, which they did and it is located in Louisville. Video was very nice, Kel said it was the most informative tour we took. Walk in the barrel house was neat. Tourguide showed us how to read the barrel heads to determine how old some of the whiskey was. Tour ended with another tasting, this time we got to try two different single barrel bourbons (my fav). One was an Evan Williams Vintage Bottled Single Barrel, this example was 12 years old ('96) and was a very nice bourbon. The second was the Elijay Craig 18 year old single barrel, wow. Now that is a heck of a bourbon, smooth, flavorful, all in all almost perfect. We bought some hot sauce and grabbed lunch in town before heading to Jim Beam. Beam was a bit disappointing, it is a self guided tour and there are no tastings on Sunday (county law). Booooo!
So it was a good trip and Kel gladfully tagged along without too much complaining (aside from flat out refusing to try and bourbon). Why I didn't do this as a spring break in college I don't know...
My one quick beer note, I tried a Heller Rauchbier. This is a smokebeer. Read about it in my Beer Advocate Magizine and figured I would give it a shot. Wow, it smells like smoked bacon! Tastes a bit like hickory smoked bacon and bbq sauce. How is this not the most popular beer in the world? I dunno. If you run across a Rauchbier or another smokebeer give it a try, you will be surprised.
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