The Bourbon Guys
Last Thursday we had the privilege of selecting a couple of barrels from the Barton 1792 Distillery. The entire staff at Barton 1792 was amazing to work with. Josh Hollifield led us on our barrel selection and I must say his hospitality was outstanding and much appreciated. At no time did we ever feel rushed. In the end we selected two fantastic barrels that should arrive in early May! May can’t come soon enough! In the meantime here’s a brief slideshow of our tour and selections.
The Bourbon Guys, in conjunction with a number of our brown water blogger friends, were treated to a wonderful tour of the former Old Taylor distillery, which is currently under renovation. Marianne Barnes, the new master distiller of the newly named Castle & Key Distillery, led the group throughout the entire facility, describing where all of the various stages will take place in the in the new Castle & Key distilling process.
Walking through this historic venue, it was hard not to be swept away to the 1887. In their first visits, founding partners Will Arvin and Wesley Murry had to blaze a trail through overgrowth and trees to try to gain some vision into what remained of this beautiful old site. Of course, the castle was built to last, with 26 inch walls in some places. Much of that structure was still intact. Many of the outbuildings that were added later had suffered great deterioration from the elements and Mother Nature. It was exciting to see the garden, the pond, and many of the buildings coming back to life. Many of the original equipment sites will be reused, though with some very modern updates.
Strolling through the grounds, we were surrounded by the history of the place, and the excitement of an impending spirits launch. Fresh copper, still wrapped in plastic, towered above us from the first floor to the fifth. Growing many of the botanicals on property, this slice of Kentucky history newly name Castle & Key will begin producing its very own gin by July, 2016. In 2018 they also plan on introducing a rye whiskey.
Of course, that is not our greatest point of interest. Rather, we were very excited to learn that a new brand of bourbon from Castle & Key will be flowing from those walls as soon as 4 years from now. It’s also exciting to hear that the bourbon will be Bottled-in-Bond in the spirit of Colonel Taylor. Congratulations and best of luck to Marianne Barnes and the team at the new Castle & Key Distillery! We look forward to getting our hands on some of these fine spirits as they arrive in the not too distant future!
See Castle & Key Press Release Below:
ANNOUNCING CASTLE & KEY : KENTUCKY-BRED BOURBON
From the Historic site of Old Taylor Distillery Under Restoration By Partners
Including Marianne Barnes, The First Female Master Distiller of Bourbon In KY
Millville, KY, February, 2016—Inside the walls of a 19th century limestone castle in the heart of bourbon country, history is being honored–and made. Master Distiller Marianne Barnes and her team are painstakingly resurrecting the historic site of the former Old Taylor Distillery to produce their Castle & Key brand bourbon and gin. Production of Castle & Key’s flagship bottled-in-bond bourbon is planned to begin this summer. As Barnes puts it, “The core of Colonel Taylor’s vision with bottled-in-bond was building a relationship of trust with his consumer, providing a literal guarantee of bourbon’s authenticity and, by extension, quality. Our goal is to embrace and enhance that vision, creating products and sharing the story from the plow to the bottling line.” Castle & Key plans to introduce a KY native botanical recipe gin this year, rye whiskey by 2018, and, then, traditional style Bottled-in-Bond bourbon to honor the Colonel’s legacy.
When founding partners, Will Arvin and Wesley Murry, first saw the 1887 distillery, it had sat decaying for over 40 years. Despite decades of neglect, Arvin and Murry recognized the potential of the site with much of the existing buildings and equipment in a salvageable condition. “Under the rubble and overgrowth, there were 100 year old buildings that were still structurally sound and architecturally astounding, and while a number of people seemed to have passed on this hidden treasure, we knew it could be revived to make great spirits,” notes Arvin.
Combining vision, passion and talent, the team is bringing the distillery back to life using existing, new and repurposed equipment and materials. State of the art distillation equipment manufactured by Vendome Copper & Brass Works has recently been installed positioning Castle & Key to begin production this summer with an annual capacity of 12,000 barrels per year. In addition to distillation capabilities, the facility has two barrel storage buildings one of which is the longest bourbon rick house in the world measuring almost two football fields in length.
With this same uncompromising respect for both tradition and innovation, Barnes is crafting recipes using timehonored traditions and methods to create distinctive Bourbon and gin. Grains will be sourced from a local Kentucky farmer who is helping Barnes resurrect a strain similar to what would have been used during the prime of Colonel Taylor’s era.
“We’re very excited to be part of the revitalization of something important in the history of Kentucky bourbon whiskey, and integral in the momentum of the Bourbon Trail,” says Brook Smith, the investment partner who, among his many successes, created the iconic restaurant, 610 Magnolia.
Over a century before the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Col. E.H. Taylor, Jr. had the vision to create a distillery that would be a destination for visitors, a notion far ahead of its time. The Castle & Key team is picking up where Taylor left off by carefully resurrecting the property and bringing it forward into the twenty-first century. From the renovation of the glorious grounds and structures, to the bourbon production, they are taking bourbon tourism to the next level. “It’s so encouraging to see how much people want to know about the bourbon they drink, who made it, where and how it’s made,” says Barnes. “Castle & Key is a destination that encourages people to be our guest, taste, see and enjoy a step back into bourbon history.”
The original 1887 formal sunken garden has been revived beyond its original splendor by world-renowned Kentucky fine gardener Jon Carloftis. Located at the foot of the towering castle, it features a koi pond with benches surrounded by greenery, southern magnolia and hydrangea. Carloftis also designed a quarter-mile botanical garden path from which Barnes will source botanicals for her gins.
A key to true Kentucky bourbon is the water. Castle & Key’s clear, limestone-rich source water bubbles up from the ground and fills a key hole-shaped pool under the restored 19th century springhouse. Facing the springhouse is a charming red brick train station—where guests arrived in private rail cars for Taylor’s famous Derby parties— that is planned to be transformed into a full-service restaurant. With Carloftis’ creative touch other outbuildings will also be transformed into appealing event spaces for tastings, cocktail parties, weddings and private events. Bourbon aficionados and day-trippers will enjoy a Napa Valley experience at Castle & Key. Curated tours of the site, engaging tastings, leisurely strolls through the botanical garden, picnicking on the banks of Glenn’s Creek, or shopping inside a renovated boiler house are all experiences guests can expect and enjoy. A number of interactive distillery experience itineraries will be available when the distillery plans to open to the public late summer of 2016. Follow our progress – CastleandKey.com
About Marianne Barnes
As a student at the University of Louisville, Marianne wasn’t exactly sure how she would utilize her chemical engineering degree. In a stroke of fate, she accepted an auspicious internship at Brown-Forman, where she rose to the position of Master Taster in an unheard of five years. “Being mentored by Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Learning from him really brought all of my studies and hard work together,” says Barnes. She holds the remarkable distinction of being the first woman to earn the title of Master Distiller of KY bourbon since Prohibition. With her technical knowledge, hands-on experience and a specialized palate, Barnes is destined to produce exceptional products at Castle & Key.
CASTLE & KEY, Kentucky-Bred Bourbon
4445 McCracken Pike, Frankfort, KY/859.873.2481
MEDIA CONTACT: Philip Ruskin, Ruskin International
Communications 212.749.5511/ email@example.com
I want you to know that Tim and I have very similar feelings about this man. I simply wrote this out of my personal experience with him. Tim actually knew him first and loves him as much or more. I will be forever grateful for the introduction.
- Larry, The Bourbon Guys
When I started drinking bourbon for real, you know, beyond when a single bottle of Woodford Reserve sat on my refrigerator for a year and more, my buddy Tim took me down to The Party Source to meet a guy who knew something about America’s native spirit. A nice guy with a big smile and a twinkle in his eye, John Hughes immediately made me feel like we had been longtime friends. I’ve heard similar stories from so many others that it’s clear his warmth is a tribute to his character rather than some trait I may possess. A short time later, he invited me to his home to meet his wife Marsha, an equally lovely human being. They apologized for the renovations that John was completing himself but weren’t quite finished, though you could only spot a piece or two out of place. They opened up their home to me, and I felt like part of their family. John had collected a very nice bevy of some amazing bourbons and offered them up freely; some I would have never tasted were it not for his generosity.
When Tim and I decided to start The Bourbon Guys, John was one of our most avid cheerleaders. As we began our private barrel selections, John was so eager to have us partner up with The Party Source on a selection or several. Then, when The Party Source began construction on its recent expansion, it was John that gleefully led me through the new bourbon section while it was still under construction. He told me all about the “new digs”, including the tasting bar that would become his home in the new and improved Party Source. After it opened, every time I stopped by I would find him at that bar, engaged in a lively discussion with a customer or two or six.
For the past couple of years, John and Marsha have been facing challenges with the same light heart and determined optimism that underpins everything they do, but I don’t want to talk about that, except to say that they need your support, caring, love and prayers.
Instead, I wanted you to know about my friend John Hughes. I wanted you to know his giant heart, and I wanted to give you just a hint of understanding about what he means to so very many people whose lives he has touched.
We Love You John
Thoughts from Tim / The Bourbon Guys
As I lie awake with the many good memories of John swirlying around in my head I can’t help to feel deeply saddened that I will no longer be able to have those awesome early evening chats about his lovely wife Marsha, friends, life and of course a little bourbon as well. But, I can’t helping feeling very lucky that I was able to call John a friend! A friend that I will never forget.
When I first met John several years ago the thing that drew me to him was his kindness and generosity. Whether John knew you or not, after one conversation he had the ability to make everyone feel special. I’ve talked to many of John’s coworkers and they will all tell this is true!
Though John and I met talking bourbon I can honestly say that most of our talks were about life. John loved his wife, children and grandchildren deeply. Everything he did was for them.
Today I’ve lost a dear friend but his fond memories will last me a lifetime.
Cheers! We Love You John!
IF WE HAD A BENJAMIN
The following is The Bourbon Guys’ contribution to a collaborative effort of many great bloggers, retailers, and other industry “folks” to the question of, “If you had a Benjamin, what bourbon would you buy?” Of course, we can’t do anything “traditional,” so the following is our rollicking, pitiful attempt at poetry with a message. If you can stomach any more, we’ve taken some time to write up a serious recommendation following all the terrible rhymes. Thanks for reading!
IF WE HAD A BENJAMIN
If we had a Benjamin,
Oh the bourbon we could buy.
A Wild Turkey 101,
Or three, or four, or five.
Traditional, with lots of rye,
this bourbon makes the grade.
Jimmy Russell and his boy Ed,
watch closely how it’s made.
Russell’s Reserve at 110 proof,
it sips just like a dream.
That telltale rye it balances
this bourbon’s caramel cream.
Old GrandDad surely hits the spot,
A favorite tried and true.
The 80 proof may fade in drinks,
where the 114 shines through.
100 proof is just as good,
They’re each a value pour.
With Benjamin we’re sure to carry
several out the door.
But then you ask, do we like more?
We’re sure to tell you Noe.
Bold flavor in his coffee cup,
Ol’ Booker made it so.
Knob Creek another favorite,
and here we’ll include rye.
Beam-Suntory raised the bar
for all you Jim Beam guys.
Our Benjamin would also let
Evan Williams come our way.
The vanilla nose and butterscotch
says, “Take me home today!”
And then there are so many brands
that Wheatley brings to bear.
A Buffalo Trace and some pecans
are an inexpensive pair.
Weller of almost any sort
represents the wheat,
while Eagle Rare at just 10 years
is the barrel char elite.
Jim Rutledge serves Four Roses
in so very many ways,
But for sheer value in the glass
His Small batch earns our praise.
Now, we know you Woodford folks
think it’s Brown-Forman’s best,
But we believe Old Forester
Is the one to pass that test.
On we could go with this bourbon show,
and on perhaps you’d read,
but all this talk of whiskey
only serves to fuel our greed.
So, if we had a Benjamin,
Which bourbons would we buy?
We’d load our cart with many here,
and to our glasses fly!
If I only had a Benjamin – By Larry Parece (The Bourbon Guys)
If I only had $100 to spend on bourbon, I would need some time to consider just how I would spend it. As in our rhyming mayhem above, there are so many stellar options under $100. Of course, I would have to consider how long this bourbon would need to last. Assuming I had reasonable expectations of another Bourbon Benjamin appearing somewhere in my future…
I would begin by purchasing an Old GrandDad 114. At $23 per 750 ml, this bourbon has the flavor and integrity to be enjoyed straight or in your favorite cocktail. Too, if it is a little bold for a guest, an ice cube or two tames the heat, making this a versatile choice.
The next bottle would have to be a Wild Turkey 101. I love most everything that Turkey puts out, but this one is a true value pour. At 101 proof, it provides the flavor-forward, high rye profile that many bourbon drinkers look for, but it doesn’t bring the heat you normally would expect from a 100+ proof whiskey. It is also about the same price as its 80 proof little brother, so I would take the 101. If I choose to, I can always proof it down myself.
My next choice is, perhaps, one of the better kept secrets in bourbon. Unfortunately for us, theword has gotten out of late, and it is harder to find than it once was. I’m talking about Johnny Drum Private Stock. At 101 proof, and roughly $30 per bottle, it is another excellent sipper. Of course, it would hold up in your favorite cocktails, but I would hesitate to alter the experience of enjoying this bourbon neat. Now, in the event that Johnny Drum Private Stock is unavailable (as it often is lately), its substitute would have to be another Wild Turkey offering. With a rich mouth-feel and bold front palate, the 112 proof Wild Turkey Rare Breed exhibits an excellent mid to back-palate balance of oak and savory spices that rise up to meet the front, without overpowering it. In truth, selecting between these two would be more a matter of stock level than personal preference.
For my final bottle, I have to agree with my partner Tim that Old Forester Signature 100 is one of the best bourbons below $20. Exhibiting greater refinement than some bourbons that cost twice as much, Old Forester Signature 100 is a pleasant sipper and enhances any cocktail. For my money, I’ll just take it neat.
If I only had a Benjamin – By Tim Beckelhimer (The Bourbon Guys)
If I only had a Benjamin to buy bourbon, I would first be a little bummed. All kidding aside though, it would be fairly easy for me to decide what bourbons I would buy with my Benjamin. The first bottle I would grab is without a doubt Maker’s Mark ($26.99). Not because it’s a bourbon that I regularly drink but because many of my friends like to drink it and it’s also my wife’s favorite! After all, Happy wife, Happy life!
As I continue to walk through the liquor store aisle, I would without a
doubtgrab a bottle of Old Forester Signature 100 ($19.99). This 100 proof gem is one of my favorite all-time pours in the under $20.00 price range. It provides a fantastic foundation for any bourbon cocktail such as an Old Fashioned. The nose, taste and finish are also above average compared to any bourbon in this price range. This is a great sipper and it’s great to use in blind taste tests as well. Old Forester Signature 100 is one of my true everyday drinkers.
Another well-rounded bourbon that would I would purchase with my Benjamin is Knob Creek ($27.99). In my humble opinion, Knob Creek is one of the most underrated bourbons on the
market. Thought it recently received high praise at the San Francisco World Spirits competition, it still receives little mention publicly. Knob Creek is great neat, with a splash of water and on the rocks. It’s also nice to know that it’s readily available in many restaurants, which is very nice since I travel somewhat.
For the price, this high rye gem is one of the most well-balanced bourbons on the market. This bourbon is what I call a year-round bourbon; it’s crisp, bright and floral, which makes it a great sipper when sitting out on a porch swing in the summer time. It’s equally delicious in the winter. Four Roses Small Batch is great in cocktails, neat, on the rocks or any other way you prefer to drink it, but I prefer it neat.
Though there are many other fine bourbons that I could just as easily have purchased with my Benjamin such as Buffalo Trace, Weller (not easy to find any more), Wild Turkey 101, Elijah Craig and Evan Williams just to name a few, I must say that Maker’s Mark, Old Forester 100, Knob Creek and Four Roses Small Batch are what I would spend my Benjamin on – at least for today!
The Bourbon Guys hope you’ve enjoyed our take on “If I Only Had a Benjamin…”, but more than that, we hope you’ve found some value pours of which you were previously unaware! Cheers!
Special Thanks: The Bourbon Guys would like to thank Bill and Matt from Modern Thirst for coming up with such a great idea and for allowing The Bourbon Guys to contribute. Check out all our friends’ takes to “If I only had a Benjamin” below:
- Bill with Modern Thirst
- Matt with Modern Thirst
- Ben with Big Earl’s Beverage Co.
- Darren with Bottom of the Barrel Bourbon
- Chris with Bottom of the Barrel Bourbon
- Claire with See Claire Write
- Melissa with The Chicagoist
- Ginny & Charlie with the Charlie Tonic Hour
- Brian with Sipp’n Corn
- Jason with Sour Mash Manifesto
As co-owner/operator of the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar (@KyBourbonBar), Japp’s Since 1879, The Famous Neon’s Unplugged, and Myrtle’s Punchhouse, Molly Wellmann is well known in the greater Cincinnati region. Of course, as a long-time mixologist and lover of spirits, she has also become an icon in the bourbon industry. The Bourbon Guys recently had the pleasure of attending another in a long list of amazing Molly Wellmann events. This one found Molly as the hostess of the Rye Whiskey Cocktail Party, held on January 23 in the Elmer T. Lee Clubhouse at Buffalo Trace Distillery, as part of the Legendary Craftsman Dinner Series. A showcase of Molly’s talents in custom cocktail creations, as well as those of local restauranteurs, the event paired delicious gourmet flavors with delightful rye whiskey creations featuring E.H. Taylor Rye, Thomas H. Handy Rye, and Sazerac 18 Year Rye whiskeys. As an added treat, Molly was accompanied by an accomplished crew of mixologists including Valerie Diehl, Kelsey Iker, and Erin “Thunder” Ennis!
The evening began with an historic Sazerac cocktail, a testament to Molly’s love of history and spirits. The introductory cocktail is more than just a tasty teaser, it actually serves to wake the palate for the delightful food and cocktail pairings to come. For those early attendees, an array of appetizers served to whet the appetite in anticipation of things to come.
Molly opened the event by describing each of the restaurants in attendance and the wonderful beverages she had selected to accompany each. There was an amazing ox tail, served on a grit cake and topped with a pickled relish from Distilled, a restaurant and bar located in Gratz Park Inn. This was served with a wonderful Apricot Old Fashioned made with Sazerac 18 Year Old rye, from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. What a treat! Next, we enjoyed a skewer of succulent beef tenderloin gently marinated in a bourbon soy sauce from Bour-Bon restaurant in Paris, KY, this served with a tantalizing Cornucopia made with Col. E. H. Taylor Rye. The final pairing featured a stellar encrusted salmon from Old Bourbon County and Molly’s signature Honey Bee made with Thomas H. Handy rye, also from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.
Of course, no trip to Buffalo Trace is complete without a few minutes to spend with the REAL Most Interesting Man in the World, Mr. Freddie Johnson. Should you find your way to Buffalo Trace Distillery, you be sure to look up Freddie and ask him about how he came to be a 3rd generation Buffalo Trace employee. You won’t be disappointed!
The Legend of Whiskey Hollar
by The Bourbon Guys Contributor – Jim Nelson
It was 1843 on the banks of Knob Creek as Jimmy stopped to watch the riverboat, Whistlepig, floating silently along. He knew his pal, old Forester, was on board, but couldn’t know he was hatching a plan of a lifetime. He would find out about it at their agreed upon rendezvous later in the week.
Jimmy picked up his rod and rifle and continued along the shore toward Echo Spring, one of his favorite hunting spots. As he rounded the bend, a Kentucky owl flew just past his head. A sure sign of good fortune, he thought.
Moments later, a big ass buck wandered through the trees. Today however, Jimmy was looking for a wild turkey to bring home for dinner, not a stagg. Across the river, way up on heaven hill, as the locals call it, he spotted a bald eagle. Rare to be seen in these parts. But the peacefulness of nature surrounding Jimmy would not last long.
From the distance, gunshots rang out. Jimmy knew that the boat Doc Forester was on could not be far away, so he hurried back downstream toward the commotion. Two horses carrying the feared Garrison brothers came galloping by. “This can’t be good,” thought Jimmy. They almost knocked him down as something fell from the first Garrison’s horse . As Jimmy picked it up, he realized it was a bell, engraved with the letters “THE BOSS HOG”. He knew it came from the Whistlepig!
It wasn’t long before Jimmy saw that the boat had run ashore, and he began to recognize some familiar faces around the boat. Doc Forester was there of course, as was Gentleman Jack, Elmer T. Lee, Elijah Craig, James E. Pepper’s widow, Jane, and surprisingly, their five fathers!
“We were headed toward Lexington” Elmer told him, “but the Garrisons blocked the river and forced us ashore. I don’t think they expected all of us to be prepared to fight back. After a quick gunshot exchange, they galloped away upstream.” Yes,” Jane added, “we’re all ok. I was a bit worried, but all they got was a broken bell that fell off when we hit the shore.”
Suddenly Bill Fitch approached yelling, “They shot Billy! They shot my prize goat!” Doc ran over to the goat and saw that he had taken a bulleit. “I’m afraid he’s on death’s door” said Doc. “Poor Fitch’s goat” added Jane. And with that, the goat exhausted his last breath. “Dang those no-good brothers!” Fitch was defiant. “I’ll chase them to the ends of the earth!” And off he went toward Rock Hill Farms where Bill knew they might be holed up. They all knew that he was an old scout and would be fine on his own.
“Well,” sighed Doc, “this isn’t how I expected to meet up with you, Jimmy. But maybe that’s just as well. We have something to talk about with you, and the sooner the better.” Jimmy spoke up, “If you can stay onshore here, we can find some good whiskey at the little Kentucky tavern in old Bardstown. Not far at all.” “We can do that,” Doc said. “Our fathers have been guardians of an old charter for the small town of Pinhook, just outside of Lexington. They can go along to return the charter without us.”
Everyone pitched in and got the boat ready to sail again. Jimmy,Doc, Jack, Elmer, Elijah, and Jane headed toward the Old Crow for drinks. And a plot!
Following the trail to town, the Colonel piped up, “Jimmy, nice Stetson you’re sporting! “ “Thanks,” Jimmy replied, “It was my dad’s hat. And it’s Kentucky vintage made.” Elmer added, “Yep, but I see you have a small tear in the brim.” Jimmy laughed, “Yeah, that’s an old rip made by J. W. Dant’s fighting cock when I dropped it trying to make a bet against old Taylor’s crazy bird.” Always the flirt, Jane chimed in, “Well Jimmy, your pappy had good taste. It looks mighty good on you.”
Jack, always the gentleman, spied four roses, the red standing out in the forest, and picked them. He strolled up to Jane and said, “These remind me of you.” Jane smiled coyly. Elmer would later take Jack aside and tell him, “I know you just met Jane, but you should know, she is anything but pure. Kentucky girl all the way. Just so you know.” Jack just smiled.
Passing by Calumet Farm, the six friends saw Duke, J. T. S.Brown’s hound dog, running to greet them. They knew it wasn’t much further to town. Looking across the road, Jane remarked, “Wow, that log cabin still stands. That was where James and I met. Fond memories indeed.”
A little further along, they saw Jack Daniels sitting by a campfire, holding a tin cup looking for a handout. Elijah nodded and said, “Hey Jack, if you want to walk along with us, we’ll buy you a bourbon.” Jack declined the bourbon, “Yeah, well, er, no thanks.”
Then they saw the baker’s shop, run by Abraham Bowman. Outside the shop, Abe had four wood stools, inviting people to stop and enjoy some fresh pastries. E. H. Taylor and old Fitzgerald occupied two of the stools, enjoying some of Abe’s famous sweet mellow corn muffins. They crossed the rickety bridge over Woodstone creek and they knew they were at the edge of the small town (and close to sharing some fine whiskey!) Blanton’s and Booker’s houses, just over the bridge, marked the official town boundaries. In early times, Blanton’s was the only structure in the area. The house’s maker’s mark, MBR, could still be seen in the cornerstone. From Booker’s place they could hear voices singing out an old medley of familiar songs.
Then came Jefferson’s place, which used to be Noah’s mill a few years back. As Basil Hayden strolled out of the mill, he exclaimed, “Jimmy! Been wondering where you were off to. Let’s get a drink.” “You read my mind,” said Jimmy. “Come join us!” Jimmy noticed the large diamond ring on his right hand. When asked about it, Basil told him, “When old Pogue passed away, he left it to me. I wear it proudly. He was a good and righteous man.” “A rare breed indeed” added Elijah.
Just past the old Barter house, they saw their destination. And standing in the front door was barkeep, George Remus. George shouted to them, “Jimmy, glad to see you brought some friends! C’mon in.”
As they entered the warm atmosphere, they saw some familiar faces and surroundings. In the corner, they could smell the stew cooking, the pot still the one from when the place was built. The stew maker’s 46 secret ingredients were closely guarded by Evan Williams, the longtime cook. On the end bar stool sat Jim Beam, who oddly, always seems to be in every bar they visit.
At the far table Booker raised his glass to his friends. “George,” said Jimmy, “set us up with some shots. We need to toast Booker’s 25th anniversary!” As George quickly poured the drinks, he exclaimed, “That’s right! I forgot that was today. To your lovely wife too!” Then he added, “Next we need a birthday bourbon for Jimmy! We can’t miss that tradition.”
The whiskey flowed freely. Then Jimmy turned to Forester, “So Doc, what was it that you wanted to talk about?” Doc looked around. All friendly faces, so he spoke freely. “Jimmy, we think we can get back the cherished town Branch.” The Branch was an old respected symbol for the town, dating back sixty years to 1783. No one knows the exact story, but it’s told that it was shaped like a snake, of an unknown but ancient age, and was given to the town founders by Henry McKenna. McKenna was given the Branch by some Native Americans who carved it from a hickory tree on the American prairie. It disappeared in 1792. Rumor has it that Jacob Garrison and his family raided the town and have held it ever since.
Doc continued, “Before heading downriver, we overheard the youngest Garrison brother, talking about it. He was a bit drunk but seemed to regret what his family had done. Anyhow we think we can finally get it back!” Jimmy’s jaw dropped. The temptation was too much. “Hundreds have tried but no one has come close. If your info is correct, let’s not waste any time. Where do we go?”
“Fitch should have the Garrisons busy for a while, so now is the time to strike,” continued Doc. “At the far end of town, we need to follow Catoctin creek for about a mile. There should be a yellow stone marking the path toward one of their hideouts. Way up high, west of the stone on a tall catalpa tree should be a key. Once we get that, we can get into the attic of the Garrison house.” “But,” added Jack, “we need to be careful as it sounds like the sheriff, Sam Houston, is on their side.” “Ah, Sam and I go way back,” said Jimmy. “He’s a good one, just went down the wrong road… a true contradiction. Let’s go. if we can get that back, it would be a benchmark day!” Jane warned, “It’s said that Jacob’s ghost guards the valued Branch.”
Evan, Booker, Jim, Basil, and George chimed in, “We’re with you. Let’s do it!” Jack winked at Jimmy and told him, “Jane and I will stay behind and keep an eye on things.” Jimmy smiled and said, ”You’ll have the place to yourselves. Have fun.”
The crew headed north, made their way up river, and found the stone. They turned west, looked up high in the old tree. Jack climbed up two-thirds of the way to the top, and found the key. So far, so good. They headed toward the hideout.
It looked deserted, not even a ghost, but they remembered Jack’s warning about the sheriff. Jimmy found an open window and went inside, found his way to the attic, unlocked the door, and there it was! He picked up the prized Branch and tossed it down to the others who remained below as lookouts.
Suddenly they heard the galloping of a horse. Shouting to warn Jimmy, they scattered, heading back to town. The sheriff rode up just as Jimmy climbed out the downstairs window. Sam hopped down and yelled, “Jimmy, willett finally be the day I get some revenge? I’m taking you in for breaking and entering.”
Sam brought Jimmy in to a cell at Precinct No. 6. Jimmy wasn’t worried. After all, they just accomplished something three generations have not been able to do. All the jailers knew of Jimmy’s feat, and they treated him well, even planning his breakout if it came to that.
Judge Van Winkle would see him the next day, figuring to send him to the big house. But Jimmy’s friends, the sly attorneys Robinson and Brandt, were ready to defend. They knew the old blowhard judge was full of hot air and rhetoric.
Jimmy was charged with petty larceny, but when the judge found out who the prisoner was, he remarked, “The sheriff’s term was over 2 days ago, and so this was an unlawful arrest. Jimmy is no rogue. All is forgiven. Besides, this man makes the best whiskey this side of the Mississippi!”
Redemption! It was a watershed day. Word had spread quickly and the bar filled with people from miles around to toast the heroes who finally returned the town’s treasure. The toasts and drinking went on through the night.
Toward morning, George saw Jack at the open door, staring off into the distance. “Jack, what can I get you to drink?” Jack thought for a moment, and replied, “Well, as widow Jane always says, ‘Any Dickel do!’ Cheers!” Jimmy smiled as he sipped his favorite bourbon.
Written by our very special friend Jim Nelson, author, magician, and renaissance man extraordinaire! You can frequently find Jim in local #bourbon joints enjoying one of the fine brands scattered about this text. We tip our hats and raise our glasses to this masterful work!
Comments from Jim:
I would like to offer special thanks to Aaron Lilly for inspiring the initial idea for this story, from some of his flights @MollyWellmann ‘s Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar ( @KyBourbonBar ).
Can you find all of the whiskeys in the story? Hint: They are all American whiskeys.
No words between the words of the name. “Old Forester” works, for example. “Old Doc Forester” does not.
Recently, The Bourbon Guys engaged in a lively discussion regarding the claims of many distilleries that, “Age doesn’t matter, Flavor matters!” Well, you would never hear us argue against that wisdom, but we found ourselves questioning whether the non-age stated replacements were truly as good as the originals. Kentucky Bourbon Trail wrote an article about one whiskey that is flying in the face of this latest convention, but there are so many examples of labels changing from “10 Years” to just “10″ (or “10 Half Moons”) that it was hard to decide which to try. We finally settled on Jim Beam Black 8 Year and it’s new replacement, Jim Beam Black Extra Aged. Both were bottles we found on the shelf at our local package store, so we felt this would be the most fair comparison that could be made. Opening both bottles at the same time removed any (dis)advantage that oxidation may have granted one bottle over the other.
We began by setting up “blind” pours, each for the other. I left the room as Tim poured a tasting of each for me in glasses with differing logos. When he had finished, he left the room as I returned the favor. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil (No School like Old School!), while Tim broke out a Notes app on his phone. There was nothing for it but to dive right in.
I don’t want to give away too much so early in the review, but it will suffice to say there were no surprises.
Larry’s Pour #1 – The color is a very light amber, almost a shiny brass. The nose is faint and difficult to extract. What did come through was the underlying grain. The mouthfeel was fairly thin. Flavors improved from the beginning to the end of the experience: Front – Minimal flavor. Some mellow sweetness, but left me searching. Mid – Savory spices rise to fill the void left by the front palate. Finish – More spice and now heat traveling to the core. The end of the finish brought along some tannin that overshadowed the other elements as it progressed.
Larry’s Pour #2 – The color is nearly identical to Pour #1, a very light amber, almost a shiny brass. The nose is more pronounced than Pour #1 with a combination of clove and floral elements coming through. The mouthfeel was also thin, but a fuller flavor met the front palate. Flavors progressed nicely from beginning to end: Front – Satisfying savory notes with a backdrop of vanilla & caramel sweetness. Mid – Savory rye continues to build as the barrel makes its presence known. Finish – Spice carries through to the back-palate with heat in the back of the throat, but no burn running to the core. A mild tannic note accompanied the finish, but not to an unpleasant degree.
Tim’s Pour #1 – The color was very light. The nose was mild and youthful with subtle flavors of vanilla and caramel. The burn was minimal which is typical of an 86 proof whiskey. The initial mouth feel was very thin not unlike straight water. The overall taste was very mild with less sweetness compared to some other Beam products. Most of the flavors were isolated to the mid to back palate and the back roof of the mouth. There was vanilla and very little caramel along with a very subtle youthful peppery flavor. The finish was short to medium with very little burn and some mild bitterness that wasn’t bad.
Tim’s Pour #2 - The color of pour #2 is pretty much identical to the first pour which was very light. The nose on pour #2 was much more inviting than the nose of pour #1. The vanilla and caramel flavors were also there along with a very well balanced woody essence. The mouth feel like pour #1 was still very thin and watery but when pour #2 hit the palate the overall flavors were more balanced. The flavors hit the palate in pretty much the same area as pour #1 but there was was less tannin and bitterness on the finish of pour #2. Both pours were similar, as they should be, but pour #2 just seemed a little more developed and balanced.
We don’t believe it will surprise anyone to learn that the more satisfying of the two for both of us was revealed to be the Jim Beam Black 8 Year. More fully developed, the 8 year bourbon offered a more satisfying olfactory experience and created a far more complex flavor profile than its substitute. More full-flavored from the start, the longer finish does not present significant heat to the core like its more youthful cousin. All in all, were the Jim Beam Black 8 year a daily staple, we would scour the countryside to stock up before they’ve gone the way of the dodo. Our final Ratings? Jim Beam Black Extra Aged – Rating: 86 Jim Beam Black 8 Year – Rating: 88
We look forward to continuing this series with offerings from other distilleries that have chosen to remove the age statements from their labels. What trends do you suppose we will uncover? What are your thoughts regarding this relatively new practice? We look forward to your thoughts.
Are you looking to host a private tasting for your friends or organization? We can help! Please feel free to contacts us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On a recent trip to a few Kentucky Distilleries my wife and I took a break for a night’s stay at the beautiful Beaumont Inn. We both loved our stay but my wife loved it so much that she decided to share her thoughts on this lovely Inn.
The Beaumont Inn: A True Slice of Kentucky!
The Beaumont Inn is the perfect mix of historical and contemporary. The grand Inn has been nestled among the hills and bourbon distilleries of Kentucky since 1845. With its front porch pillars and majestic trees, the Inn and grounds provide a quaint getaway to a simpler time. And yet: The Inn is ranked #1 on Trip Advisor and features wi-fi service. Some rooms have electric fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. And visitors can easily make reservations online.
On a recent trip on which we visited all nine Bourbon Trail distilleries in a day and a half (whew – not necessarily recommended), we enjoyed the Inn’s accommodations, food, anddrink. And then there’s the all-important atmosphere – or what I call that oh-my-deep-sigh-this-is-peaceful-and-beautiful-and-I-want-to-sit-on-the-porch-and-pretend-that-it’s-the-1800s-while-I-check-Facebook-on-my-phone-feeling.
Since the Beaumont is first and foremost a bed and breakfast, food, drink, and shelter are of utmost importance. Again, there’s that blend of old and new, historical and contemporary. In the rooms, the ceilings are high and the furnishings hearken back to the glory days of Southern décor. You’ll find lots of real wood, ornate wallpaper, and era-appropriate art. On the other hand, you’ll also find firm beds, clean bathrooms, and flat screen TVs. Likewise with the restaurants: Do you want to dress up and dine like a Southern lady or gentleman? Then make a reservation in the main dining room. Would you rather continue your day of bourbon tasting with a casual meal? Then check out the Old Owl Tavern or the Owl’s Nest Lounge. Regardless of where you dine, you’ll find the charm of good, old-fashioned, Southern cooking and the convenience of fast and friendly service.
For evidence of the Beaumont’s commitment to the needs of its contemporary visitors, simply see their website. Room descriptions and features are thoroughly explained, including photos. Visitors can easily see prices and availability, and can make reservations right online. However, you can also call and get a helpful person on the phone – a rarity these days. The restaurants offer full menus and extensive lists of bourbons, cocktails, and flights, all right online.
So the next time you’re planning a trip to Kentucky’s famous Bourbon Trail, start with the Beaumont Inn. You won’t be disappointed with your room or the food and drink. And you will be right at home with elements of both the past and the present.
For reservations visit http://thebeaumontinn.com
by: Lisa Beckelhimer
It’s the beginning of Bourbon Heritage Month and the Bourbon silly season is upon us. To kick of the silly season we have the latest press release from Buffalo Trace regarding the fall release of their very popular Antique Collection!
Here are the details!
FRANKFORT, FRANKLIN COUNTY, KY (Sept. 4, 2014) Whiskey aficionados can start their holiday shopping early once Buffalo Trace Distillery releases its 2014 Antique Collection in late September. The highly anticipated collection will once again feature five limited-release whiskeys of various ages, recipes and proofs. Here’s what loyal fans can expect:
George T. Stagg
The 2013 release of this perennial favorite received the prestigious Chairman’s Trophy during the 2014 Ultimate Spirits Challenge. Barrels for this year’s George T. Stagg bottling were selected from Warehouses C, H, I, K, L, P, and Q. This uncut and unfiltered bourbon was distilled back in the spring of 1998 and weighs in at 138.1 proof. Although still highly allocated, happily there are a few more bottles available this year, since Buffalo Trace increased distillation for George T. Stagg back in 1997. This whiskey tastes of dark chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and dates.
William Larue Weller
The Antique Collection’s uncut, unfiltered, wheated recipe bourbon is William Larue Weller. The previous edition was given a “95” rating by Whisky Advocate Magazine. The 2014 offering was distilled in the spring of 2002 and aged on the second, third, fourth, and sixth floors of Warehouses D, K, and L. This bourbon registers in at 140.2 proof – the strongest Weller release ever. The bold flavors include dark molasses, plums, and toffee.
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye
Thomas H. Handy is the uncut and unfiltered straight rye whiskey. The 2013 edition was named “World’s Best Rye Whiskey” at the 2014 World Whiskies Awards. This year’s Handy was distilled in the spring of 2008, aged on the fifth floor of Warehouse M and weighs in at 129.2 proof. The flavor has been described as Christmas cake, allspice, coconut, and clove.
Eagle Rare 17 Year Old
The previous edition of this bourbon was honored with a Silver Outstanding Medal at the 2013 International Wine and Spirits Competition. The 2014 edition has been aging on the second, third and sixth floors of Warehouses I and K. This bourbon was aged nearly two decades and tastes of oak, leather, cinnamon, and tobacco.
Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old
Last year Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old was awarded a Gold Medal from Whisky Magazine’s World Whisky Awards. This 2014 straight rye whiskey release was aged in Warehouse K and has notable flavor of all-spice, molasses and hints of mint, along with a long, dry finish.
The Antique Collection was introduced more than a decade ago and has become a cult favorite among whiskey connoisseurs. Since 2000 these whiskeys have garnered numerous awards from such notable publications as Whisky Advocate Magazine, Spirit Journal, and Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible.
The 2014 Antique Collection whiskeys will be available in limited quantities starting in late September or early October. Suggested retail price is $80 each. For more information visit www.greatbourbon.com.