I expect this news release to be one of many that’ll soon flood my inbox — because we’re officially less than a month away from the big Bourbon Release Season! Oh happy days!
The next Old FitzgeraldBottled-in-Bond release will be 11 years old and — as always, since it’s a Bottled-in-Bond product — 100 proof. This is the second time one of the seasonal Old Fitz releases has been 11, the first being the spring of 2018.
If you’re unfamiliar, Heaven Hill releases the fancy Old Fitz BIB decanters every spring and fall, and each iteration differs in age. This wheated bourbon meets the strict requirements of Bottled-in-Bond: the product of a single distillery from a single distilling season, aged a minimum of four years, and bottled at 100 proof or 50% alcohol by volume.
It’ll retail for $110 if you’re lucky to find one in a liquor store or at the distillery. These are highly coveted bottles, of course, so they’ll disappear quickly — like most bottles these days.
For the first time in 200 years, average, everyday bourbon fanatics like you and me can staya night atThe Samuels House, a historic home in Coxs Creek, Ky. (just outside of Bardstown), that has been converted into a bourbon museum honoring eight generations of Samuels distillers, including Bill Samuels Jr. and Rob Samuels ofMaker’s Mark.
The house was built in 1820 by John Samuels, whose father, Robert Samuels, actually made whiskey for George Washington’s troops in the Revolutionary War. And that’s only the beginning of this home’s story, which is saturated in history and bourbon.
I was fortunate to attend an open house Tuesday evening to check out The Samuels House with Bill Jr. and Rob Samuels. Of course they had a full charcuterie spread for the dozens of guests, plus Maker’s-fueled cocktails, so it was a fun time had by all.
Did I mention it might be haunted, too? More on that in a bit.
The house stayed in the Samuels family until the late 1950s, and it was recently re-purchased by Rob Samuels, Chief Operating Officer of Maker’s Mark. He decided it would be the perfect place for bourbon lovers to stay while they’re tackling the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and also where the Samuels family could display eight generations worth of family photos, significant artifacts, important documents and dusty old bottles that encompass the original Samuels distillers (T.W. Samuels) and the modern Samuels distillers (Maker’s Mark).
So what’s here?
Well, what I loved seeing the most was the actual deep fryer Margie Samuels used to experiment with when creating the iconic red wax — the same wax that now adorns every Maker’s Mark bottle since her and her husband Bill Samuels Sr. created the brand in 1954. Also on display is Margie’s English pewter collection that inspired her to name the new bourbon “Maker’s Mark.”
The house is a blend of 200-year-old charm and modern updates. Inside the kitchen, for example, there’s a full gas range and a modern sink and cupboards, but across the room is the original fireplace where the residents would cook before electricity and gas lines made it into homes.
The house can accommodate up to eight guests between three bedrooms, and the average nightly price ranges from $1,250-1,500.
Rob and Bill Jr. spoke about how much this home means to their family, and they had a great time filling the rooms with family heirlooms and memorabilia.
“We look forward to sharing this with folks who are traveling here, and even people here in Kentucky who might be interested,” said Rob Samuels. “Folks are drawn to Kentucky culture, and hopefully this can help attribute to that energy and interest.”
Bill Jr. seemed most excited about a pistol that is behind glass in the foyer, which he explained is most likely the very last firearm surrendered in the Civil War.
The weapon was supposedly surrendered in the front yard of The Samuels House by Frank James (of the notorious James Gang), who was part of the last armed group fighting at the end of the war. He turned the gun over to T.W. Samuels, the Nelson County sheriff (and family’s first commercial distiller), and it has remained in the family ever since.
Being in a house that old, we had to ask if anyone had ever experienced something spooky. Of course we were in the cellar, where spooky oozes in most cases, and one of the curators confirmed that indeed there have been incidents of paranormal activity, and that the former owners actually kept a spreadsheet on the encounters.
The only story we got out of him had to do with two construction workers who got spooked while pouring cement and came running full speed out of the cellar doors. They described a demonic roar in the basement, along with lights unexpectedly going out, which made the two grown men exit the basement in 2 seconds flat.
They ended up going back in to finish the job, so it must not have been too disturbing.
Property Info (according to the website):
Accommodations for up to 8 guests; 3 bedrooms (2 king, 1 queen; 2 additional pullout beds)
Nearly 3,500 square feet of space (main level, upper level, and basement)
Set on 2 acres of mature oak trees surrounded by horse pasture
Parlor room with custom-crafted bar and 50+ historic bottles of family-produced whisky
Numerous Samuels family artifacts and pieces of bourbon history on display
Stocked chef’s kitchen with gas range, fridge with premium whiskey icemaker
Dining room with custom-designed dinnerware and glassware
Covered porch with outdoor dining area
Basement media room and game lounge
Stone patio featuring a gas grill and fire pit
Premium ‘Comphy’ brand sheets
100% Turkish cotton towels
Aveda bath products
Smart TVs with cable access and streaming capabilities
To book The Samuels House or just read more about it, click here. Booking starts in September!
It’s been nine years in the making, so what’s another 15 minutes? As the Yarbrough brothers — Victor, Bryson and Christian — eagerly awaited the official ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday afternoon at their new Brough Brothers Distillery in Louisville’s Park Hill neighborhood, the sky opened up and poured rain on the medium-sized crowd of family members, business supporters, government officials, media and industry folks.
Victor Yarbrough didn’t seem to mind one bit, and he helped usher people — including Congressman John Yarmuth, Mayor Greg Fischer and Lt. Governor Jacqueline Coleman — underneath the distillery overhang and tent that was set up in the parking lot.
After about 15 minutes, the rain subsided and it was back to business: cutting the ribbon on an enterprise the brothers started in 2012 that was finally coming to fruition.
Brough Brothers Distillery is now open to the public in a modest building that sits off Dixie Highway.
“It’s an exciting process being able to be in Louisville’s West End and being able to age bourbon in a community where you come from,”said Christian Yarbrough, CMO, in a news release put out before the ribbon cutting.
During the ceremony, Victor Yarbrough said the distillery accomplishes two goals for him: building a legacy and opening up opportunities for others.
Brough Brothers is the first black-owned distillery in Kentucky, and with Bryson Yarbrough at the helm of distilling, he’ll be the state’s first black master distiller as well.
“As Louisville’s Congressman and the founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bourbon Caucus, I’m thrilled to help celebrate the grand opening of Brough Brothers Distillery in West Louisville,” said John Yarmuth. “Black Louisvillians have been involved in distilling for centuries, and the Yarbrough family’s work to build this company from the ground up is a tremendous step forward in making the distilled spirits industry more reflective of our nation, our city and our people.”
Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association, welcomed Brough Brothers as the 42nd member distillery, noting that No. 42 is no coincidence since it belonged to Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player in Major League Baseball.
“Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, and Brough Brothers will break the color barrier in bourbon,” he said.
The brothers filled their first barrel of bourbon in 2020, and they already have bottles available locally and in 23 states total. The flagship Brough Brothers brand is bottled at 82 proof, aged a minimum of six months and was distilled in Indiana.
Brough Brothers Distillery is located at 1460 Dixie Highway. While tours haven’t started quite yet, there is a gift shop and tasting room on site.
Another reason why 2020 was the green Skittle of years: No beer fests or bourbon bashes and not even a tea party to be found! The horror!
Thankfully, life is returning somewhat to normal, and now the summer of festivals begins with the Jeffersontown Summer Craft Beer Fest on Saturday, July 17. Tickets are still available, and you can get them for cheap ($40) at select Cox’s Smokers Outlet and Spirit Shoppes and Evergreen Liquors, or online ($45), or at the gate ($50, if they’re not sold out).
The festivities will include beer, of course, with more than 85 beer, wine and seltzer vendors on site to share samples and swag. There will also be live music, lots of food trucks, video games courtesy of Rec Bar, and lots more. Even if beer isn’t your thing, it sounds like there will be plenty of options for you between the Truly Bubbly Bar and a winery section.
Once again, Trevor Cravens and Tisha Gainey of HB Productions are responsible for the festival, so you know it’ll be a great time. They also put on the annual Tailspin Ale Fest held each year at Bowman Field.
“We are thrilled to get back to events and connect with people through beer,” said Cravens in a news release. “The pandemic provided us with a chance to examine our business and create some new opportunities, but events are our passion and we have big plans to bring them back better than ever.”
The event will take place on Saturday, July 17, from 4-8 p.m. at the Gaslight Pavilion in Jeffersontown. Better get your tickets soon, because it’ll likely sell out.
Every time this email comes into my inbox, a shiver shoots down my spine. It’s time to announce the details of this year’s Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, and I’m spillin’ all the tea!
I’m not going to waste my time or yours with anymore words — here are the damn facts. I hope you get a bottle. But I hope I get a bottle more.
• Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2021 will be released on Sept. 2, 2021.
• The bourbon is 12 years old and will be bottled at 104 proof.
• It’s the 21st edition of the Birthday Bourbon series.
• The color of this year’s label/tax stamp is an olive green.
• The batch consists of 119 barrels that were aged in Warehouse G.
• Birthday Bourbon honors the founder of Old Forester, George Garvin Brown.
• If you can find it on the shelf, it’ll retail for about $129.99.
• Master Taster Jackie Zykan says: “This year, we’ve composed a bold and compelling offering which showcases the unique fruit-forward side of Old Forester. Playful berry undertones with summery dessert notes balance out to our flagship spice finish while taking sippers on a textural journey from velvety to dry mouthfeel.”
• Tasting Notes (according to the news release): Color: Golden Citrine Aroma: A beautiful symphony of berry and dessert components. Red raspberry preserves join plump, juicy blackberries and dried strawberries to set the tone, nestled in a bed of dried herbs and balanced with vanilla creme brulee, subtle pecan, rich maple syrup, and cocoa. Taste: Rich and inviting, the velvety mouthfeel carries notes of buttery caramel, burnt sugar, and a touch of fresh baked Linzer cookie. This silky palate quickly awakens into a bright, peppery, peripheral spice. Finish: Lengthy and warm with subtle dryness. Subdued notes of chocolate, raisin and cool herbs linger in the shadow of stark oak spice.
Retail cocktail mixers can sometimes be tricky, and they’re just about always way too sticky. Sugary sweet concoctions of ingredients you probably already have in your kitchen, mixers are made to help you throw a bomb-ass party without having to play bartender.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve found some great Old Fashioned mixers for when I just don’t feel like shakin’ my own bitters. So I get it. We want something easy, tasty and — this is a hard box to check — somewhat healthy/natural with not much sugar, right?
Enter Modica Superfood Cocktail Mix, a creation by two Louisville guys — Eric Wentworth and JD Mitchell — who like to drink cocktails but don’t want all that junk that comes in a store-bought sour mix, for example. Have you seen the ingredients list on those? That shit also gives me heartburn, so I say to hell with it!
Anyway, the guys met in business school and decided to combine their entrepreneur knowledge to launch better-tasting, better-for-you cocktails where not much effort was required by the consumer. And they did.
Here’s a better explanation from the website:
For three years, they experimented with ingredients until they found the perfect cocktail combinations. They said “yes!” to naturally-sourced ingredients, antioxidants and B-vitamins. And they passed on preservatives, tons of sugar and anything artificial. They wanted a fantastic cocktail (or two), and they didn’t want to feel guilty about it afterwards.
I was fortunate to try all three flavors at a recent backyard hoedown I hosted. I also shared them with my guests, and people couldn’t stop raving about them. Since I bend toward bourbon, my favorite is the Tart Cherry Old Fashioned, where literally all you have to do is add bourbon. I can handle that.
The other flavors offered are Turmeric Ginger Mule (just add vodka or bourbon) and Cucumber Aloe Margarita (just add tequila). Of course there are all kinds of cocktail recipes on the website as well, so take a gander or come up with your own creation.
Each bottle of Modica retails for about $13.99, and you can find them at more than 20 locations here in Louisville — including Kroger, Liquor Barn and Total Wine.
They’re looking to expand to Lexington next, and if people latch onto these like I have, you better believe global domination isn’t too far up the road.
Raise a toast to healthy drinks. I’ll get my superfoods wherever I can!
I have two suggestions for future flavors: a Tajin Bloody Mary or a Pineapple (or Mango) Jalapeño Margarita.
During a virtual press conference yesterday, Nearest Green Distillery CEO Fawn Weaver beamed with pride as she showed off the finished pieces of Phase Two of the 270-acre, $50 million distillery in Shelbyville, Tenn. The whiskey distillery officially re-opens today, fittingly on Juneteenth, after being closed for a year due to the pandemic and construction of the immaculate, massive gift shop, tasting room, still house, rick houses, the longest bar in the world, and many more amazing features of the distillery tour.
Nearest Green was a formerly enslaved man who not only taught Jack Daniel all about making whiskey, but also worked right alongside him as he got his distillery up and running in Lynchburg, Tenn., just about 22 miles from the new Nearest Green Distillery. The distillery pays homage to “Uncle” Nearest and his dependents, many of whom still live in the area. And in fact, Victoria Eady Butler, a fifth-generation Nearest Green descendant, is master blender for the brand, which has won the most awards of any whiskey since 2019.
What’s most unique about the distillery is it goes beyond whiskey and how it’s made — it not only tells the story of Uncle Nearest, it also champions everything Tennessee, from famous snacks invented in the state (cotton candy, Goo Goo Clusters, Mountain Dew) to telling the role Tennessee played in women obtaining the right to vote and what the women of the Temperance Movement were really after.
“At Uncle Nearest, everything we do has significance beyond the product we sell — it’s why our main hashtag on social media is #MoreThanWhiskey,” Weaver said in a news release. “We could not be more honored to have the opportunity to share the history of Tennessee, and to couple that with honoring the history of one of the greatest figures in the spirits industry, Nearest Green. It’s a distillery experience unlike any other, and nothing can prepare guests for what they will see when we reopen our doors this weekend.”
Weaver also told us during the tour that limiting the Uncle Nearest Distillery just to whiskey “would have been a mistake to me.”
From Weaver’s quick virtual tour around the campus, you can tell every inch of the 270 acres was carefully thought out, planned and constructed with Uncle Nearest in mind.
Weaver joked it’s the “Malt Disney World” of Tennessee, and it’s no coincidence that the distillery not only owns a few trolleys purchased from Disney World, but the retail space was designed by the former president of Disney Stores Worldwide, James Fielding.
The grounds — which were formerly Sand Creek Farms, a Walking Horse farm and event center — also include the Welcome Center; a faux Concession Stand; Philo + Frank’s, a non-alcoholic speakeasy; Barrel House BBQ & Brew; the Family Tasting Room; Master Blender House; and a #WhatLiftsYou Angel Wings Mural by artist Kelsey Montague.
What’s also different about this distillery is that tours are self-paced and self-guided, so you won’t be led through by a tour guide and can take your time experiencing every detail. Tours can now be booked online.
Later this summer, Weaver noted, construction on the Humble Baron, an entertainment venue, restaurant and home to the world’s longest bar, will be completed, as will the Still House, featuring a still, mas cookers and more made at Louisville’s Vendome Copper & Brass Works.
Take a look at more renderings of the space below.
Just as Kentucky life is inching its way to back to (semi) normal, we have a new reason to get back out on that Kentucky Bourbon Trail for a brand new excursion: the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience. The $19 million expansion project fittingly opened on June 14, National Bourbon Day.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony held Monday morning, Gov. Andy Beshear proclaimed it National Kentucky Bourbon Day and talked about how happy he was that we could all gather and celebrate such a thrilling occasion in the bourbon industry.
“Kentucky is fully open, and we are excited,” he said. “This new expansion is going to give people one more reason to visit Kentucky.”
Heaven Hill President Max Shapira also announced a new bourbon release — called Five Brothers — that honors his father and his four brothers, who started Heaven Hill in 1935. The 90-proof bourbon is a blend of Heaven Hill’s traditional bourbon mash bill at five different ages, ranging from 5 to 9 years old. The retail on the bottles, which were available in the gift shop, is $59.99.
After the ribbon cutting, guests were free to walk around the new facility and check out all the offerings and experiences. Here’s a rundown of some of them:
“You Do Bourbon” — A fill-your-own bottle station where you can rinse, dry, fill and cork your own bourbon from one of four brands.
5 Brothers Bar — Located upstairs, this fancy yet comfy bar will offer cocktails and flights to guests waiting for tours, or somewhere to refuel after a tour. There’s also a nice balcony and an event space as well.
Brand Gallery — A huge museum-like space that provides info on all of Heaven Hill’s brands, from Elijah Craig to Larceny to its Bottled-In-Bond products and beyond.
1935 Theater — An immersive video telling the history of Heaven Hill and the Shapira family. It runs every 20 minutes.
It’s important to note that $5 from every You Do Bourbon bottle filled will go to nearby neighbor Bernheim Forest to help with its new Rites of Passage program, an initiative that opens up immersive experiences in nature to young black men and women.
The You Do Bourbon experience will open officially on July 1. And the rest of the new interactive exhibits will be open tomorrow.
Here’s a look at the sights and sips of the ribbon-cutting ceremony:
Ever since Old Forester released a rye whisky in 2019, fans of the brand (myself included, duh) have wondered if they’d one day put out a single barrel or at least barrel-strength version of the rye. Well, my friends, the wait is over.
Today, Old Forester announced it’s introducing the Rye Single Barrel to its product line, and it is not only barrel strength — at a whopping 124 proof — but also unfiltered. And that’s not all. For the first time, this Rye Single Barrel will be available nationwide, so all Old Fo fans can unite, unwind and clamor over this amazing spice ball of fire.
Here’s what I know: The Old Forester Single Barrel Rye will be sold in limited quantities at the distillery and in liquor stores across the country starting June 1. It’ll retail for $79.99 for a 750ml-sized bottle.
I don’t know if that means we need to camp out at the distillery for a bottle, or if it’ll be readily available around town. But either way, I know I’ll eventually get my hands on one of these, and that should be a goal of yours, too, if you like caramel and spice and everything nice.
“The Old Forester Rye Single Barrel delivers on the same balanced and unique flavor profile of our 100 proof expression, only amplified and in unfiltered, raw form,” said Master Taster Jackie Zykan in a news release.
The nose on this one is quite potent at that high of proof, but once you get past the zap of the alcohol vapors, you get a nice creme brûlée and a pinch of black pepper. And when you sip, wow!
Of course you get the spice right up front — bam! — it’s like every Kramer entrance on “Seinfeld” as he swings open the door and takes centerstage. But after that, the sharp pepper and cinnamon notes simmer, welcoming a slice of Grandma’s baked apple pie with a drizzle of caramel and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side that play well with both the heat and the high-rye content.
I know the Old Fo Rye mash bill is 65% rye, 15% corn and 20% malted barley, so obviously this follows suit. The finish is also quite nice, leaving a slight burn on your tongue as it travels south. I’d call this one a Kentucky Bear Hug.
I’m a big fan of the Woodford Reserve Distillery Series not only because my highly coveted Double Double Oaked is part of it, but because it’s fun to watch (and taste) a brand experiment with various aspects of bourbon production.
In other words, it’s fun to see Master Distiller Chris Morris play mad scientist.
The latest release — Woodford Reserve Brandy Cask Finished Bourbon — launches today, May 26, at the distillery’s gift shop and retails for $49.99 for a 375ml bottle.
According to a news release, the product is a blend of Woodford finished in French and California brandy barrels, and it has loads of brown sugar and caramel notes, as well as — get this — “chocolate-coated vanilla wafer laced with cotton candy and citrus peel.” Now there’s a mouthful, all of which I’d like to have in my mouth.
“Each core expression of Woodford Reserve pushes the creative boundaries of whiskeys to the extreme, and I wanted this one-of-a-kind limited expression to be no exception,” said Morris in the release. “The result is a unique whiskey — the perfect addition to Woodford’s Distillery Series expressions.”
Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch gets a makeover
Evan Williams just got back from “the doctor,” and it looks like he’s beginning to experiment with Botox. But instead of poison that makes your skin puffy and temporarily removes wrinkles, Williams’ botox was filled with extra proof — and he got a facelift while he was there!
The Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch will now be released in a fancy new bottle and at a higher proof: 90 (up 4 points from 86). The new bottle features Williams’ signature blown in across the top, and it now looks like a premium spirit — but at an affordable price: $19.99.
“Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch pays homage to some of the earliest years of licensed distilling in Kentucky, and an important year for bourbon and the Commonwealth’s signature industry,” said Julie Cole, Evan Williams Senior Brand Manager, in a news release.
“With a return to the original 90 proof, the award-winning mash bill … is full-flavored and works both as a cocktail base and stand-alone sipper. We are excited to bring more focus to what is known as the ‘best kept secret’ in the Evan Williams Bourbon family.”
Around The Horn
So I haven’t been keeping up with some of these release announcements because I’m a busy girl … and there’s like a new bourbon coming out just about every day now. But I’ll try to be better by doing better.
Also, I have a bar full of new bourbons to try, and I’m gonna need some help! I’m way behind on my Tasteless Tastings, so I’ll need to schedule one of those ASAP! Holler at me if you’d like to join, and that way I’ll know you’ve read this entire post to the end.
But, a quick look at some other new releases:
E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Bourbon — 10-year-old bourbon aged in Buffalo Trace’s Warehouse C, which Col. E.H. Taylor built in 1885.
Weller Full Proof — Blue label Weller, bottled at 114 proof. Good luck, you won’t find it.
Weller C.Y.P.B. — Stands for “Craft Your Perfect Bourbon,” while label Weller, bottled at 95 proof. Good luck, you definitely won’t find it.
Angel’s Envy Finished in Madeira Casks — Part of the Cellar Collection, this new release is finished in Madeira wine casks, a type of wine made on the Portuguese Madeira Islands off the coast of Africa.
Buzzard’s Roost Peated Barrel Rye — For this release, the brand’s sixth, they actually imported peat logs from Scotland to add smoke to the process, much like peated scotch in Scotland.